Definitions

USDTV

USDTV

USDTV was an over-the-air, pay television service in the United States. Based in Draper, Utah near Salt Lake City, it was founded in 2003 and started service there in 2004. The company ceased operations March 12, 2007.

Technology

The company used extra bandwidth on digital television stations to send channels to subscribers who had a special set-top box provided by the company. It had an ATSC tuner that receives and decodes regular digital TV stations, as well as being able to decode more highly-compressed WMV9 and later MPEG-4 AVC. Customers with earlier WMV9 boxes were expected to be sent an upgrade in the form of a USB device, which handles the new codec.

USDTV channels were broadcast by multiple stations in each area, but through the use of virtual channels. They all appeared as subchannels of 99.x, even on regular sets that could not decode them. This was also true in the EPG.

Disadvantages of its Technology

One disadvantage of the system is its limited channel capacity, and the need for a strong signal through an antenna. The fact that it uses different stations, possibly in different locations, may also make re-aiming the antenna difficult or annoying, particularly since it may not be easy to find which USDTV channels are being hosted by which stations. As with free DTV, acceptable reception may require an outdoor antenna; this is true both with the US/Canadian ATSC system using 8VSB modulation and the COFDM based systems used in other countries.

Because it uses full-power broadcast stations, this also in turn limits the bitrate of free "extra" channels the public can receive from those stations. Broadcasters in the US are only required to carry one SDTV channel. This has led to speculation that stations would rent out the bandwidth of the additional five multiplex channels to pay TV services such as USDTV, instead of broadcasting in HDTV. Should this become commonplace practice among broadcasters, not only would HDTV be precluded, picture quality in SDTV can suffer noticeably due to excessive data compression, which leaves visible compression artifacts.

Services

USDTV served customers in and near Salt Lake City, Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.

Cost

The cost for this basic-tier service was $19.95 per month. USDTV also offered Starz! on channel 99.50 for an additional fee of $6.95 per month. The basic rate represented a higher cost per channel than either cable or satellite, possibly in part because the per-subscriber rate for ESPN is very expensive compared to other networks, with little flexibility for carriage. Cable TV and satellite TV charge about twice as much for basic service, but offer several times more channels.

Subscribers

At shutdown, USDTV had 14,000 subscribers. Just over half were from people who had never paid for TV before due to the high cost. Units were sold at Wal-Mart as well as some limited dealers, and via Internet and telephone ordering.

Business

U.S. Digital Television operated USDTV. Its investors included Fox Television Stations, Hearst-Argyle Television, LIN TV, McGraw Hill Broadcasting, Morgan Murphy Stations, and Telecom DTV. The investment was worth about 26 million dollars.

Bankruptcy

USDTV filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in a Delaware court in July 2006, having about 14 million dollars in debt. On November 10 2006, NexGen Telecom, LLC announced it acquired the assets of USDTV from the bankruptcy court.

USDTV ceased operations on March 12, 2007. The set-top boxes can be converted to be an over-the-air (OTA) digital television receiver for $30 for up to four boxes. However, even without the conversion, the boxes continue to receive local OTA stations.

External links

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