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A Brief Intro To Satellite TV

We are living in the information age, with access to anything at our fingertips via the Internet and our televisions. With cable television and satellite tv systems, we have access to thousands of channels that cater to almost any interest: music, sports, cooking, children's shows, movies, history, and many more. Satellite tv systems in recent years have stolen some of cable tv's thunder in their ability to offer more channels, for a better price, and often with better reception than standard cable tv. But, cable tv has tried to stay competitive by packaging channels together and offering special deals to attract consumers.

Home satellite tv service began in the 1980's with the introduction of systems that received the same signals used for cable tv distribution. Early satellite tv systems were relatively expensive, and the parabolic dishes necessary to receive the TVRO signal were of mammoth proportions, usually from 2 to 5 meters in diameter. By contrast, modern DBS, or direct broadcast satellite, utilizes mini-dish systems, often as small as 18 inches in diameter.

DBS requires special equipment, namely a satellite dish and a receiver box encrypted by the specific service provider chosen by the customer. The satellite equipment uses a special card to decode the signal in order to allow viewing access to the paying customer. The card is used to permit only the paying customer to view the premium channels (if subscribed), as well as the free channels available to everyone.

In the infancy of satellite tv, all channels were free for public consumption, including what are now premium channels like HBO and Showtime. This was highly appealing to consumers, and gave satellite tv systems an important advantage over the competion, the cable industry. However, when HBO began encrypting their signal in 1986, other cable services followed suit, and satellite sales plummeted. There was still a lot of expensive equipment to purchase, and now many channels were no longer free. The playing field then being level, the cable tv boom began.

As mini dish systems became available in the 1990's, Satellite tv made a resurgence. With little competition for the cable companies, prices rose for basic cable services and more and more popular channels were moved into the "premium channel" category. Consumers, fed up with rising cable costs took advantage of the new choice they were offered. DirecTV became available for home use in 1994, and other service providers like Dish Network and Primestar soon followed . This influx new options created competition not only between the satellite providers, but also with the cable industry, and prices dropped somewhat. Cable tv fought for market share offering digital cable packages with more reliable reception and hundreds of new channels.

Satellite tv does have its drawbacks, however. The reception is highly subject to atmospheric interference like sunspot activity and bad weather. Heavy rain can knock out service for hours at a time, which can be very frustrating if you are watching something at the time. Additionally, if you subscribe to satellite tv because you live in a remote location where cable tv is not available, you might not have access to local tv channels without an antenna. Satellite tv can no longer boast of having a huge advantage in terms of number of channels over cable, as digital cable packages now offer as many if not more channels than satellite.

Satellite tv is an affordable and usually reliable alternative to cable tv. In some locations, especially very remote areas, satellite tv is the only option. Satellite tv offers the same extras as cable, with DVR (Digital Video Recording) capabilities, pay-per-view channels, and numerous music channels. As a result of the competition among satellite tv service providers, equipment prices are often greatly reduced or even free of charge. By doing some comparison shopping of satellite tv providers in your area, you can get a package of the programming that you want at a price that beats what cable has to offer.