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The number of digital satellite television services has settled down to just two. The Directv (the former DSS name has been dropped - see below) service was the first digital satellite television service when it went on the air in 1994. A short time later Echostar began offering the Dish Network service.  The five Directv satellites and the Directv programming service are owned and operated by Hughes.  DSS started off with two program providers: Directv and USSB.   However Directv acquired USSB in early 1999 and subsequently merged the USSB programming and customer billing into the Directv service.  With now a single programming provider the name has been changed from DSS to Directv.  Also in 1999 Hughes, the owner of Directv, purchased PrimeStar, who had been the third major digital satellite provider.  All current PrimeStar customers will be transitioned over to Directv over the next year.  With the acquisition of the PrimeStar satellite orbital slots, Directv has substantially increased their future capacity of offer high definition TV channels as well as more standard definition channels.  Likewise, Echostar has purchased additional orbital slots for additional Dish Network satellites.  By 2001 both Directv and Dish Network should each have a 500 channel total system capacity, although no signal consumer will have access to anywhere near this number of channels.

Directv has begun high definition TV programming with one channel of   HDTV demo programming and pay-per-view movies (channel 199) and a high definition HBO channel (channel 509).  HBO is currently offering perhaps 60% of the programming in true HDTV 1080I format  with the rest of the programming being standard definition material that has been upconverted to 1080I format.  Showtime has also begun offering a HD channel that is currently available from Dish Network but not yet via Directv.  Dish Network is also offering the HD-HBO  channel.  This means a national availability of HDTV programming, not just in the cities where DTV over-the-air stations have begun broadcasting. You will need a new Directv or Dish Network receiver (or adapter in the case of Dish Network) and a suitable HD television to receive and display the HDTV transmissions.   Thomson, under the digital satellite RCA and Proscan brands have HDTV capable standalone combined Directv and broadcast DTV set top receiver boxes (i.e., RCA model DTC100) available for $650.  Several other companies, including Hughes, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Samsung, Toshiba and Zenith will also have set top boxes to receive both broadcast DTV stations and Directv during 2000.  The Directv receivers and new elliptical shaped dishes that can receive from a group additional satellites are being advertised under the name Directv Plus.  These new satellites are located at 119 degrees longitude which is further west than the original Directv satellites.  You need a new Directv Plus receiver and a new dish that has two feed assemblies and a switch box in order to receive signals from these new satellites.   Programming on these new satellites include the high definition channels and local channels for major markets beyond the 10 largest.  For the 10 largest markets local channels will be delivered via the original satellites thus not requiring a new dish or receiver to receive local programming in this locals.  Expects all of the standard Directv receiver model to be replaced with Directv Plus receivers by mid-2000.  However, not all Directv Plus receivers will receive the high definition channels as this is will only be available in top of the line models.

In order to receive HD programming from Dish Networks you will need a new add a new $300 HDTV adapter to the Dish Network premium model 5000 receiver or purchase one of the new generation of Dish Network satellite receivers with the high definition decoder built-in (to be available during the first half of 2000)..  Also because Dish Network uses satellites that are widely separated in their orbital positions, multiple dishes are required to receive all of the available programming. 

There is one question that each prospective buyer of a digital satellite system must ask themselves before choosing between Directv or Dish Network.  That question is what programming are you willing to pay for.  After all you will end up spending far more on the programming than for the one time expense to purchase the satellite hardware.  Each company bundles their channels into packages.  Therefore, you will need to carefully consider the programming packages available against what types of programming you and your family want.   Generally Directv has carried more sports channels and sporting events, many of which are only sold as 'season tickets' (NFL, NBA, etc.).  Also Directv has offered more pay-per-view movie channels.  However, with the total channel capacity of Dish Network now having caught up with Directv the programming lineup may become more equivalent.  For a limited time Dish Networking is offering their basic system with a full 100%  rebate when you sign up for their programming package.  Click on the graphics at the top of this page for more information or to order your Dish Network system.

Digital VCRs are now available that will allow for the recording of programming off of Directv or Dish Network systems. Hughes now offers a model HDR-205 Digital VHS VCR ($500) that can only be used with their compatible Model HIRD-D4 ( $300) Directv receiver.  For Dish Network JVC has their DSR100 integrated satellite receiver and D-VHS VCR.  Note these current D-VHS VCRs do not record or play back the new high definition channels (only the standard definition satellite channels).  If you own or plan to buy an HDTV set then I suggest that you wait to get a HD-VHS recorder that supports recording and playback of both satellite and  over-the-air HDTV broadcasts, not just the standard definition Directv or Dish Network programs.  Such HD-VHS recorders should become available by 2001.

Article is courtesy DTVMAX.Com

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