Nation's oldest cable tv operator, Bethlehem-based Service Electric, acquires Shen-Heights TV

Tom Paine

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Its certainly not a big deal from a cable industry perspective, but Bethlehem-based Service Electric's agreement to purchase Shen-Heights TV Association , announced this week, represents the combination of two of the cable business' oldest operators. Service Electric, founded in 1948, is the 16th largest multiple system operator, with more than 250,000 subscribers in some 250 communities in central and northeastern Pennsylvania and northwestern New Jersey. It is considered the oldest Cable TV operator in the US. Shen-Heights TV started operations in 1951.

Cable TV got its start because people in remote, hilly or mountainous regions could not get adequate reception of basic over-the-air signals. Service Electric was a GE dealer in Mahanoy City (not too far from Hazelton) trying to sell TV sets, but found that most of its customers couldn't clearly pick up the three Philadelphia stations then on the air. So its owner, the late John Walson, who had an electronics degree and experience as a PP&L field employee, rigged up a system using an antenna located atop a mountain to pick up the broadcast signals and transmit them via cable to his appliance store and a few homes. And that become the basis for his cable TV system.

Shen-Heights (Shenandoah Heights) is not for from Mahanoy City.

It was decades, in some cases, before cable systems were built out in major metro areas.


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