How Does Satellite TV Work

Satellite television was introduced to the masses in the 90’s. At that time, this new technology was quite expensive for all households to afford. The metal dishes occupied a lot of space and cost a lot. So, the only people who could afford Satellite TV were die-hard fans who were okay with splurging a lot of money on TV.

Today though, you can see satellite dishes on the rooftop of most buildings in the US. You can even spot these dishes in rural areas, where cable TV connections are not accessible. The quality of the channels being delivered and the variety that satellite TV offers is luring in more and more customers every day, such as the DirecTV packages.

To appreciate the features of satellite TV, let’s have a look at how it works.

Early Satellite TV

Early satellite TV was a lot different than it is today. At the time of its introduction, users could access unique programs and channels, based on their location. If your receiving dish could catch the signals of a channel, you could watch it. The satellite dish allowed customers to pick up signals from any part of the world. You could access local stations and international channels too, to keep themselves entertained.

Today customers don’t have to make an effort to find the channels to view. Instead, viewers receive the intended channels through the aid of a direct broadcast satellite provider. These providers offer users packages that contain a list of channels that they will get access to, once they have subscribed to them. In this way, you can access hundreds of channels almost similar to the features of cable TV.

The Components

To understand how satellite TV works, let’s look at the components included in the satellite system. This includes the satellite, the broadcast center, the programming source, the satellite dish, and the receiver.

Programming Source

Programming sources are the channels that offer programs to broadcast. These channels don’t create their content but pay other networks for the right to broadcast their shows through satellite TV. The satellite TV providers act as a third party between you and the channels. This is no different than the process for cable TV.

Broadcast Center

The broadcast center refers to the main hub. At this center, the providers receive the signals from the programming sources and transmit the signals to the satellites in orbit.


The satellites, in orbit, receive the signals from the broadcast center and rebroadcast them back to Earth.

Viewer’s Satellite Dish

The viewer’s dish can pick up the signals rebroadcasted by the orbiting satellite. From here, the signals are transmitted to the receiver in the house.


The receiver converts the received signal into a format that the TV can recognize.

How Does It All Work?

Now that we know, all the components that are a part of satellite TV, we can begin to understand how everything works together. Satellite TVs get their programming from two major sources: local channels and national turnaround channels. The turnaround channels offer their programs to cable TV as well. The local channels, on the other hand, broadcast their programs on the airwaves.

The turnaround channel’s signals are broadcasted by their distribution center to the satellite in orbit. The broadcast center is equipped with several large satellite dishes so that it can pick up a variety of these signals from various sources.

Local stations, however, don’t transfer their programming to the orbiting satellites, which forces providers to gain access to them in some other way. To offer local channels, the providers have the necessary communication equipment. This equipment can pick signals from the broadcaster with the use of antennas or fiber-optic cables and later sends them to the broadcast center.

The broadcast center’s main purpose is to compress all of these high-quality programs into uncompressed videos. This uncompressed video holds large quantities of information and cannot be transmitted easily. To do that, the center, compresses the information, making it small enough for the satellite to handle.

These compressed signals are now transmitted to the customer’s house and picked up by the viewer’s satellite dish. This satellite dish is a special type of antenna that is designed to pick a specific source. It cannot transmit any signals, only receive them.

From there, the signal is transmitted to the receiver. It unscrambles the information that was compressed by the broadcast center. Once it is decompressed, it goes about converting the signal into an analog form so that the television may be able to recognize it. It is also responsible for showing you the exact channel you need. So, every time you change the channel, it blocks the other signals and sends only the necessary signals to the TV.

In Summary

With its high-quality videos and wide variety, satellite TV is proving to be great competition for cable TV. Once considered a luxury, today satellite TV is becoming a part of everyone’s life. If you need any further information, please contact DirecTV customer service.