I was born in the mid-1980s, so I grew up in Sweden in the 1990s. Our family was not rich, but we somehow did live in a house, as opposed to an apartment/flat.

We only had an antenna on the roof, with a cable going directly into the TV(s). This allowed us to access the three government-owned, commercial-free channels SVT1, SVT2 and "The Finnish channel" (which showed Finnish-language programming, and thus mostly didn't even "count"), as well as (since 1992) TV4, which had commercials.

These were obviously broadcast over the air, since the antenna could pick them up.

However, most of my friends who were also living in houses either had or were getting satellite dishes in the mid-1990s, so they could access all kinds of TV channels from all over the world as well as several ones which were actually in Swedish, but broadcast from England to satellites which then beamed them down here semi-illegally. I don't really understand how that worked legally, but apparently they were allowed to do this since it could have been stopped by banning satellite decoders and/or the satellite dishes.

And then there were all the people who lived in apartments/flats, who weren't any richer than us but still had access to cable TV because it was included. As I understand it, there was no such thing as cable TV for single-home houses in Sweden at all. At least I never experienced or saw it anywhere.

It seemed to me back then like "most everyone" was only watching the channels which our family could access, but clearly large groups were able to access all these other channels full of crazy cartoons and weird shows which I had never even heard of. Looking back at that era, I'm wondering if perhaps my view is distorted and inaccurate.

Is it possible that in reality, maybe even the vast majority of households actually had access to either satellite or cable TV in Sweden in the 1990s, and our family was just in a very small minority who basically spent all the money on the house itself and couldn't afford any of that luxury that others had?

I guess a possible explanation for my general feeling about this could be that those commercial-filled satellite/cable TV channels were really not that great after all, and few cared about what they were showing, instead gravitating towards the state-controlled two channels and TV4?

I probably should note that I wasn't exactly a popular kid, so I didn't really hang out at others' houses all the time and got useful first-hand experiences on this. I basically knew how things were in our house and then made assumptions about the rest of the population based on that.

But how would I, or anyone, find reliable statistics or information about this?

  • Since 1998 "Radio- och TV-verket" (now: "Myndigheten för Press, Radio och TV") published an annual Medieutveckling document. Oldest one I could easily find is from 2006: " Fördelningen mellan de olika formerna för TV-mottagning är uppskattningsvis att ca 50 procent av hushållen tar emot programmen genom kabel-TV-nät, omkring 30 procent använder egen antenn för marksändningar och resterande 20 procent har egen eller samägd parabolantenn för att ta emot sändningar via satellit "
    – njuffa
    Jan 7 at 3:27
  • I've reread this several times and skimmed some relevant Wikipedia articles but am still having trouble pulling the relevant context and a clear question out from all the observations, speculation and anecdotes here. For starters does "over the air' mean non-cable (terrestrial UHF/VHF as well as satellite)?
    – Brian Z
    Jan 7 at 4:28
  • @BrianZ "Over the air" means "terrestrial". Not "from space".
    – Scale
    Jan 7 at 10:16
  • I bet the number changed between the beginning of the decade and the end.
    – Spencer
    Jan 7 at 19:26
  • FWIW, the experience in the US was that access to high-density housing was prioritized over lower density. They make their money on a per-household basis, whereas their expansion expense is measured in miles of cable laid.
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 7 at 22:04

1 Answer 1


Not really the number you want, but some light on how many that did have access to other channels than SVT1,SVT2 & TV4. My conclusion is that the number of households with access to other channels seems to have increased a lot during the 1990s, from around 45% to around 70%.

Source 1 gives a total of around 47%:

I början på 1990-talet var ungefär 40 procent av de svenska hushållen, 1,5 miljoner, anslutna till kabelnät och ungefär 7 procent tog in sattelitkanaler via egen parabolantenn

In the beginning of the 1990s, approximately 40 percent of Swedish households, 1.5 million, were connected to cable networks and approximately 7 percent received satellite channels via their own satellite dish.

Source 2 gives a total of 72% but it is a press release from 2003, even if the number isn't fully up to date at the time it is a few years after the 1990s.

Med satellituniversum menas de hushåll som nås via kabel eller satellit, vilket är 72% av de svenska hushållen.

By satellite universe is meant the households that are reached via cable or satellite, which is 72% of Swedish households.

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