Television junkies and movie fans are big buyers of satellite dishes, but sports are a primary magnet because they alone provide live, one-time programming. The earliest dishes sold for $150,00 apiece in 1980. The next year, Neiman-Marcus was selling them to fans of distinction for $35,000. The market has forced the price down and down until now inferior dishes can be purchased for as little as $900.
Lew Shuman directed Celtics road games on Channel 56 this season, and when fans would introduce themselves to announcers Gil Santos and Bob Cousy, some would ask for Shuman. "They had heard me talking to the announcers via their dishes; I was a star," Shuman said with a laugh.
There are much stronger plans in the air, such as the introduction of a scrambler that would require dish owners to lease a decoder in order to tune in a station. It would cost about $300, a reasonable fee, but the dish owner also would be required to be linked to a third party to trigger the decoder. This would involve an additional fee that could be prohibitive enough to end the golden age of satellite dishes before it begins.