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Broadcasters realized that everyone had potential to receive satellite signals for free, and they were not happy. But Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was governed by its open skies' policy, believing that users had as much right to receive satellite signals as broadcasters had right to transmit them.
In 1980, FCC established Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS), a new service that consisted of a broadcast satellite in geostationary orbit, facilities for transmitting signals to satellite, and equipment needed for people to access signals. In turn, broadcasters developed methods of scrambling their signals, forcing consumers to purchase a decoder, or a direct to home (DTH) satellite receiver, from a satellite program provider.
From 1981 to 1985, big dish satellite market soared. Rural areas gained capacity to receive television programming that was not capable of being received by standard methods.
The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association of America (SBCA) was founded in 1986 as a merger between SPACE and Direct Broadcast Satellite Association. But by this point, American communication companies had soured on prospect of satellite TV. Broadcast cable was very successful at this time, and satellite industry received a lot of negative press coverage. Fifty percent of all satellite retailers closed their businesses.
Business eventually recovered, but illegal theft of pay television signals was still a problem. Ultimately, encryption has proven to be ultimate salvation of satellite industry as it has made transition from a hardware to software entertainment-driven business.
Early successful attempts to launch satellites for mass consumer market were led by Japan and Hong Kong in 1986 and 1990, respectively. In 1994, first successful attempts in America were led by a group of major cable companies, known collectively as Primestar.
Later that year, Direct TV was established, and in 1996, DISH Network, a subsidiary of Echostar, also entered satellite TV industry. DISH Network’s low prices forced competing DBS providers to also lower their prices. And an explosion in popularity of digital satellite TV ensued.
About the Authors: Gary Davis is owner of Dish Network Satellite TV and has written numerous articles on the satellite television industry. Kate Ivy has written for a variety of publications and websites and is the owner of Ivygirl Media & Design.