Pay-per-view (often abbreviated PPV) is the system by which a television audience can purchase events to view on TV and pay for the private telecast of that event to their homes. The event is shown at the same time to everyone ordering it, as opposed to video on demand systems, which allow viewers to see the event at any time. Events can be purchased using an on-screen guide, an automated telephone system, or through a live customer service representative. Events include feature films, sporting events, pornographic movies and "special" events.

Commentators[who?] generally regard the pay-per-view industry as a separate industry from television, even though they have a fundamental connection.

Pay-per-view began becoming popular when the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers began using the system after winning the championship in the 1977 season.[citation needed] During that time, it operated through a few pay-TV services such as Z Channel, SelecTV, and ON-TV in select markets throughout the 1980s.

The first major pay-per-view event occurred on September 16, 1981, when Sugar Ray Leonard fought Thomas "Hitman" Hearns for the Welterweight Championship. Viacom Cablevision in Nashville, Tennessee, was the first system to offer the event and sold over fifty percent of its subscribers for the fight.[citation needed] Leonard visited Nashville to promote the fight, the event was such a success that Viacom's Annual Report that year was themed around the fight. Viacom's Marketing Director was Pat Thompson who put together the fight and subsequently put together additional PPV fights, wrestling matches, and even a Broadway play.

After leaving Viacom, Thompson became head of Sports View and produced the first pay-per-view football game on October 16, 1983: Tennessee versus Alabama from Birmingham, Alabama.[citation needed] Sports View played a role in building pay-per-view networks and was the early pioneer in developing TigerVision for LSU, TideVision for Alabama, and UT Vol Seat for Tennessee. Sports View also produced the Ohio State-Michigan Football game on PPV in November 1983.

In 1985, the first U.S. cable channels devoted to pay-per-view, Viewers Choice, Cable Video Store, and Request TV began operation within days of each other. Viewers Choice serviced both home satellite dish and cable customers, while Request TV, though broadcasting to cable viewers, would not become available to dish owners until the 1990s.

However, the term "pay-per-view" did not come into general use until the 1990s,[citation needed] when companies like iN DEMAND, HBO, and Showtime started using the system to show movies and some of their productions. In Demand would show movies, concerts, and other events, with prices ranging from $3.99 to $49.99, while HBO and Showtime, with their legs TVKO and SET Pay Per View, would offer championship boxing, with prices ranging from $14.99 to $54.99.[citation needed]

ESPN has shown college football and basketball games on pay-per-view.[citation needed] The boxing undercard Latin Fury, shown on June 28, 2003, became ESPN's first boxing pay-per-view card and also the first pay-per-view boxing card held in Puerto Rico.[citation needed] Pay-per-view has become a very important revenue stream for professional wrestling companies like World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) , Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), Ring of Honor (ROH) and Asistencia Asesoría y Administración.