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PART THREE - Programming * What Programming is Available on BUDs? In a single word, LOTS! More than any DBS system can shake a stick at. And better picture quality, too. Much better. Since TVRO is the primary distribution system of programming to cable TV head ends, this is where you are going to find virtually all "cable-type" subscription programming. These days, however, the true BUD aficionado probably wants more than just typical cable stuff. Here is a short summary of what TVRO has to offer: * News - Not only regular CNN and Headline News stuff, but wild network news feeds from ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as international news and regional news networks. Don't forget financial news and the weather. * Sports - Probably the most sports available for your dollar. ESPN, as well as the regional Fox Sports Net networks and specialty sports programming. Most professional sports backhauls are encrypted but not necessarily *all* of them, not to mention a large amount of college sports backhauls are in-the-clear. Football, basketball, baseball, hockey, you name it, it's on BUD. * Movies - This is where TVRO really shines! Not just one measly HBO and Showtime, but all the premium movie channel multiplex packages: all the Cinemax, The Movie Channel, Encore, Flix, and Starz! you can *possibly* imagine! There are also sources of independent movies such as the premium Sundance Channel and the non-premium Independent Film Channel. Older movies also abound with American Movie Classics, B-Mania, Fox Movie Channel, and Turner Classic Movies. HBO and Showtime are also the first subscription networks to have HDTV channels for those with high-definition televisions. You may need a lifetime supply of popcorn for all the movies to be watched! * Music - Not just MTV and VH1, but Country Music Television and Great American Country for those country and western lovers, MTV Jams & MTV2 for rockers, and VH1 Classic Rock & VH1 Mega Hits for those who like to rock with the volume a *bit* lower! Don't forget the audio of Digital Music Express (DMX) and MusicChoice as well as radio "superstations" like jazz station KLON Long Beach, a long time favorite of BUD listeners! * Religion - TVRO wins hands down over DBS here! Whether of the Protestant, Catholic, or any other Christian persuasion, it's here on channels like Trinity Broadcasting and Eternal Word TV Network. Muslim programming is also available, especially with a digital FTA receiver (more on this later). * Foreign Language and International - TVRO wins again! Tons of Spanish language programming is available, much of it not found anywhere else. You can also find programming in French, German, Italian, Arabic, Farsi, Japanese, and other languages for the internationally inclined. International programming abounds for those truly interested in television from a different cultural viewpoint. Lots of international and foreign language audio, too. * Kids - Whether for learning or just for fun, big dish offers lots of programming for the little ones. Not just Nickelodeon but Discovery Kids, Nick Too, Nick Games and Sports, PBS Kids, and Noggin. Kids' programming in the morning on The Learning Channel. Not to mention...cartoons! Cartoon Network and Toon Disney should satisfy your kids' animated cravings. * Family - Big dish is truly a bastion of family-oriented programming served as an safer alternative to much of the not-so-family oriented programming on TV today. ABC Family Channel and the PAX Network are good for starters, but also less well known networks such as America One Television and others provide good, wholesome entertainment for the entire family. * Adult - Need I say more? More here than anywhere else.... * Educational - This is another area where big dish dominates. Not only do you get PBS, but Discovery Channel and its specialty multiplex channels, TLC, and others. Not to mention university channels from institutions such as BYU and the University of Southern California. * Lottery Drawings - Big dish owners have the privilege of being able to view state and interstate lottery drawings from all over the United States. Time to check those lucky numbers! * Dr. Gene Scott - A longtime big dish institution by himself. Love him or hate him, he probably isn't going anywhere anytime soon... This is just a small listing of the programming available. Enjoy! * What about the broadcast networks? Can I get them with my big dish system? Yes. But keep in mind that they are probably going to be distant network affiliates to you, and availability is subject to the quality of your over-the-air network reception quality. The two sets of major network channels are part of the Denver 5 package and the former Prime Time 24 package of affiliates. The actual affiliates are subject to change at any given time. Currently, they are: Denver 5 PT 24 ABC KMGH Denver WKRN Nashville CBS KCNC Denver WSEE Erie, Penn. NBC KUSA Denver WNBC New York Fox - - - WB KWGN Denver - KDVR, Denver's Fox affiliate, as well as a national Fox feed, are also available separately. These network channels are available via subscription. These networks are also only available if you live outside your locals' Grade A or Grade B signal coverage areas. This is done at the discretion of your subscription provider usually. Since TVRO is *not* a closed system like cable television or DBS, it is NOT subject to network affiliate must-carry rules mandated by the FCC in the U.S. Note that other network channels sometimes show up in-the-clear, particularly ABC. NBC is still in the clear, but you need special equipment to receive it (more on this later). CBS is usually encrypted, as well as Fox. WGN Chicago, a popular subscription channel and one of the superstations that still remain, as well as WPIX and KTLA. If getting the networks via satellite doesn't sound like an option, your over-the-air antenna will work fine with your satellite system and over-the-air signals will pass through the receiver just fine. Of course, the signal quality will be inferior if it isn't an HDTV digital signal. * What are the requirements for subscribing to the networks? Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999 (the "SHVIA") http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/shviafac.html On November 19, 1999, Congress passed the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999 (the "SHVIA"). The SHVIA was signed by the President and became law on November 29, 1999. One of the key elements of the SHVIA is that it permits satellite carriers to offer their subscribers local TV broadcast signals through the option of providing "local-into-local." This act also authorizes satellite carriers to provide distant or national broadcast programming to subscribers. This law generally seeks to place satellite carriers on an equal footing with local cable television operators when it comes to the availability of broadcast programming, and thus gives consumers more and better choices in selecting a multichannel video program distributor (MVPD), such as cable or satellite service. Distant stations provided to some subscribers: The new SHVIA also addresses the satellite retransmission of distant television stations to subscribers. This applies to television broadcast stations that are not from the subscriber's local market. Subscribers who cannot receive an over-the-air signal of Grade B intensity using a conventional, stationary rooftop antenna are eligible to receive these distant signals. In addition, subscribers who were receiving distant signals as of October 31, 1999, or had distant signals terminated after July 11, 1998, may still be eligible to receive distant signals provided they cannot receive over-the-air signals of Grade A intensity. Both Grade A and Grade B signal intensity are defined by FCC rules. If a consumer is eligible to receive distant signals under these provisions, it is still up to the satellite carrier to decide whether to provide the distant signals to eligible subscribers. The SHVIA Fact Sheet: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/shviafac.html Persons who subscribe to C-band service may continue to receive distant network television signals if such signals were being received on October 31, 1999 or if the signals were terminated before October 31, 1999. Persons who first subscribed to C-band services after October 31, 1999 are not covered by this exemption. The FCC created a computer model for satellite companies and television stations to use to predict whether a given household is served or unserved. If you are "unserved", you are eligible to receive distant network signals. If you are "served", you are not eligible to receive such signals. If you disagree with the model's prediction, you may request a "waiver" from each local network TV station that you are predicted to be able to receive. If the waiver is granted, you will be eligible to receive the distant signals. SHVIA outlines a specific process for requesting a waiver. SHVIA requires that the satellite subscriber submit the request for a waiver, through the satellite company, to the local network TV station. The local network TV station has 30 days from the date that it receives the waiver request to either grant or deny the request. If the local network TV station does not issue a decision within 30 days, the request for a waiver is considered to be granted and the satellite company may provide the distant signals. The SHVIA provides that if the local network TV station(s) denies the request for a waiver, the subscriber may submit a request to the satellite company to have a signal strength test performed at the subscriber's location to determine whether the subscriber's signal is at least Grade B intensity. The satellite company and the local network TV station(s) that denied the waiver will then select a qualified and independent person to conduct the signal test. SHVIA requires that the test be performed no more than 30 days after the subscriber submits the request to the satellite provider. If the test reveals that the subscriber does not receive at least a Grade B signal of the local network TV station, the subscriber may receive the signal of a distant TV station that is affiliated with that network. http://bsexton.com/cgi-bin/tv.cgi can help you determine the service contour prediction for your location. * What are these "raw feeds" and backhauls that I always hear about? "Raw feeds", or more accurately, recurring feeds, are programs being distributed in their unedited form at a specific scheduled time to a network of television stations. These programs are often syndicated programs but can also be those intended for broadcast networks. Recurring feeds are unedited, so they often don't contain commercials where the commercial breaks are scheduled. Recurring news feeds also often show the "uninteresting" activity that happens during these commercial breaks, such as private conversations and equipment adjustments. Recurring feeds are often referred to as "wild" feeds because, at least to the TVRO viewer, they often do not follow a regular broadcast schedule. In regards to satellite communications, a backhaul is the distribution of a program from a live event at a specific location being sent back to the programmer's network center so it can be processed and distributed in its edited form over the programmer's primary network. Backhauls can also be used for sending recorded programming to a programmer's network center, such as a major news organization, for broadcast later in the day. Perhaps the backhauls that most interest big dish viewers are sports backhauls, but backhauls can be of any type of programming. Recurring feeds and backhauls are perhaps one of the most interesting types of viewing available to big dish owners. These feeds are a definite departure from the standard edited programming fare TV viewers are used to with over-the-air broadcasts, cable television, and DBS. * How do I access all this programming? Simple. Turn on your television set, get the remote control, and...enjoy! Seriously, for those accustomed to watching over-the-air broadcasts, cable TV, and DBS, TVRO viewing will take a little time getting used to. Fortunately, as long as your satellite system is installed properly and in good working order, accessing big dish programming isn't all that difficult. The main things to understand are that like other forms of television, each network or feed has its own channel. Without going into a detailed technical discussion, an analog channel is a simplified form of what actually is an electromagnetic frequency. For example, over-the-air broadcast channel 2 is actually a frequency of 55.25 MHz; cable TV channel 25 is actually a frequency of 229.25 MHz (Note that digital channels are a bit different; more on this later). But most people find channel number assignments easier to remember than frequencies. In regards to satellite TV channels, it works almost the same except the frequencies that the channel numbers represent are MUCH higher than those of most other forms of television. Another difference between analog TVRO and other TV channels is that C-Band and Ku-Band channel numbers cross-reference to downlink frequencies that are sent from a satellite's transponders. A transponder is a device on board a communications satellite that receives an uplink frequency and automatically sends a different downlink frequency. For C-Band, the channel number essentially is the same as the satellite transponder number. Ku-Band channels can be assigned to transponders in a vast variety of different numbering schemes, making Ku-Band tuning more difficult. There are a maximum of 24 C-Band channels per satellite and as many as 60 on a Ku-Band satellite, although the number varies. Also note that satellites can contain *both* C-Band and Ku-Band transponders. Besides channel numbers, a *requirement* of TVRO viewing is being familiar with the satellite arc. For example, Galaxy 5 is just one of many satellites that your satellite dish can point to for program reception. This is why your receiver must be programmed correctly for tracking the satellite arc, since one channel of programming can be on one satellite and another channel of programming can be on another. Most satellite receivers use a custom two-character abbreviation for the name of a satellite. For example, Galaxy 5 might be G5 or something else on a particular receiver. These abbreviations are completely arbitrary, in spite of the overuse of shorthand abbreviations in published satellite programming guides. The complete notation of a particular channel includes the satellite name and the channel assignment. For example, ESPN is currently on Galaxy 5, channel 9 and is an analog C-Band channel. Tuning digital channels (4DTV, that is) is just as easy as tuning analog counterparts. Digital channels are usually a three-digit number and, unlike analog channel numbers, digital channel numbers do NOT represent a satellite transponder and are instead completely arbitrary. In fact, channel numbers on 4DTV and DBS systems are often referred to as virtual channel numbers. An example of a digital channel is The Food Network at Galaxy 1R, channel 600. One more important aspect of TVRO channel surfing is polarity. TVRO satellite transponders aimed at North America use what is called linear polarization. A channel is either vertical or horizontal in polarity (sometimes referred to as odd or even). Usually, transponders alternate between vertical and horizontal polarity as each channel is selected. * Are ALL channels freely available for watching? What is encryption? Not all channels are available for home viewing. Channels that are not "in-the-clear" are encrypted. Encryption, often referred to as scrambling, keeps viewers that are not intended to view a particular channel from viewing it. The most common use of encryption is to keep non-paying viewers from accessing subscription or pay per view programming. Encryption will be discussed in more detail later in this FAQ. * How do I tune audio? Audio tuning is not too difficult. The audio portion of a satellite channel is separate from the video portion, so audio-only transmissions can be on the same transponder as audio/video television programming. Audio frequencies range from 5.0 to 8.5 MHz. Make sure you also select whether the transmission is either wide, normal, or narrow audio. Audio tuning is usually done via the receiver's on-screen menu; refer to your receiver's manual for information specific to your particular model of receiver. * There is so much programming! How do I keep track of it all? Are there program guides available? There IS a giant variety of standard programming available to big dish owners! Fortunately, there are several quality published guides available so that you can keep up with most of it. Here are the three most popular printed ones: OnSat http://www.tripled.com/onsat/ Triple D Publishing, Inc. Satellite Orbit http://www.orbitmagazine.com/ Vogel Communications, Inc. TV Guide Ultimate Satellite http://www.tvguide.com/ TV Guide. In addition to these published guides, the Motorola/GI 4DTV receivers have their own on-screen guide. * Who provides subscription programming and about how much might it cost me? It must be noted that there are far fewer providers of C-Band/TVRO subscription programming since the advent of DBS in the mid-1990's. Currently, there are about three: National Programming Service http://www.dsinps.com/ (800) 786-9677 Netlink-Superstar-TurnerVision http://www.superstar.com/ (800) 395-9557 Satellite Receivers, Ltd. email@example.com (800) 432-8876 The following are secondary programming providers who resell programming from one of the primary programming providers; they don't necessarily resell at the same price, so shop around for the best price and service. Nelson Hill Electronics http://www.xcity.com/nhe/mainframe.htm Orbit Communications http://www.orbitcommunications.com Programming Center (none) (800) 432-8876 Rural TV [NRTC] http://www.nrtc.org/sattv/ruraltv/ Sat2000.com http://www.sat2000.com Subscription package pricing is generally very competitive with DBS package pricing, and always less expensive than comparable cable TV programming. TVRO subscription programming has the added benefits of time-zoned feeds, the most complete premium movie channel packages, no "filler" channels that DBS companies make you pay for that are in-the-clear with a big dish system, and the best picture quality available. Each of the packagers have several packages to choose from, which means you stand an excellent chance of finding one that has mostly only channels you watch, for less money than you'd have to pay to get on cable or DBS. Plus, TVRO subscription packagers provide true a-la-carte options for those who want to be really selective in paying for subscription channels. As always, shop around for current programming prices.