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Orby TV taps former partner Eutelsat for relaunch

The new service, called Orby Elevate, will offer faith-based programming intermingled with right-of-center news networks.

The new service, called Orby Elevate, will offer faith-based programming intermingled with right-of-center news networks.

The electronic program guide for the now-defunct Orby TV.(Courtesy image, Graphic by The Desk)
The electronic program guide for the now-defunct Orby TV.(Courtesy image, Graphic by The Desk)

A prepaid satellite broadcaster that abruptly shut down after running out of cash two years ago is set to make a return with a new line-up of channels.

This week, the company that acquired the remnants of Orby TV said it had tapped the satellite service’s former transmission partner, Eutelsat, ahead of its impending relaunch.

The new service, called Orby Elevate, will transmit on Eutelsat 117 West A — the same satellite that was used during the two years that Orby TV operated as a general entertainment service.

This time around, Orby Elevate will distribute a slate of faith-based programming — including CBN, Inspiration TV and Revival TV — along with some secular networks like Newsmax, One America News, Great American Country and Retro TV, at a price that has yet to be determined.

“It is a great opportunity to leverage the already existing infrastructure developed by the original iteration of Orby and the great coverage of the powerful Eutelsat 117 West A satellite into a platform that allows family-friendly content to reach homes nationwide and at a reasonable cost,” Ricardo Dias, the interim chief executive of Orby Elevate, said in a statement.

“We are delighted that Orby Elevate has selected Eutelsat 117 West A for its first major mainstream English language DTH bouquet to launch in the U.S. market,” G. Jim Carroccia, the sales director for Eutelsat in North America, said this week. “This ground-breaking deal showcases the important role that satellite continues to play in TV distribution. We look forward to supporting Orby Elevate as their innovative business and offerings continue to grow.”

The prior incarnation of Orby TV launched in 2019 as a low-cost, prepaid satellite television service that offered around four dozen general entertainment, lifestyle and news channels from Discovery Networks, AT&T WarnerMedia and MTV Networks, among others. The service required users to buy a satellite dish and installation outright, and included an over-the-air antenna for free reception of broadcast TV stations.

Speaking with The Desk in November 2019, now-former Orby TV CEO Michael Thornton said the business strategy of the satellite startup was modeled off the prepaid wireless phone industry — buy the device outright, save over time on low-cost pay television service.

Thornton said he viewed Orby TV as a more-resilient business compared to streaming upstarts like Dish Network’s Sling TV and Google’s YouTube TV, because those services were losing money on each customer they acquired. (Both have since raised fees to offset programming costs.) By comparison, Thornton said Orby TV was expected to turn a profit when the satellite company grew to around 100,000 customers.

Things never got to that point. Three months after the interview, the global coronavirus health pandemic shook the global economy — and the business strategy of Orby TV. The following year, Orby TV announced it was shutting down after the service was unable to raise a new round of funding and subsequently ran out of cash. Documents filed with a bankruptcy court later showed Orby TV owed its credits more than $51 million, which included $2.335 million in debt to Eutelsat.

In August 2021, the Orby TV brand name and other intellectual property was sold to Florida-based Disitron Satellite Group, a company that also operates under the brand name Upcom Technologies. Dias, the interim CEO connected to Orby Elevate, is also the named CEO for Disitron and Upcom, according to records reviewed by The Desk.

Several months ago, Disitron commissioned a new logo for Orby Elevate by running a contest on the Vistaprint-owned website 99Designs. A description of Orby Elevate said it is “a TV system [that] carries channels that focus on faith, worship, family and kids shows,” hinting at the programming strategy for the upcoming service.

Strangely, while Orby Elevate has yet to actually launch anywhere in the country, its website already lists several positive testimonials left by purported customers.

“Elevate TV truly is a great satellite TV service with no gimmicks,” a user named Denise from Texas writes, apparently referring to an internal name for Orby Elevate. “Very affordable. Trust me, America, you won’t be dissatisfied.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).