I do not live in the States, never have been. I find it really weird that you people have set up a network JUST so you can watch TV. Where I live, we have always had free broadcast TV over the air, and each house or apartment block has its own aerial antenna. It makes sense economically, right? How is it that you chose to dig up the ground (or maybe hang the wires on poles, this is irrelevant) and lay cables for such a service, when it is, in principle, one way transmission (provider to consumer, therefore no need for uplink) and broadcast over the air would have been SO much cheaper? When saying no need for uplink, I am talking about vanilla "cable television" not extra services built on top of that.
Note: I am not being insulting, I only find it exceptionally strange, and I am in search for the reason.
OTA (Over The Air) exists here as well. Problem is, the US is a big ass country. 3rd largest by land mass in the world. So if you live somewhere other than a city, OTA is hard to come by. Where I'm currently living, only 2 or 3 channels can be picked up with an antenna, and it needs to be a large roof/tower mounted antenna. Rabbit ears aren't gonna do it. There just aren't broadcasters around here.
The origins of cable TV as really just because of that. To provide people without OTA signals with reliable television. Of course, they built on that and introduced tiered levels, premium services and eventually internet services as well. So now, it's a much more robust delivery system than any kind of radio transmission could be. Also, money. They couldn't charge for OTA. With cable, they can charge you.
If you want to know more about it, have a look here: