Charlestons old testing center (CapitolCablevision)

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CoolBreeze
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Charlestons old testing center (CapitolCablevision)

Post by CoolBreeze » Thu Mar 01, 2007 10:06 pm

Hey Genlock. I'm sure you're familiar with the name "Primary Communications" in Charleston. How about a history recap? (you type much faster than me)

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Post by genlock » Fri Mar 02, 2007 6:47 am

I dont know the name.
Sorry.

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Post by CoolBreeze » Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:05 am

Crap... as I'm a two finger typist, I was hoping you'd remember and explain. Well.. here's the short version:

There were two companies controlling what you saw in the late 60s and through the 70s (maybe into the 80s) on the cable system in Charleston.

One was Capitol Cablevision, the other was Primary Communications.

CC supplied the lines and studio in their building. PC supplied the equipment and funds.

Primary Communications was a testing company for all the major brands in America, like Betty Crocker - General Mills .. detergent companies etc.

These brand names might want to test a new product, but without the cost of high dollar advertisements and warehousing the stuff all over the US market. So they'd pay Primary Communications to stock the new product in several warehouses around Charleston, and then place it on grocers shelves. As an example, take Betty Crocker: They had a new product called "Snacking Cake" that they wanted to test. My job was to watch the feed out of NY for Betty Crockers regular old cake mix. I had a log of the time it was to appear and in what show. As soon as that time arrived, I would go to "Black" on the cable system... make sure it was THEIR commercial out of NY and then insert the new "Snacking Cake" in it's place. So people on an antenna would see the cake mix commercial... people on the cable would see the Snacking Cake commercial. Primary would then report back to the advertiser as to how much of the new product flew off the shelves in our area. If it did well here, they then distributed it all over the US. If it failed here... you never heard of it anywhere else.

There were actually "2 cables" in the city. We called them cable A and cable B. If you lived on a block with cable, house 1 might be cable A...while house 2 might be cable B. Lets say there was a third house with an antenna: We could send "Snacking Cake" down cable A... then another new Betty Crocker product down cable B... and the guy on the antenna would see something different out of NY. So in essence, 3 homes watching the exact same TV show at the exact same time "could" see 3 different commercials.

It's my understanding that the Charleston market was chosen for this testing due to it's "new" cable system, and the demographics of rich and poor etc etc. Years later, another system or two started doing this also. It's my understanding that it hasn't been done here in the Kanawha Valley for some time now... but who knows? Bet satellite does it all the time.

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Post by genlock » Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:19 am

In the 60's WSAZ used to do this sort of insertion on the cable in Charleston.
I think it was done from the 210 Dickenson St studio.
At that time it was calles "Ad-Tel". It had to do only with WSAZ and, as I understand it, It was very lucrative. I never did hear of Primary Communications tho.

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Post by CoolBreeze » Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:37 am

The way you could tell that there was something going on: Half the time we couldnt tell if the feed from NY was the proper one. So we'd hold Black for maybe 10 to 15 seconds sometimes. This meant that we'd be 15 seconds late coming out, and then you'd see only half of the next commercial at home. It was pretty sloppy at times and annoying to boot.

Oh.. the other funny thing (now) was that the cable only had 3 channels: 3-8-13. We had a little camera that swept some weather gauges when we weren't running horribly bad movies on that line. :roll:

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Post by Big Media » Fri Mar 02, 2007 10:08 am

CoolBreeze wrote:Well.. here's the short version:

As an example, take Betty Crocker: They had a new product called "Snacking Cake" that they wanted to test. My job was to watch the feed out of NY for Betty Crockers regular old cake mix. I had a log of the time it was to appear and in what show. As soon as that time arrived, I would go to "Black" on the cable system... make sure it was THEIR commercial out of NY and then insert the new "Snacking Cake" in it's place. So people on an antenna would see the cake mix commercial... people on the cable would see the Snacking Cake commercial.
Damn... that is freaking brilliant. I wasn't aware that something like this happened in C-ton. The trick here is that they already paid the nets for the spot, they are just locally inserting a spot over top of their own. This was in the days before local insertion on cable was commonplace.

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Post by Oldiesdude » Fri Mar 02, 2007 11:36 pm

Not to get too far off tread, but does any one remember: "Cube" (maybe "Qube")
Cable systems back in early 70's ... way ahead of their time.

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Post by Hoosier Daddy » Sat Mar 03, 2007 12:16 am

Oldiesdude wrote:Not to get too far off tread, but does any one remember: "Cube" (maybe "Qube")
Cable systems back in early 70's ... way ahead of their time.
I remember.

Point of trivia: WQBE's call letters were originally chosen to form the word "cube". The original format (after the separation from WKAZ-AM) was 50s and 60s oldies. That occured in late 1974 and the format was very short lived. I have a tape somwhere of WQBE playing "Leader of the Pack" (Shangri-Las) and some obscure Gene Pitney tune one evening in '75 with a female DJ host announcing the 344-4433 request line number.

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Post by djMatty » Sat Mar 03, 2007 2:24 am

Oldiesdude wrote:Not to get too far off tread, but does any one remember: "Cube" (maybe "Qube")
Cable systems back in early 70's ... way ahead of their time.
As a kid and this was in the 80s I remember Warner Cable having the QUBE box, the remote had a long 20 ft wire on it to control it -- we got like 30 channels and the cable box was the size of a VCR
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Post by Oldiesdude » Sat Mar 03, 2007 2:37 am

That's it!! I never got to really see it. A cousin lived in a system in Ohio that had it. Remember it was very interactive. Example: You could vote for who you wanted to win in a Idol type show.

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Post by Dave Loudin » Sun Mar 04, 2007 6:49 pm

Gad, I remember the sweeping weather gauge channel from the system that served Chester back around '70.
Aircheck? You'd make a great board op.

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Post by Hoosier Daddy » Sun Mar 04, 2007 7:04 pm

Dave Loudin wrote:Gad, I remember the sweeping weather gauge channel from the system that served Chester back around '70.
In the pre-weather channel, pre-24 hour news days, that was all you got. Barometric pressure, humidity, wind direction and speed, temperature (sometimes with daily highs and lows marked), and a rain guage. Those rotating carousel (sp?) systems were fairly popular as a filler for the community access channel.

Are there any <shudder> still on the air?

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Post by Oldiesdude » Mon Mar 05, 2007 1:31 am

May still be some local channels like that around the state, however think most of them have been replaced with CG units that splash, weather info and events about the communities.
I remember back in the 80's when the manager of the cable company had gone to Las Vagas convention, and had brought back two CG units, costing about $8,000.00.
He had one of the people who worked at the cable company, build a wooden box for one of them. The other one went to the head-end.
I would lug around the other unit, along with a small color TV, to the different business, (with the stores ad as an example of how it would look). In three small towns I sold enough advertising to pay for the units in one month.

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Post by SPIKE NESMITH! » Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:39 am

Oldiesdude wrote:That's it!! I never got to really see it. A cousin lived in a system in Ohio that had it. Remember it was very interactive. Example: You could vote for who you wanted to win in a Idol type show.
Here's the switcher: http://www.ipriori.com/images/cable%20qube.jpg

And a smaller one - just $6 on the ebay:

Here's a good history: http://www.electrablue.com/bluesky/qube/index.html

And more: http://www.media-visions.com/itv-qube.html

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Post by Dr. Loomis » Mon Mar 05, 2007 1:26 pm

Hoosier Daddy wrote:
Dave Loudin wrote:Gad, I remember the sweeping weather gauge channel from the system that served Chester back around '70.
In the pre-weather channel, pre-24 hour news days, that was all you got. Barometric pressure, humidity, wind direction and speed, temperature (sometimes with daily highs and lows marked), and a rain guage. Those rotating carousel (sp?) systems were fairly popular as a filler for the community access channel.
The Channel 3 carousel on Tucker County Cable back in the '70s-early '80s would periodically freeze in place on really cold days. The cable plant back then was in a remote area that was almost completely inaccessible with a few feet of snow on the ground.

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Post by Oldiesdude » Mon Mar 05, 2007 6:46 pm

Spike,
Thanks for the info. Great!!

Glad I was not wrong in my org. post about it being in the early to mid 70's.
QUBE was originally initiated in the mid-1970s in a joint project financed by Warner and American Express. It was a test prototype, with the main station based in Columbus, Ohio, a city favorite for Marketing trails, testing new products on "Middle America". The long-term plan for QUBE, was to network the Columbus base station to the 10-15 receiver cities, by 1982. Upon success of the second phase, the network could then spread nationwide across the USA, by 1984-85 and hopefully overseas, by the late 80s
Cousin lived in Columbus then.

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