Home Video Channel (HVC) was a British cable-only television channel that broadcasts from September 1985 until 1 May 1999, the channel broadcast movies (such as horror, action/adventure, science fiction and erotica) from 8.00pm to midnight, and the owners of the channel also operate The Adult Channel started on 31 January 1992.
The channel was created by Ealing Cable as one of two channels to help build up content and viewership, the other being Indra Dhnush, an Asian channel. During its early years in operation HVC purchased many movies as cheaply as possible, making copies via low-band U-matic tapes and distributing the films to other cable operators (along with a paper schedule) to play within their own local cable areas using a semi-automated system.
HVC was sold to one of its rivals, Premiere in March 1987. The new owner continued with the channel's existing operational model including the distribution of tapes, and increased its broadcasting hours from 7.00pm to 7.00am. In 1989, HVC was sold to a private consortium which expanded its operation by switching to direct broadcast to British and European cable operators instead of sending out tapes, transmitting on the Astra satellite system.
On 31 January 1992, the company started a pornographic channel called The Adult Channel, a satellite-delivered subscription service that feature cable-related versions of adult movies and programmes with softcore content. The Adult Channel broadcast for four hours a day commencing at midnight, and was available to approximately two million cable households and approximately four million (direct-to-home) satellite households in the United Kingdom. The Adult Channel was also available to DTH satellite households throughout continental Europe and had subscribers in over 40 countries. The Home Video Channel continued to operate during the evening with its movie service showing science fiction, erotica, action/adventure and horror films during the pre-midnight period. The two services were offered to cable operators as a seamless 8.00pm to 4.00am programming service at a single package price.
In January 1995, the station transmission was moved from the Astra 1B satellite to the then new Astra 1D. However, the channels used frequencies that were not available on the original Sky receivers as they were outside the original BSS band. Sky issued viewers with frequency shifters ("ADX Plus Channel Expanders"), comprising small boxes the size of a cigarette packet with a single switch and an on/off LED. When connected between the dish and the receiver (and powered by the receiver) these allowed viewers to switch manually between the Astra 1A and Astra 1D frequency bands - a difference of 250 MHz.
By 1997, The Adult Channel had lost subscribers and much of its market share in the United Kingdom. Several factors were believed to have contributed to this decline, including the launch of two competing pornographic channels in 1995 and increased piracy, along with the channel's use of an Astra 1D satellite transponder. In an effort to address these issues in 1998, the company restructured HVC's management and instituted a change in its transponder to allow it to broadcast on the British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) satellite from August 1998. The cost of the new transponder was less expensive and the changes were successful with the number of subscribers increasing. The Adult Channel was broadcast after the Sci-Fi Channel (which later became Syfy) and The History Channel, two widely distributed networks. HVC also switched to the Sky encryption technology in October 1997 to curtail signal piracy. HVC also increased The Adult Channel's programming budget for 1998 with an added emphasis on European programming. The company also increased HVC's advertising budget and reallocated it to the UK DTH market in an effort to regain lost market share.
On 1 May 1999, HVC/The Adult Channel package ceased transmission with only the Adult Channel continuing to broadcast afterwards.
In 1994, Home Video Channel Limited was acquired by Spice Entertainment Companies, Inc. Spice expanded the distribution of The Adult Channel throughout the rest of Europe when it increased the number of authorised agents throughout Western Europe who distributed DTH subscriptions to The Adult Channel through sales of smart cards. HVC entered into an agency agreement with Nuevas Estructuras Televisivas who had secured affiliation agreements for The Adult Channel in over thirty Spanish cable systems. The Adult Channel was also carried on the Canal Digital AS platform which served subscribers in Scandinavia, the Canal+ digital platform in the Benelux countries, and in Germany via Deutsche Telekom which supplied 16 million homes via cable. In Eastern Europe, the channel was carried by cable systems in Russia, Lithuania, Estonia and Slovenia. One of the more promising programming arrangements was with Metromedia which operated cable systems in Romania and Russia. However, several of the Romanian cable systems ceased distribution of The Adult Channel as a result of the devaluation of the Romanian currency.
On 11 May 1995, it was announced that Hugh Hefner's Playboy magazine, which had been producing Playboy TV in the United States since 1982, would start a new British television station in partnership with Flextech (51%) and BSkyB (30%). Playboy Enterprises chairman and chief executive officer Christie Hefner said:
Two years ago, we began selling blocks of programming to existing cable services overseas. The establishment of an overseas Playboy network was a logical step for us in our strategy for growth and we are pleased to be involved in this venture with such respected partners as TCI, Flextech and BSkyB.
David Chance, deputy managing director of BSkyB, and Roger Luard, managing director of Flextech plc, jointly said:
Playboy has a strong brand name worldwide and has a successful adult-oriented television channel in the United States that appeals to both men and women. Our research shows there is a strong demand for the channel, with its wide variety of high quality programming in the UK and Benelux countries.
On 1 November 1995, Playboy TV UK started broadcasting for the first time, commences from midnight to 4.00am.
On 1 December 1998, Home Video Channel acquired the 81% interest in Playboy TV UK/Benelux from Flextech and British Sky Broadcasting Limited, and HVC and Playboy TV UK were subsequently merged. Playboy said that the Home Video Channel would pay approximately US$9 million for the 81% interest and that the timing of the payments would be based on the network's future cash flows. Playboy TV and HVC continued to be delivered on Sky's satellite platform as well as via cable. Playboy Entertainment Group president Anthony J. Lynn said:
The economies of scale that the merger offers, combined with the ability to market attractive options to consumers, should improve our growth and profitability potential.
On 11 February 2005, Playboy TV UK was fined by Ofcom for broadcasting Sandy Babe Abroad, a hardcore pornographic film, and said "it includes material which should not be transmitted at any time under any circumstance on British television". On 2 April 2009, the station was once again fined by Ofcom for breaches of its licence, by broadcasting "sexually explicit material unencrypted". On 16 January 2013, it was fined again for failing to ensure that children were protected from potentially harmful pornographic material, they said "there wasn't a system in place on Playboy's on-demand programmes services and they didn't have acceptable controls in place to check that users were aged 18 or over".
Playboy TV UK was also available in Finland and Scandinavia through Canal Digital (in Norway also via Get), in Belgium through Telenet Digital TV, in Switzerland through Cablecom Digital TV, in Africa, and also in New Zealand through SKY Network Television.
On 30 November 2017, Playboy TV UK's Sky EPG slot was bought for the Television X Pay-Per Night channel owned by Portland TV. On Virgin Media, Playboy TV UK was unavailable for two weeks but returned in mid-December 2017. The channel finally closed on Virgin Media in July 2018, with its slot being taken over by sister channel XXX Brits.