Emerging Industry Overview: Direct Broadcast Satellite Television

Industry Snapshot

Buoyed by innovative programming and consumers' disenchantment with their cable companies, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) services made sizable inroads into the U.S. pay television market, as cable continued to lose ground to DBS. New technologies and features remain a primary catalyst for growth of DBS services. For more than a decade, DBS providers have been locked in what is largely a battle of attrition against cable, and insiders of all stripes stress the importance of staying ahead of the technology curve. As of 2010, the newest services included high-definition television (HDTV), Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), video on demand (VOD), digital video recording (DVR), and HD-3DTV.

Organization and Structure

Satellite signals are transmitted in a single digital stream to reception dishes mounted on rooftops, in backyards, and atop industrial buildings. Direct broadcast satellites orbit 22,300 miles above Earth. At this height, the orbital period coincides with the earth's daily rotation about its axis. The result is that the satellite seems to hang at a constant position in the sky, allowing subscribers to point their reception dishes in a fixed direction and reducing the cost and complexity of the home system. As of 2010, the major American space transport company offering satellite television services was the Space Explorations Technology Corporation (SpaceX). SpaceX also is a major contractor with NASA.