Why can’t you have one satellite TV provider for the whole world?

There are some companies out there that deliver the same service all over the world. Think of Facebook and Netflix for example. Although they deliver specific experiences to every different country, they’re still one company that does it all for everyone. Why can’t you have that with satellite TV?

It might not be something that everyone wants or needs, but it would be great for our marine customers. It’s not a large group, but there are people out there in luxury yachts who travel from country to country. They need separate satellite accounts for each country, separate satellite receivers and even separate wiring. For someone like that, a global satellite company would be incredible.

It would also help people who are just outside the US. Imagine if folks in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean could just get DIRECTV legally and without any trouble. You would think it would be a win for DIRECTV and a win for the customer.

Here’s why you can’t do that

It’s partly tradition, partly international law, and partly low return on investment. Let me explain a little further.


Traditionally, broadcasting services don’t cross international borders. There are a few exceptions. For example, there are large radio stations serving the San Diego, California market that have their broadcast towers and licenses over the border in Tijuana. This is done for cost savings. But it’s fairly rare. Generally, broadcasters are chartered to serve a specific area, which is within the country where they operate.

International Law

There’s a whole branch of international law that deals with airspace. Internationally, it’s generally recognized that the space up to 100KM (62 miles) above a country belongs to that country. However after that it gets a little hazy. Some countries claim that their airspace extends up 100,000 feet, the generally accepted definition of the boundary of space. Others claim at least 22,000 miles above their country, with a few countries claiming unlimited sovereignty. In other words they are saying that anything anywhere in the universe that’s directly above them is their domain.

As you can imagine it’s a mess. It makes it hard to know if one country has the right to put a satellite over another country, or if the satellite signals from one country can legally be beamed into another country.

One thing is clear: only one country at a time can offer a license to operate. But even that’s confusing. A satellite can be designed in the US, be launched from Kazakhstan, operate in the sky over Panama, and serve Brazil. (This is an actual example.)

If you try to add the ability to serve more than one country, it just becomes a mess.

Return on investment

Here’s the real killer. In order to operate internationally, a satellite company like DIRECTV would need to renegotiate every single contract. And, they’d need to seek approval on every single contract from every affected government. They do this in a few cases, such as the international channels which DIRECTV offers to its US customers. But doing it for the roughly 5,000 program sources from US shores as well as all the ones in other countries would be daunting to say the least.

All this work would have to pay off. It would have to serve enough customers that it was worth everyone’s time. And it wouldn’t be cheap or easy. So, that’s the real reason it’s not likely to happen. Yes, if you had a global company offering satellite TV they would potentially be able to serve a much greater crowd, but the mechanics of getting it done would make it practically impossible to make up their money.

All about the benjamins

That’s right, it’s all about money. And even if you have enough money to be able to have a luxury yacht, that’s not enough money to get global satellite TV, apparently. In the meantime though, if you want satellite service from a US provider or advice on how to integrate multiple services on one boat, call the experts at Signal Connect! The number is 888-233-7563 and we’re here during East Coast business hours. If it’s after that, fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you, usually within one business day.

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.