“Watching American TV in France is not easy, but it is possible”, says John Fonseca, an international American entrepreneur in Paris born in Colombia and raised in L.A. who has lived in the Paris area for 11 years as Founder and Director of respiratory products distributor Pulmomed. This is great news for those of us who can’t miss our Dexter, How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, …. (insert any beloved American television series here)
John is accustomed to giving advice to fellow Americans living in France about many issues, including practical ones such as television. There are many options, all with advantages and shortcomings… Hopefully you will find the one that fits your needs!
It’s “a great solution if you have someone in the States that is willing to let you connect to their TV system.” It takes the person’s video from a TV, DVR, VCR, cable box, satellite box, etc… and sends it to the owner via the Internet. “Once you have it installed, you can connect from anywhere in the world where you have an Internet connection, and use an on-screen, virtual remote to control the source in the States as if you were right there in the room”, says Fonseca. You can either watch it live or connect to a DVR to record programs of interest to you to watch later, which could be an important consideration given the time-zone differences (between 6 and 9 hours) between the U.S. and France.
Technically speaking, besides TV and Internet it is important to have higher bandwidth at “the transmitting location” to have a better quality image on the receiving end. According to John, Slingbox® HD Pro gives perhaps the best result with high-speed Internet, and then you can output the video from the computer to a regular TV or video projector. I know from experience that for Notre Dame football games, it is a great device for home parties.
Here are the drawbacks to using Slingbox®:
- It can be difficult to install if you are not very computer savvy. This is something you only do once, however. After the installation is done, you generally never have to do it again.
- You not only have to buy the Slingbox®; you also need a computer router. A router is a device that allows you to hook up more than one computer or electronic-device to a single Internet connection. The good news is that today many high-speed Internet services include a router as part of the deal. For example, in our case the Slingbox® is connected to our daughter’s AT&T U-Verse device. This one box provides her multiple Internet connections and DVR recording in 4 locations in her home. Our Slingbox® is connected to just one of the 4 u-verse decoders.
- If you do not have multiple TVs in the source location like we do, then it might be inconvenient for the people in the States to have their TV “taken over” by someone in another country. For example, Mom in Indiana might want to be watching Entertainment Tonight, while you might be switching her TV to Monday Night Football. That’s why the best solution is to have a source location that has multiple TV sources – only one of which has to be connected to the Slingbox®.
- The time-difference can make “live” TV viewing impractical. Prime-Time in New York is around 2 am in France. For this reason, connecting the Slingbox® to a DVR is the best solution. Most DVRs will allow you to watch both Live and Recorded programs.
A Slingbox® Pro HD can be purchased at an electronics store like Best Buy, or directly from the manufacturer. There is no subscription fee to use the device.
The manufacturer of Slingbox® was purchased by the DISH Network a couple of years ago. It is therefore not surprising that subscribers to the DISH Network can use a service they call “TV everywhere”, which is actually Slingbox® attachment to their satellite decoder .
2. American TV websites
There is a website in the States called Hulu. This site allows Internet viewing of hundreds of programs at no charge. The only problem is that if they detect that your computer is located outside the USA, they will block your viewing. You can connect to the site, but when you try to view a program, it won’t work.
There is a way to work around this, however. You can use a VPN (Virtual Private network), whereby you connect to a computer that is located in the States; this computer then connects to Hulu, and your viewing is not blocked because Hulu thinks you are a U.S. computer. You can google “free US VPN” to find several VPN sites or try VPNuk. Two VPN sites we recommend are Unblock-US or HotSpot Shield as they are super easy to set up, no need to be a computer geek to do it!
Some TV websites now offer full episode programming for those living outside the U.S., if you don’t mind sitting through the occasional commercial in French. I know I was ecstatic when I was able to start watching the Colbert Report and other Comedy Central faves!
In addition to Hulu, there are several other sites that allow U.S. computers to view TV programs. These include the sites of CBS, NBC, ABC, and even the company that makes the Slingbox® has one. However, to watch TV on any of these sites, you will need to use a VPN service if your computer is giving out a non-U.S. IP address.
3. Streaming websites in Europe
You might need to check a couple to find your favorite American series as these websites are not always available and links are frequently removed….You can also expect some ads to pop up. But with a little bit of patience and luck, you can enjoy free and frequently updated American shows!
You can buy and download from the iTunes store single shows (from $0.99 to $2.99) or a season pass for your series and even football team. > Download iTunes now.
5. French cable/satellite TV subscription
These two MyAM fans shared their tips on My American Market’s facebook page:
Patrick advised to check CanalSat, a digital satellite and DSL pay cable provider. He stated “ESPN America shows baseball, NFL and college football, college basketball and NHL hockey. With the same subscription you get CNN international, NBC financial station that shows Leno, O’Brian, Larry King, and a few French channels that show series and films in their original versions. ”
Sue mentioned that Numericable has a lot of new and older American: films in VO. There is something for everyone. Plus they have all the Disney channels for kids and sports channels too. I have the “premium plus” option covering everything and with BBC, Prime entertainment and Sky news etc.
6. Armed Forces Network
If you are a member of the U.S. armed forces, they have a satellite service, the Armed Forces Network, which allows them to receive American TV abroad. However, only active members of the armed forces can get the special decoder that allows them to view the channels.
7. French Satellite Sports channels
Some of the French Satellite TV chains have started to carry U.S. Sports channels. For watching college football games and other sports, you can usually find a “Sports Bar” in Paris that is broadcasting the game. There is actually a website called Allomatch (in French only) that lets you find out what Sports Bar will be showing what game and when.
Here’s to being able to watch your American favorites abroad!