Will DIRECTV ever stop launching satellites?

Eventually everything ends, so I’m sure at some point satellite TV, at least DIRECTV, will end. But folks, it’s not coming anytime soon.

A lot of folks are worried that DIRECTV is going to wind down satellite operations. I get this question about once a week actually. Rest assured, they are not. They are winding down standard definition broadcasts, and by the end of 2019 all DIRECTV programming will either be full HD or will use the technology that’s currently used only for HD programs. I’m betting that 99% or more of content will be full HD by that point.

The end of standard definition comes because DIRECTV’s satellite at the 119 location, which has been used for SD locals, will be at “end of life” at that point. It’s not that DIRECTV doesn’t have other satellites to pick up the slack if they wanted to, it just must have seemed like a good time to say goodbye to that older technology in favor of something newer.

Right now DIRECTV has plenty of satellite capacity, with its two latest satellites (originally called DIRECTV14 and DIRECTV15 and now referred to as T14 and T15 in recognition of AT&T) but there’s a big revolution that could be right over the horizon. DIRECTV wants to be ready for tons of 4K content if it comes, and that may require another satellite. That’s why they’ve commissioned Airbus to build the T16 satellite, which will be the largest and highest-capacity communications satellite yet. It should dwarf everything else.

DIRECTV is moving ahead even though there really isn’t enough 4K content to require it because they believe in being prepared, and because it takes a long time to put a satellite into service. It could still be two more years before this satellite is ready and a lot could happen by then.

So certainly, DIRECTV has not stopped launching satellites, not yet. This latest satellite could be its last, or who knows, there could be a T17 on the horizon, ready to take satellite TV to 2035 and beyond.