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Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment Company
TypeJoint venture
GenreCable television
FateRenamed MTV Networks in 1985
Acquired by Viacom in 1987
SuccessorsMTV Networks
Showtime/The Movie Channel, Inc.
FoundedDecember 1977; 43 years ago (December 1977)
DefunctJuly 18, 1985; 35 years ago (July 18, 1985)
Headquarters,
OwnersWarner Communications (50%)
American Express (50%)

Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment Company was a joint venture owned and operated by Warner Communications and American Express that developed and initiated several successful cable networks that remain well-known. The channels originated as part of the groundbreaking interactive cable television system known as QUBE.

Notable channels:

Despite its technological innovation and vision, the creation of QUBE and its relative financial failure meant that Warner Communications needed outside capital to expand beyond Columbus, Ohio. Additionally, Warner leader Steve Ross understood that the future of cable television was going to demand an ever-expanding programming need.

Beyond QUBE and the end of Warner-Amex

Seeing the potential in the creation of new cable networks, Warner Cable divested QUBE's biggest brands, Star Channel, Pinwheel and Sight on Sound, into nationwide outlets. Star Channel began by satellite in January 1979 and was renamed The Movie Channel by the end of the year. Pinwheel became Nickelodeon in April 1979.

In 1980, Warner-Amex formed a joint venture with Cablevision's Rainbow Media division to launch Bravo, a cable network dedicated to arts and films. It was launched on December 1, 1980. However, it was sold to Rainbow Media in 1984 following Warner-Amex's restructure into MTV Networks. In 1981, Sight on Sound became MTV.

John Lack had worked in sales at CBS Radio (in fact, it was he who suggested Schneider to Warner chief Ross) and had an idea of cable programming as a series of special-interest 'channels.' A devotee of popular music, he developed a half-hour show named Pop Clips at Nickelodeon with musician Mike Nesmith as a program for music video film clips. He also planned a series of 24-hour channels to imitate the strategy of The Movie Channel—single-focus programming for music, video gaming, and shopping. Bob Pittman accepted Lack's idea and inaugurated the music channel as MTV: Music Television (née The Music Channel), in the process developing the careers of such future media executives as Mark Booth, Larry Divney, Fred Seibert, Andrew G. Setos, and John Sykes.

In 1983, concerned by the strategic and financial failure of its pay-TV venture The Movie Channel (started to reap the benefits Time Inc. was having with HBO and Cinemax), WASEC established a joint venture with Viacom, merging TMC with their premium movie network Showtime to form Showtime/The Movie Channel, Inc. WASECO had no operational involvement with this joint venture.

Meanwhile, WASEC operating partner Warner Communications experienced financial upheaval, including the reversal of fortunes at Atari, and legal questions about business dealings of Ross and his senior lieutenants. In an effort to maximize the good news, Warner Communications decided to spin off Nickelodeon and the rapidly growing phenomenon MTV as a public company (MTV Networks). Jack Schneider also left WASEC, being replaced by senior Warner executive David Horowitz (who oversaw Warner Communications' half of the WASEC joint venture).

A year later, American Express sold their stake in Warner-Amex Cable to Warner Communications, which renamed the company Warner Cable.

In 1985, Warner sold its interest in Showtime/The Movie Channel to Viacom, making them the sole owner of both networks, And Warner Communications and American Express took MTV Networks private, selling its assets (MTV, VH-1 and Nickelodeon) to Viacom for $685 million, and ending Warner's venture into cable television until it acquired HBO and Cinemax as part of its merger with Time Inc. It would also through the purchase of the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS, TNT, CNN and Cartoon Network) in 1996. Warner retained Warner Cable (later renamed Time Warner Cable after Warner Communications merger with Time Inc. to form Time Warner in 1990),[1] which was later spun-off into a separate company in 2009. That unit would eventually become part of Spectrum, a subsidiary of Charter Communications

During this period, Warner Cable reorganized itself by dividing the company in half (a "metro" unit that had newer wired communities and a "national" unit which comprised the older systems), selling the Dallas and Pittsburgh systems to Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI), and ceasing operations on QUBE completely. As a result of subsequent mergers TCI became part of AT&T Broadband and later Comcast.

In 2011, MTV Networks changed its name to Viacom Media Networks.

In 2019, following the re-merger of Viacom and CBS Corporation, Viacom Media Networks changed its name to ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks, and CBS Media Ventures became their main television distribution label.

The Warner-Amex networks now

The networks that were a part of Warner-Amex are owned by numerous parties. The pay-per-view unit remained under the ownership of Warner Cable, which became Time Warner Cable after the merger of their parent company Warner Communications and publisher Time, Inc. (Time Warner Cable was spun off as a separate company before Charter Communications acquired it in May 2016) and has undergone numerous transformations before its current incarnations as In Demand and the differing video on demand On-Demand service. MTV and Nickelodeon (and later Video Hits One or VH1 for short, which launched shortly before the sale) became the core units of ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks. Over the decades, it has expanded into separate units, including:

As of January 1, 2006, the Warner-Amex units were separated from each other as a result of Viacom dividing itself into two companies, "second" Viacom and CBS Corporation. Showtime Networks became a unit of CBS while the MTV Networks became a unit of the second Viacom. In December 2019, Viacom and CBS Corporation re-merged into a single entity under the name ViacomCBS, which reunited the two former Warner-Amex units.

References