System for delivering crisp images and CD-quality sound to television viewers via a digital-signal broadcast, thus threatening cable. Also called DSS (Direct Satellite System), the orbiting satellite beams down a signal containing more than 140 television channels and 40 radio channels (although local programming is largely absent).
Each television program and movie is coded with a digital title that includes the show’s name, length, stars, and–shades of the V-chip–rating.
The first system was set aloft in a $750 million GM-RCA venture called DirecTV that has paid off handsomely, with more than half a million people signing up within the first six months of operations in 1994 (nearly 3 million by 1997, toward a goal of 20 million by 2000).
A competing system, Primestar, has the backing of the cable industry but uses older technology; a third, USSB, uses the same satellites as DirecTV but offers different programming.
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