History of Satellite Television
Television networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, BBC, CBC etc.) began using satellite
communication as a means of distribution of their programming content in the 1970’s. These networks would transmit their programming to a satellite, which would re-broadcast the content to subscribers. The subscribers at the time were, for the most part, cable TV companies who would receive the content and redistribute it using their cable networks in various parts of the country.
Unfortunately for the networks the original satellite broadcasts were available to anyone who could receive it, whether they were
a legitimate subscribers or not, as the content was not encrypted. Anyone with enough money and time could get a dish, point it at the satellite and start receiving the broadcasts. To combat this problem, the networks began to scramble the broadcast signal so that non-subscribers without a descrambling device would see only a jumbled mess when they tried to view the content. The ages of widespread free satellite TV closed almost as quickly as it began.
The Direct-To-Home or Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) industry that is now dominated by Direct TV and Dish Network, was actually started by a consortium of cable TV companies. The consortium launched the Primestar satellite in 1991, but unlike today the homeowner did not own their own receiving equipment, the cable companies did. By 1999 Primestar ceased to exist, selling its assets to Hughes (the company that founded DirecTV).
At the same time that Primestar was launched, the ATSC (a television advisory committee established by the FCC) was considering changes to the aging NTSC television system. They narrowed the choice down to 6 different systems, 4 of which were all digital high definition systems. The systems were tested, and in February 1993 the ATSC was not able to choose a system from the test results, but they did decide that they would no longer consider an analog technology as the replacement for the NTSC television system. On December 17, 1993 Hughes Electronics launched the high powered digital satellite DirecTV-1. In 1994 Hughes DirecTV began broadcasts on its new fully digital system. In 1996 EchoStar’s Dish Network began operations of their all digital satellite systems.