There are two main direct broadcast satellite TV providers in the United States today: DirecTV and Dish Network.
In 1991, PrimeStar became the first satellite service in America, but its competitor DirecTV, launched in 1994 by Hughes Electronics, eventually absorbed it. DirecTV has since become the largest satellite TV provider in the United States, with over 15 million customers as of the end of 2005.
DirecTV provides premium channels (such as HBO), nationwide turnaround channels (such as ESPN), and local programming (such as ABC). It also has several HDTV channels, showing about 900 hours of high definition content a week. In addition, DirecTV offers XM Satellite music channels, and some pay-per-view and video-on-demand services.
The company also provides digital video recorders (DVRs) to its customers – its first DVR was licensed from the TiVo company, which brought “pause-live-TV” technology into the public eye, but DirecTV now uses the internally-developed XTV system. Its receivers also have a built-in parental control system, allowing parents to block certain channels, or shows with a certain rating, from being accessed without a password.
DirecTV offers free professional installation with all of its packages.
About Dish Network
The other major satellite TV provider in the United States is Dish Network, which was launched by EchoStar Communications in 1996. It has grown steadily in popularity, with about 11 million customers at the end of 2005.
Like its competitor, Dish provides premium channels, turnaround channels and local programming. It has also added 29 HDTV channels, acquired from a failed satellite company called Voom, which competed briefly with Dish and DirecTV between 2003 and 2005 by focusing on high definition television channels. Dish provides over 1400 hours of HDTV programming a week.
Digital video recording (DVR) technology is also available with all Dish packages, and the company has recently offered a “PocketDish” portable DVR device that can download and view media (TV shows, music, photos and games) that is recorded and stored on the set-top device.
Dish also provides pay-per-view, video-on-demand, interactive TV, and Sirius Satellite Radio channels, as well as parental control features, and they provide free installation for their satellite TV equipment.
Competition is good
Dish Network and DirecTV both provide the expected packages of satellite TV channels, and both have great customer service. The competition between them to provide more programming choices, better technology, clearer picture, fewer interruptions in service, and lower prices is making satellite television better for everyone.