Internet in the home is changing the way we watch TV. Not only can we "time shift" to see our favourite show when we want, but now we can "place shift" and view it where we like.
There has never been so much choice of viewing on the box, wherever you may be. Geographical borders are no longer an obstacle to watching your favourite soaps and series from back home, even if you missed them the first time around. So how is it all possible? The answer lies in the convergence of two technologies: Traditional distribution systems broadcasting TV via dish, cable or aerial while the other streams content over IP via the internet. Here we will try and demystify the technology and concentrate on the features available that give you more control over what you watch, and when.
Terrestrial TV (DVB-T)
This is the French TNT equivalent to the British FreeView (about 20 channels) essential for brushing up or maintaining your French but many programs are also broadcast in version originale. The VO option can be accessed via the menu on the TV or TNT decoder (may vary with TV).
Satellite TV (DVB-S)
Transmitted from a satellite orbiting in space to an area on the earth’s surface very much like a shadow called a "footprint", access to the beam is possible outside the targeted country. To receive British TV on the Riviera you need a dish of at least 85cm to get the full range of channels but even with that size of dish in really rough weather you can get picture break up.
For the likes of the British, Satellite TV has been further enhanced with FreeSat offering even more channels. Important recent changes to their satellites however means that bigger dishes will be needed to receive all UK channels as the beam will be more focused on the UK. We are estimating 90cm to 1m20 dish size, but anything above a meter is subject to building regulations and your neighbours can object to you installing it on the roof.
If you watch UK FreeSat and you can no longer get Channel 5 or 5 USA, which have moved already onto the UK focused beam, you may need to look to changing the dish.
For Scandinavian channels, you will now need a 125cm dish, for German 65cm, and Italian 65cm, depending on the size of footprint the beam covers. Many have free to air services but most are encrypted. These can be made available by using the carriers’ card.
Distributing Satellite TV around a house is relatively straight forward, the one restriction being the distance between the receiving antenna and the TV, as the signal degrades over great distance on copper cable (known as attenuation). As the price of copper increases, copper cable is gradually being replaced by fibre optic that does not suffer from the same attenuation.
These services are typically provided by companies that supply internet connectivity. The TV content is delivered via a cable and they generally deliver up to 200+ channels, generally including a number of "foreign" TV channels and current affairs or news.
Traditional services delivered by internet
This wonderful marketing phrase encompasses both traditional and internet technologies and allows you to watch your television across the internet. For example, if you have a TV in the UK, you control it in France and watch it on your TV, PC, Mac and even iPad. For this, you will need to have a dedicated TV set top box in the home country and a good internet connection in both places.
This is also an option if you have an apartment and cannot install a dish, or if you do not need a permanent TV installation. The other advantage is that if you have a TV in the UK, you can receive all the services it provides, so if it supports BBC iPlayer, then you can receive that too.
Video on Demand
This manifests itself in many different guises: TV catch-up services like the BBC iPlayer, streaming services like Apple TV, or on-demand film services like Netflix and Love Film. The key here is to make sure your network is up to scratch – at a minimum it needs to be wired between the TV and internet modem.
Several services supplied via the internet, like BBC iPlayer, may have geographical restrictions. VPN makes it look as if your connection is coming from another country. There are many available, the aptly named "Hide my Ass" being typical. Ideally you would use a router to manage the VPN connection.
In some countries, like Russia, TV services are almost all now provided across the net. These provide a range of bundled TV channels like SmartSat TV. This currently provides 26 British/Irish channels, 13 Scandinavian channels and 45 Russian channels. The range of channels will increase over time and this provides a low impact way of getting foreign TV in France. This service does not require a VPN.
So just what is on the box? The answer is more than you'll ever have time to watch, whenever or wherever you are.