Owned by Hughes Electonics, a subsidiary of News Corporation, DIRECTV was launched in 1994 and was the first high-powered DBS service in the world. DIRECTV typically uses smaller 18-inch satellite dishes to receive its signals. Slightly larger, elliptical dishes are becoming more common as DIRECTV (as well as other DBS services) are attempting to squeeze more programming onto their growing systems, particularly local American television network affiliates stations as well as hybrid systems that also receive broadband satellite Internet service.
DIRECTV has long been a victim of an active piracy underground but has recently begun to crack down on illegal reception of its signals.
In 1998 DIRECTV acquired its partner, USSB for $1.3 billion. In 1999 DIRECTV acquired PrimeStar for $1.83 billion.
DIRECTV receivers (television set-top boxes) were originally referred to as "Digital Satellite Service", or DSS, so that services being broadcast by both DIRECTV and USSB would appear to be received by generic equipment. In 1998, after the acquisition of USSB, an American court ruled that the term "DSS" was an already trademarked term that could not be used by DIRECTV.