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r.v.s.tvro FAQ - Part 3/10

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Archive-name: Satellite-TV/TVRO/part3
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
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.  srlpc@gbonline.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.

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