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About Satellite-TV

Content for this section reprinted with permission from National Satellite Publishing. The original printed article, "A Dream In The Making" by Harry W. Thibedeau, first appeared in Private Cable & Wireless Cable magazine, August 1996.

  1. Introduction
  2. Arthur C. Clarke's Dream
  3. HBO Moves to Satellite, Taylor Howard Builds a Dish
  4. Dish "Fever" Grows
  5. The DTH World Changes Forever
  6. The First Signs of Unity
  7. Piracy Dominates DTH
  8. Ready for DBS
  9. A 20-Year Adventure: the Best is Yet to Come

Across America, more than one of every 20 homes has a satellite dish. Several states now boast satellite television penetration figures exceeding 10 percent of all TV households, with one state, Montana, having dishes in more than one out of every six homes. This explosion in the popularity of direct-to-home (DTH) satellite technology may surprise many casual observers; since many Americans (and most of the media) have only learned about satellite TV in the last two years. The satellite dish emerged as a common feature in the American household with the launch of "small dish" digital satellite TV via the PrimeStar and DIRECTV/USSB ventures of 1994. In the 24 months since those companies began service - now joined by EchoStar and AlphaStar, nearly three million new consumer satellite installations have occurred, and when added to the 2.3 million C-band subscribers, the industry truly seems to have come of age. Of this impressive number, the 18-inch Digital Satellite System (DSS) has racked up sales of better than 1.6 million units. Indeed, DSS represents the most successful consumer product introduction in history, easily outperforming CE stalwarts like the color TV, VCR and CD player. When these numbers are added to the widespread acceptance of the PrimeStar system and the strong market interest in both EchoStar's DISH system and the AlphaStar product, America is clearly turning its eyes to the sky for new options in entertainment, information and education. While Today's hot DTH marketplace makes for an exciting story, this is an industry's history - which was never supposed to exist - remains unknown to most. DTH is an industry born out of the genius of a Stanford University college professor and publicized by ham radio conversations. An industry that defied all odds to grow from the backyards of "techies" and "early adapters" to today's multi-billion dollar first-line competitor to America's cable monopoly. Ultimately, it is the story of an industry comprised of thousands of entrepreneurs who "kept the dream alive" during long periods of traumatic political upheaval.