The use of optical dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) is well established in high speed, digital networks in both telephony and CATV networks. However, DWDM has not been deployed in broadband linear systems for CATV distribution to date. This paper explores the potential applications and benefits of DWDM in large scale CATV networks. A comparison is made between the economics, technical merits and technical obstacles of employing DWDM in digital backbones and deployment of DWDM in broadband linear distribution systems. Current technical limitations in broadband linear systems transmission are defined and explained (for example Raman and SBS effects), and empirical data is presented. The paper concludes with predictions on future functionality and economics of DWDM in both broadband linear and digital CATV network applications.