|Closed||29 June 1989|
Theta Cable (1974–1981)|
Group W (1981–1987)
Rock Associates (1987–1988)
American Spectacor (1988–1989)
|Broadcast area||Southern California|
|Headquarters||Los Angeles, California|
|Replaced by||SportsChannel Los Angeles|
The Z Channel was one of the first pay television stations in the United States. Launched in 1974 from Los Angeles, California, this station was known for its devotion to the art of cinema due to the eclectic choice of films by the programming chief, Jerry Harvey. It also popularized the use of letterboxing on television, as well as showing 'director's cut' versions of films (which is a term popularized after Z Channel's showing of Heaven's Gate). Z Channel's devotion to cinema and choice of rare and important films had an important influence on such directors as Robert Altman, Quentin Tarantino, and Jim Jarmusch.
Z Channel was launched in 1974 by Theta Cable (a division of TelePrompTer Corporation and Hughes Aircraft Co.) which was acquired by Group W (Westinghouse) in 1981. Operations were located in Santa Monica, California. Jerry Harvey was hired as program director in 1980. As program director, Harvey was given permission to program the network the way he saw fit. As such, the network featured a wide variety of films not typically shown on other pay television services at the time.    
These included many B movies, silent films, foreign films, and original unedited versions of films. On Christmas Eve 1982, Harvey made the decision to show the original (previously unreleased in two years) version of Heaven's Gate, a movie that had been considered a disaster by all accounts. His decision was a success and the movie became the most watched feature ever shown on Z Channel. Other networks soon followed and aired Heaven's Gate.
By the mid-1980s, Z Channel had 90,000 subscribers. In 1987, Group W sold Z Channel to Seattle-based Rock Associates for $5 million. Both increased competition and lack of interest by Group W leading up to the sale led to a decrease in subscribers. In January 1988, Rock Associates merged with American Spectacor.
In April 1988, there were two major (though unrelated) changes; the departure of Jerry Harvey due to his suicide and the addition of sports to the network. Deals were made to bring games from the Angels, Clippers and Dodgers to the network. This increased the numbers of subscribers to 110,000. The sports deals were funded by selling advertising during the games. However, a lawsuit ensued with a court ruling that contracts with the movie studios stipulated that the service be commercial-free.
Out of options, the channel was sold to Cablevision and NBC on March 16, 1989, who were partners in the joint-venture SportsChannel. On June 29, 1989 Z Channel faded to black and was replaced by SportsChannel Los Angeles. The last film shown on Z Channel was the John Ford film My Darling Clementine.
Live wrestling events
In the late 1980s, Z Channel broadcast a number of the World Wrestling Federation's live events from the Los Angeles Sports Arena, but nowhere near as many as Madison Square Garden (MSG Network), Boston Garden (New England Sports Network) or the Philadelphia Spectrum (PRISM).
Selected films that aired on Z Channel
- Blazing Saddles 
- Freebie and the Bean 
- American Graffiti 
- MacArthur 
- Valentino 
- Love and Death 
- Jesus Christ Superstar 
- Black Christmas 
- Cooley High 
- The Wind and the Lion 
- Airport 1975 
- The Yakuza 
- Phantom of the Paradise 
- Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore 
- The Prisoner of Second Avenue 
- Thieves Like Us 
- At Long Last Love 
- Harry and Tonto 
- A Touch of Class 
- On Golden Pond 
- Chan Is Missing 
- Whose Life Is It Anyway 
- Prince of the City 
- Same Time, Next Year 
- Corvette Summer 
- One on One 
- Silver Streak 
- The Wild Bunch 
- Altered States
- A Clockwork Orange 
- Oh, What a Lovely War 
- Dressed to Kill 
- Rocky 
- Diva 
- Death Race 2000 
- The Last Starfighter 
- Videodrome 
- Heaven's Gate 
- Once Upon A Time in America 
- Overlord 
- Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid 
- McCabe and Mrs. Miller 
- Das Boot 
- That Most Important Thing: Love 
- The Leopard 
- 1900 
- Ride the High Country 
- Salvador 
- Black Orpheus 
- Paths of Glory 
- My Darling Clementine 
- California Suite 
- The Turning Point 
- Eyes of Laura Mars 
- The Goodbye Girl 
- Julia 
- An Unmarried Woman 
- Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession
- Home Box Office, one of Z's competitors
- Showtime, also one of the competitors
- "Film-News and Notes." Daily News of Los Angeles October 3, 1986
- Z Magazine: The Entertainment Guide for Subscribers to the Z Channel and Theta Cable Television - Feb/Mar/Apr, 1979 - Vol. 5, No. 9 - High Anxiety on cover-Amazon.com
- Z Magazine: The Entertainment Guide for Subscribers to the Z Channel and Theta Cable Television - Aug/Sept, 1979 - Vol. 6, No. 4 - Jaws on cover-Amazon.com
- "Rainbow to Add Hockey Games : Z Channel Sold to Sports, News Programming Firm". latimes. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- "Z Channel 1987". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- "Z Channel Fading To Black Amid Film Industry Tributes." The Hollywood Reporter April 27, 1989
- "Hollywood Freeway." Daily News of Los Angeles June 26, 1989
- "The Death of Z Channel--What Now? : The History : Beset by troubles, quirky station will switch to all-sports". latimes. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession-IGN
- Z Magazine: The Entertainment Guide for Subscribers to the Z Channel and Theta Cable Television - January/February, 1975 - Vol. 1, No. 7 - Blazing Saddles on cover-Amazon
- Z Magazine: The Entertainment Guide for Subscribers to the Z Channel and Theta Cable Television - May/June, 1975 - Vol. 2, No. 1 - Freebie and the Bean on cover-Amazon.com
- Z Magazine: The Entertainment Guide for Subscribers to the Z Channel and Theta Cable Television - Apr/May, 1975 - Vol. 1, No. 9 - American Graffiti on cover-Amazon.com
- Z Magazine: The Entertainment Guide for Subscribers to the Z Channel and Theta Cable Television - Sept/Oct, 1978 - Vol. 5, No. 5 - MacArthur on cover
- "Film Montage from "Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession" (2004)". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- "Z Channel Magazine of the Air- April 24-30 1981". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- "Z Channel break- December 1977". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- "Z Channel break- January 1982". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- "Z Channel movie bumper 1980". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- "Z Channel Feature Presentation & MGM fanfare 1984". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- "Z Channel Videodrome intro 1984". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- "'Z Channel' on the Air-Washington Post". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- "Z Channel: Overlord". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- "Z Channel: The Important Thing is to Love". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
- "Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004) - Trailer". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.