|Former type||Over-the-air pay television service|
USDTV, an acronym for U.S. Digital Television, 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.
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 (and made by Chinese electronics manufacturer Hisense). 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- "USDTV Unveils First U.S. Over-the-Air Subscription TV Service Using New Digital TV Spectrum of Broadcast Partners", Business Wire, March 16, 2004. Retrieved February 25, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
- "USDTV Launches Industry-First Advanced Mpeg-4 Broadcast Technology; MPEG-4 AVC Compression Enables USDTV to Offer Customers More Content Choices; USDTV to Showcase Live MPEG-4 AVC Broadcasts at NAB2006", Business Wire, April 10, 2006. Retrieved February 25, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
- "USDTV Selects the Norfolk Virginia Market as First East Coast Launch of Its All-Digtal Low-Cost Cable Alternative; Family Friendly Service to Be Broadcast in Norfolk/Hampton Roads Area in Spring 2006; Advance Subscription Available Online", Business Wire, January 5, 2006. Retrieved February 25, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
- "USDTV Expands Unique Low-Cost Alternative to Cable In Dallas; Wireless Digital TV Service Provides All Local and National Broadcast Networks and Many of Cable's Leading Channels; Price Guaranteed for Two Years", Business Wire, November 14, 2005. Retrieved February 25, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
- "Stripped Down: USDTV Rolls Out Airy Alternative to Cable/DBS", CableFAX, March 17, 2004. Retrieved February 25, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
- "USDTV's 'Over-The-Air' Subscription TV Service to Carry Cable's Most Popular Channels; FOX News and STARZ! Expand USDTV's "Best-of-TV" Line-up", PR Newswire, March 16, 2004. Retrieved February 25, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
- Tarr, Greg. "USDTV expands alternative choices to cable TV", TWICE, March 22, 2004. Retrieved February 25, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
- "USDTV Signs Agreement with Major Broadcasters to Expand Over-the-Air Digital Subscription TV", Business Wire, September 26, 2005. Retrieved February 25, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
- "USDTV aims to sell assets in bankruptcy", The Salt Lake Tribune, July 19, 2006. Retrieved February 25, 2011 from HighBeam Research.