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History of Satellite TV

Satellite TV has a longer history than many users imagine, with the first satellite TV broadcasts made via the Telstar satellite in 1962. Since the advent of satellite TV the technology used has undergone many changes, including those from analog to digital signals and the move from free to dish services to encrypted programming only received via a set top receiver. The history of satellite TV has seen the industry move from periods of growth to decline, and a recent surge in popularity with US subscribers now totaling more than 33 million.

The Birth of Satellite TV

Predictions from scientists and writers can be found throughout the early twentieth century regarding the birth of satellite TV, perhaps the most famous of which comes from science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke who detailed a geostationary satellite broadcast system in 1945. The initial launch of satellites was completed for military purposes, with the Soviet constructed and launched Sputnik 1 entering orbit in 1957. The possibilities of satellites were quickly spotted by the entertainment industry and in 162 the Telstar satellite conveyed broadcasts from around world to areas of North America and Europe in the first live global TV event.

The Industry Begins

Although North America is often seen as the birthplace of the modern satellite TV industry, the first nationally broadcast network was established in 1967 in the Soviet Union. Broadcasting on an analog signal, the broadcasts were very low quality and were difficult to obtain without a large, ground based satellite dish. The Soviet network was followed in 1972 by Canada’s own national network broadcasting from the Anik 1 satellite, these signals were not encrypted and could be viewed by any person with a satellite dish. From 1976 to 1980 the launch of a number of US based satellite networks, including HBO and TBS led to a surge in dish ownership as once the initial cost of obtaining a dish had been paid the programming was free to view. The year 1986 saw the beginnings of encryption of satellite TV services and a campaign by the press and cable providers providing a negative image for satellite TV.

European Emergence

Unlike North America the European satellite TV market remained small and largely unexplored until the 1990s, when Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and 20th Century Fox began to expand the market. In the UK, satellite TV struggled to gain popularity until the News Corporation backed BSkyB network purchased the rights to Premier League soccer in 1992 and saw subscription numbers increase. Around the world satellite TV companies now follow the BSkyB model of purchasing high profile sports events to drive consumers to purchase equipment and pay TV subscriptions.

Improved Performance

In the 1980s and early 1990s one of the major problems faced by satellite TV providers was the problems caused by rain and strong winds interfering with broadcasts. Reductions in dish size and improved technology with set top boxes has now eliminated the majority of these problems and has allowed HD programming to become commonplace on modern satellite TV broadcasts. With interactive TV services also available, along with satellite based high speed Internet options the modern satellite TV service is now more reliable and efficient than its ancestors.

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