Just as hot rodders transformed the automobile into
a hobby, TVRO (TeleVision Receive Only) enthusiasts
turned satellite TV reception into a space hobby.
The TVRO enthusiasts are not 500 channel couch
potatoes but people who know how to track different
satellites and how to aim their C-Band dish antennas
at them, who can receive and decode various types of
satellite TV transmissions, who custom build their systems,
and who often have more than one dish.
The hobbyist scans multiple satellites, including
international ones if in range, and learns how to receive
all kinds of free, unscrambled broadcasts outside of
commercial TV. Also, 100's of high quality radio channels
For example, NASA TV, which is NASA's own TV
system and not available on most cable systems, is a
popular unscrambled channel that provides launch broadcasts
as well as many space news and education programs.
Many of these broadcasts are not available via commercial
packages but must be obtained via technical knowledge
of the systems involved.
See Robert Smathers' FAQ
for an overview of TVRO.
In the HobbySpace
spirit, TVRO enthusiasts are intimately aware of the
growing space infrastructure and keep up-to-date on
space developments, especially launches, which they
often watch on NASA TV and foreign broadcasts (e.g.
for Ariane launches), and new satellite technology.
TVRO hobbiests build and modify their systems electronically
and mechanically (i.e. automatic scanning of the dish.)
Large dishes, 2-3 meters, are used for C-Band reception.
Reception of the more narrow beamed KU band transmission
is also becoming popular.
Despite popular belief, illegal pirating of
scrambled broadcasts is not a significant part of
this activity. There are plenty of unscrambled broadcasts
to enjoy and legal descramblers are easy to obtain
for reasonable monthly fees. See the pirating section
Note that TVRO hobbyists essentially created the
direct-to-home (DTH) satellite TV industry, which
now goes to over 30 million homes in the US. Former
Stanford professor H. Taylor Howard started the industry
in 1976 when he created a home system that could pick
up C-band satellite transmissions. This eventually
grew into a sizeable industry. Later most consumers
chose small dish digital systems and the C-band market
has shrunk drastically from its high point but still
includes many thousands of users and hobbyists. See
about this in Space
Investing and also The
History of Satellite TV – A Vision for the Future
Lots of introductory info.
James Bryant built this site with lots of information
and links related to satellite hobbies. Sections include:
Satellite Tips The
Chart Room (satellite locations). The Weather
Sector includes links for reception of weather
"Worldwide Source for Information on Satellite
Receivers and Related Products"
Links to C-Band TV sites.
Satellite industry news, research, analysis and tracking,
especially as related to Direct to Home (DTH) TV satellite
See wOkie's list of online broadcasts, mostly in RealAudio,
that concern satellites, TVRO,etc. For example, listen
in to Houston Amsat
for the latest in Amsat developments.
- pioneered the home reception
of satellite transmissions in 1976: