Whereas the cost of television so far had been borne by advertisers whose occasional interruption of the program was taken as a matter of course, we now heard of "Phonovision." Phonovision is a process by which a motion picture is released to your television screen not at the expense of a sponsor, but through an arrangement with the telephone company. An amount between twenty-five cents and one dollar, depending on the film, is added to your telephone bill for the privilege of viewing the picture. The backers of this system have computed that a picture costing one and a half million dollars could be amortized in one evening's showing! Since the television audience of the 1953 Academy Awards presentation was estimated at seventy million persons, it is possible, for example, for a Phonovision arrangement on the World Series to net millions of dollars, even at ten cents per television set.
(I wonder what Vidor would have thought of the cost on the recent Mayweather-Pacquiao fight?)
Vidor, King. A Tree Is a Tree. Hollywood: Samuel French, 1953, 1981: 282.
I finished up A Tree Is a Tree earlier this evening and bumped into this paragraph towards the end of the book. I've been fascinated by Phonovision ever since I reviewed The Sin of Nora Moran (1933) and discovered that that film's director, and head of independent Majestic Pictures, Phil Goldstone, was the original boss of Phonovision. The following September 26, 1948 article from the St. Petersburg Times talks a bit more about Phonovision when it first appeared on the scene.
If the print is too small for you, just click on the article to open the original Google News page in a new tab.