Since I began writing for the expat community, the most frequent question that I am still asked is “How do I get Brit TV?” The same question is asked by expats everywhere, and much of it also comes with the frustrations that some expats feel when they have a UK TV licence, yet cannot legally receive a television service on holiday, or in their new home in the sun.
Over the last fifteen years or so, I have regularly reviewed a range of options ranging from strapping those awful baking tin arrangements to the highest point of the property, in order to receive retransmissions on a company’s ‘micro network’, which basically meant capturing illegal retransmissions, to a fully fledged satellite system with a huge dish. If you were fortunate enough to get hold of a Sky card it worked rather well. However, once transmissions switched to another satellite, viewers in the Canary Islands, as well as many parts of Europe, suddenly found that they were once again without a signal, and the system was abandoned. There are now many abandoned satellite dishes on expat homes in the Canary Islands, Spain and much of Europe. It is a sad sight to see, but it did keep many British expat satellite installers employed for a number of years, so it wasn't all bad news.
Time has moved on, and with it faster Internet speeds for many, although sadly not all. We are now well into the era of the plug-in TV box, which does most of the hard work for you. It does, however, require a decent speed to prevent that dreadful ‘buffering’ that most expats are well aware of, an initial expense for the box and installation, as well as a monthly fee, which can be pricey once the ‘introductory offers’ come to an end. Most boxes work well to begin with, but the likely longevity of the company, as well as the reliability of the software, should also be taken into consideration, since many fail to stay in business for more than a few months. So, if readers do decide to go down this route, be prepared to take the risk and to lose some money in the process.
My current personal recommendation is to get an Amazon Fire TV stick or Amazon Fire TV box, or the latest Apple TV box. The Amazon sticks and boxes are inexpensive - from about 25 pounds when I last checked. Although I am a steadfast fan of all things Apple, I am ashamed to admit that on this occasion, Amazon’s offering is my preferred choice, as well as being much cheaper. You will also need a UK address, or a helpful relative or friends in the UK in order to purchase one of these gadgets from Amazon, since they will not post these overseas. You may also wish to try Google Chromecast, which is available for around 30 euros from the larger electrical stores; I have not tried this one, but I understand that it offers similar facilities, but in a less convenient and attractive format.
Once either of these units is plugged into your TV, setting up is straightforward. All you have to do is to download apps for the relevant TV network and you are almost ready to go. The key here is to get a DNS proxy; please note that this approach will not work unless you also have a DNS proxy set up on your modem. You can find out more about setting up a DNS proxy from a company called Smart DNS on the Expat Survival section of the 'Living in the Canary Islands and Spain' website- This approach may work by setting it up with a VPN (Virtual Private Network), but I would not recommend it, as it restricts the speed and picture quality too much. This may seem complicated, but it isn’t. Once it is set up, you can watch as much Brit TV as you wish.
Another advantage of this system is that once your Internet modem is set up with a DNS proxy, you can download the relevant apps on your smartphone or tablet and watch programmes wherever your Internet Wi-Fi signal stretches. You can also ‘beam’ programmes, pictures, music or videos from your smartphone or tablet to the Amazon or Apple TV boxes; you will probably be amazed at all the features that are opened up for you, and life as an expat may never be the same again!
Alternatively, you can just forget all about watching TV and head out to your balcony or patio with a good bottle of wine and a good book - which is so much more relaxing! After all, why did you really want to start a new life in the sun? Please note: Netflix, BBC iPlayer and others continually attempt to block viewers from watching their programmes from overseas locations. In most cases, Smart DNS services can overcome this successfully. However, there may be periods when these programmes will be blocked again, usually for short periods. It is an endless game of 'cat and mouse'…