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Spectrum (TV channel)

Launched 1980
Closed 1984
Owned by United Cable
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Country United States
Language English
Broadcast area Nationwide (available in select areas)
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois

Spectrum was an American subscription television channel that was owned and operated by United Cable.[1] Existing during the early 1980s, the service was available in the Chicago, Illinois metropolitan area. It was a direct competitor to and operated in the same manner as ONTV.



Subscribers of Spectrum were required to purchase a descrambler box for their television set and pay a monthly fee to receive its programming. The service's signal was broadcast over UHF channel 66 (WFBN, now WGBO-DT). Spectrum aired a combination of sporting events and movies; all of its programming was broadcast without commercial interruption.[1]

United Cable intended Spectrum as a way to penetrate the Chicago market as the city was not wired for cable television service until the mid-1980s.[1]


Ultimately, Spectrum was unsuccessful. The channel encountered technical issues with their broadcast signal because WFBN's transmitter atop the John Hancock Center in the Chicago Loop was prone to multipath interference (ghosting) due to the large number of high rise buildings in the area. Multipath made viewing normal TV broadcasts unpleasant, and often made it impossible for the Spectrum set top boxes to convert the scrambled signal into a usable TV picture. By 1983, in the face of cable television entering the Chicago market and the economic recession, Spectrum announced its intent to go out of business the following year and sold its subscriber list to competitor ON-TV. By mid-1985, ON-TV also went out of business, and its broadcast UHF channel (WSNS-TV, channel 44) would eventually become an affiliate of Univision and later joined the Telemundo network.[1]


See also