THE END IS COMING: DIRECTV announces end of SD service

Updated: This article was originally published in 2016, based on what we were told at that time. For more information about how this change will affect you, call your representative at 888-233-7563.

Almost 15 years after the company first rolled out HD channels, they’re pulling the plug on standard definition. There’s a firm cutoff here… DIRECTV announced that their plan is to stop all new SD service activations in 2019. While you have some time to plan, it’s time to start thinking about your options if you’re still rocking that round dish.

SD service for DIRECTV started in 1994 when HD was still a faraway hope. Throughout the years, DIRECTV launched more and more satellites to add SD, HD, and 4K capacity, but they made a decision some years ago that the future was HD-only and stopped adding SD capacity to new launches. That means the satellites that carry SD local and national channels are getting older and older. By 2019, the last of them will have reached its operational limits and DIRECTV will stop all SD service.

Satellites stop being useful when they run out of fuel. While the everyday work of a satellite is powered by the sun, a small amount of fuel is used to keep the satellite from drifting out of its assigned spot. When fuel supplies are low, a final command is sent to the satellite to either move it to a parking orbit high above other satellites or send it down to Earth. The final move exhausts the last bit of fuel and the satellite stops being useful. That’s what will happen, although to be honest I don’t know if they’ll park it or burn it up.

Starting today, DIRECTV is on a path to an SD-free life that started several years ago when they stopped lighting up new MPEG-2 markets. The list of markets that require HD boxes keeps growing, and in 2015 DIRECTV stopped activating new SD-only customers. Today the only way you can get an SD DIRECTV receiver activated is to use it to replace a broken one… but DIRECTV doesn’t want you to do it. They want you to move to HD, and right now.

It will take three years to swap out the remaining millions of boxes and get every customer HD-ready, and they’ll be working with manufacturers of mobile dishes as well to make sure that no one is left out. Your friends at Solid Signal will be here every step of the way to make sure the transition is smooth for you, and we do have three years to help you through it.

Update: March, 2018

It’s not completely clear what will happen after the 2019 date. Certainly any channels that are currently coming off the 119 satellite will stop broadcasting, since that satellite is being decommissioned. There are approximately 800 channels on the 101 satellite that may continue broadcasting, since there is really nothing else that can be done with that satellite capacity. It was designed for standard definition, not for HD.

I actually advocated for this ten years ago but I understand now it didn’t make financial sense. Today we’re more than 7 years since digital broadcasting came to local channels and the last SD-only TV was made close to 10 years ago. Seriously, it’s about time.

If you’re looking to make that jump, call your friends at Solid Signal at 888-233-7563 and we’ll make it easy. We can get your equipment swapped out and get you ready for the world to come!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.