DBSegan bullying around the network stations for all their lunch money? Well watch out Cable because you might get a little taste of your own Medicine from a powerful extra terrestrial,… satellite that is. A multi-channel alternative to cable television known as Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) is now available in the United States of America and boy is it ready to rock. DBS provides picture perfect cable-like television programming directly from satellite dishes approximately 18 inches in diameter. Millions of households now subscribe to DBS services resulting in what appears to have the cable industry wondering whats going to happen.
Cable was introduced in the late 1940s in the boone docks of Pennsylvania when its original name was known as CATV, or Community Antenna TV. During this time there were only a few stations and in order to even receive any picture, a TV set had to be in the vicinity of antenna where a signal could be received. Anyone with a TV who lived to far from the antenna would be crap out of luck. Finally an appliance store owner named John Walson hooked up an antenna to a nearby mountain where he received a signal from the cities transmitter and wired it down to his store for a good picture. When his clients witnessed that good picture could be brought to their area, John Walsons TV sales went up drastically. From then on cable started multiplying like horny GREMLINS and GOONIES.
In the past cables main purpose was to bring network stations to the rural areas. Today cable is capable of carrying hundreds of channels and is the leading source in TV programming with over 60 million subscribers and tons of diverse programming. Before it was all networks like ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX that could be seen on TV. They led the way for a while until cable came along. Today with help from satellites, 24 hour sports(ESPN) and movie(HBO) programming is available in most cable packages and that was the main reason why cable became so popular. Its been over 50 years of success for cable, but with the turn of the century coming, what kind of future does cable have with these new media technologies on the rise?
Now in the year 1999, the civilized people of this wireless world will experience the power of DBS. If trends begin as they usually do, DBS will take over the TV screens while cable and network stations scratch their heads and wonder what the hell just happened. Their best bet would be to follow that famous saying, If you cant beat them, join them. And so they kind of have since digital cable can be produced through the fiber optic cables. In short, these two mediums will be battling head to head until they prove whos more dominant to the consumer. Or will the theory of convergence combine all mediums so that their will be less competition? Who knows, only time will tell.
As far as DBS is concerned, its appeal to the consumer is primarily its channel capacity. The viewer would have the opportunity to watch programming in all regions which is especially pleasant for the sports fan. For example, a Raiders fan who had the DBS system could watch his Raiders play, even though their locked out of the Bay Area programming, because he could watch it from the opponents region. With DBS installed it would be hard not find something to watch. Besides the amount of diverse programming available world wide, DBS will distribute a magical picture that needs to be at least seen once by every human. From then on, leave it up to the consumer to decide.
The DBS industry is dominated by DIRECTV and Echostar with theirservices called DIRECTV and DISH Network. These two services are very similar in their price, the way they practice, and work as a business. Although they still have far fewer subscribers than the Cable TV industry at the moment, DBS services are rapidly adding subscribers and the industry is showing some very strong growth.
The first U.S. high-powered DBS satellite was made by Hughes Aircraft Co. and owned by Hughes Electronic Corp.’s DirecTV and Hubbard Broadcasting’s United States Satellite Broadcasting (USSB). Providing 150 television channels, it was launched in 1993, from Kourou, French Guiana. The power of DBS permits receivers to use an antenna that is only 46 cm (18 in) in diameter. Such an antenna can be clamped to a windowsill or mounted on the roof or on a pedestal outside the house. A June 1996 promotional campaign by one company offered antennas for $199. By 1996, according to the National Cable Television Association, DBS subscribership was doubling each year. Satellites continue to be launched, and improvements in technology allow increasingly larger numbers of TV channels to be downlinked. The orbital slots available over the Equator are carefully controlled by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), however. The ITU requires each nation to coordinate its satellite slots with its neighbors. The last available slot for DBS satellites that could reach all of the U.S. was sold in January 1996 to MCI Communications Corp. for a whopping $682.5 million.
Besides DIRECTV and DISH Networks, there are currently a few other all-digital DBS services in the U.S. today called SkyAngel, and Unity Motion. Two other companies, Primestar and the United States Broadcasting Company are about to phase out their services as a result of the two businesses combining forces. DIRECTV delivers a 200 plus channel service using 18 inch dishes and is considered the premier DBS service in the U.S. today acquiring over 4 million subscribers since starting in 1994, the most in their industry. Their DBS service has grown into a fat multi-billion dollar business and heavy growth still continues at the present time.
The DISH Network also delivers more than 200 channels on 18 inch dishes. DISH began in the spring of 1996 so they might not look as huge as DIRECTV, but their service is growing at a comparable rate so they are proving to hang with the big boys with over two million customers already. Results from this year have already put them on the same path as DIRECTV. Unity Motion is a brand new service starting this year. They offer an exclusively High Definition Television (HDTV) service using bigger 36″ dishes and their own special DBS/HDTV decoders. They currently offer 3 HDTV channels and say they expect up to 12 by the end of 1999.
Primestar, one of the first DBS companies to come on-line, is continuing to operate their 150 channel service to their current 2 million subscribers, but they are in the process of phasing out so they are no longer adding new subscribers. They have been bought out by DIRECTV and over the coming 2 to 3 years will be converting their subscribers from Primestars service to the DIRECTV service.
The United States Satellite Broadcasting Company is also continuing to operate their service but also will be transferring all assets and subscribers to DIRECTV. USSB was one of the original DBS services and was very successful. They had partnered with DIRECTV putting together a popular complimentary service featuring premium cable channels using DIRECTVs satellites and reception systems. USSB will be merged into DIRECTV by mid 1999 so they will be considered part of DIRECTV and no longer a separate company.
Significant advantages of DBS are the high quality of its signals, its capacity to handle 120 or more channels, and the access it provides to programming regardless of a customer’s location. Supporters of DBS continue to insist that it is indeed the wave of the future and will compete successfully with cable TV. Player Haters, on the other hand, suggest people have already adapted to cable and will not convert as soon as they expect. They also note that DBS provides little local programming due to legal restraints, therefore preventing DBS from delivering local broadcast signals which is popular in todays society.
One other disadvantage to DBS that seems pretty significant is its lack of interactivity. DBS has, as its middle name, “broadcast.” That means that communication is essentially one way–the same set of signals is sent to all potential receivers, and the channel selection is made at the receiver. But how does one send information from the receiver to the broadcaster? In a cable TV system such a channel can be installed (though at a high price), but with DBS it becomes necessary to use the telephone to send information to the originator.
DBS systems were expanding rapidly not only in the U.S. but also in many other countries. Some of the international ballers were: British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), Galaxy Latin America, Japan Sky Broadcasting, the News Corp./TCI Latin America, the News Corp./TCI Australia, Star TV (Asia and Japan), and China Aerospace Corp. With almost the entire world hooked up, information will be passed around at the fastest rate ever. Today the world has already experienced the importance of satellites in the war effort. At any given time we could turn the channel to CNN and instantly we could follow the war in Yugoslavia.
Will it be fair to say that in 10 years everybody will have a satellite strapped to their forehead? Sure why not since anything can happen in this digital world . Trends have already been made with the uses of pagers and cell phones and everybody in the world has been talking about going digital for the longest time. DBS junkies see this medium moving rapidly and already that has been proved by the millions of subscribers already hooked up with a satellite. Cable heads will continue to brag about their success and they will also go up to DBS face to face in competing for the audiences of the world. In my general opinion, DBS is the way to go now and in the future. As for Cable TV,……sorry.