How Satellite HD Works

Today's Satellite HD Service

DIRECTV is one of the two major satellite service providers in the U.S.
DIRECTV is one of the two major satellite service providers in the U.S.
Photo courtesy DIRECTV

Many satellite television service providers offer HD programming as an incentive to attract customers. The two major satellite service providers in the United States are DISH Network and DIRECTV. Both companies offer several different service packages aimed at every level of consumer, from families to serious couch potatoes. DISH Network and DIRECTV also provide several options for people interested in HDTV programming.

DIRECTV and DISH Network are constantly working on improving service, including package pricing and channel selection. This makes it difficult to compare the two providers, but in general here's how they match up:

  • DIRECTV offers a package with more than 80 channels broadcast in HD. Other packages include up to 40 channels in HD. In all but two packages, DIRECTV treats HD as an add-on, meaning that customers must pay an additional $9.99 per month in order to access HD content. The other two packages include HD in the price of the monthly service. HD channels include several movie channels like HBO and Showtime, sports channels, and specialty channels like the National Geographic Channel. Some channels, like the Smithsonian Channel HD, are only available in HD.
  • DISH Network offers more than 70 HD channels for subscribers, though the channels each customer has access to varies depending on his or her subscription package. The HD add-on is $20 per month. Selection of HD channels varies by region, and in some regions the DISH Network can include locally broadcast HD channels.

In many regions, satellite HD service providers offer more channels in high definition than cable. For example, in Atlanta, Comcast, a cable company, offers 15 channels in HD, including several local broadcast stations. Because cable companies are regionally oriented, it's easy for them to carry local HD stations. Satellite television service providers are nationally oriented. In some regions, the provider might have an office that collects and broadcasts local HD channel signals to the appropriate satellite. Depending on a customer's region and provider, he or she might be able to watch local channels in HD. Otherwise, the only way a satellite customer can view local HD is to use an antenna connected directly to the television set to pick up the broadcast signals.

To learn more about satellite HDTV and other services, follow the links below.

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More Great Links


  • Stevens, Brian. "High Definition Satellite TV - What You Should Know." Ezine Articles.
  • Patterson, Ben. "Three Ways to get HDTV Programming." CNET. August 16, 2007.
  • "The Basics of Satellite HDTV."
  • "DTV is Coming (And Sooner Than You Think!)." Federal Communications Commission.