Watching American TV Shows in France

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“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 Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother, MasterChef US, Dexter, Modern Family, America’s Next Top Model, 90210, Grey’s Anatomy, New Girl, Mad Men, The Late Night Show with David Letterman, The Mentalist, …. (insert any beloved American television show here)

American TV Series

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!

 1. Slingbox®

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!

Once that’s done, you can freely watch ABC, CBS, FOX, ESPN, ABC Family, MTV, Showtime, Comedy Central, HBO, PBS, Lifetime, Food Network, whenever you feel like 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!

Sidereel Channel 131TV Links Free-TV-video-onlineAllo Share

4.  iTunes

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 American Sportsgames 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!

 

 

11 comments

  1. Culverton

    I use ProxMate, it still let me watch Netflix US, and I have other 300 channels to watch , among them: Hulu, CBS, ABC, ESPN, Comedy Central, HBO, Spotify, Pandora, its very nice;)

    Reply
  2. Lynda Bouniol - Daniel

    I watch all my series on watcheries.lt
    Works great and it’s free. Warning: don’t forget to turn on Adblock 🙂

    Reply
  3. Fabrice Fournier

    The Slingbox option is the only way to go, really. I’ve been desperately trying to get American TV in France since the mid ’90s and until recently had to put up with the other crap you listed. Two words: never again.

    The Slingbox is not hassle-free though, and even if you have someone at home who’s willing to get up at 3am to reboot your box (and again at 4, and again at 5) or someone who’s willing to DVR their program so you can watch yours live, no one’s gonna put up with the inconveniences for long.

    Ponying up for a Slingbox hosting service is really worth it. Preferably one with a backup system so you can enjoy uninterrupted service when your primary Slingbox goes dark in the middle of the night or on a Sunday (and they do. A lot!).

    You should opt for a service that rents you a Slingbox as part of a package because of a seemingly high failure rate (I owned one for 3 years and I’ve seen an abnormally high number of horror stories considering what a niche item it is). You don’t want to be stuck with a bad one and have to spend another $300.

    Then there’s the bandwidth. Don’t underestimate that. The picture quality and consistency is okay at 1200-1500Kbps but for a truly enjoyable experience you need 2.5-3Mbps and more. At that rate you’re getting something that’s somewhere in between DVD and HD quality. Not everyone can get 100/100 FIOS at home but a hosting service can pump the data up to you at whatever speed you can handle. Based on other people’s experiences you need 10Mbps for true HD.

    Be aware that there are bottlenecks along the way though. I live in Nice and am often limited to sub 1Mbps speeds when connecting through my internet provider (Iliad aka Free). Golden Frog’s VyperVPN service gives me different routes to choose from: through the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, another French IP, West Coast US, Texas and East Coast US. You’ll want a wealth of options because sometimes only one route will give you decent speeds. The Slingbox hosting service I subscribe to offers a VPN option but I haven’t tried it.

    I must add one caveat though: content providers don’t want people in other territories to consume content reserved to the American market. That’s perfectly understandable. They make money from advertisers who don’t want to – and shouldn’t have to – pay for customers who can’t buy their products/services. Out of all the solutions available, the Slingbox option is not only the most practical but the most ‘moral’ as well, because you’re not freeloading. You’re paying for the bandwidth, for the box and most importantly you’re paying for the cable or sat subscription like most American residents do. Be aware that Slingbox hosting services operate in a grey area though and the reality is, they can get shut down at any time. It happened to my previous provider. I subscribed to the same hosting service for 3 years. Then, one day, content providers protested and the cable company cut my provider out cold. Another service out of LA got cut off months earlier too. It can happen to the best of them at any time. After three years of mostly smooth sailing and I was subsequently stuck with standard OTA service (beat the heal out of being stuck with French TV but still) until I threw in the towel and went looking for a new service.

    I’ve now been with Liveamerican.tv since mid-January and I have not endured a single blackout, an impressive feat in my book considering how glitch-prone Slingboxes are. They have a backup system so if the box blacks out at 3am or on a Sunday, service is back online in a matter of seconds. You can choose from many different East Coast and West Coast-based Cable and Satellite packages. I chose the full NYC DirecTV one (only way to get the NFL network BTW) which comes with a 100-Hour HD-DVR, obviously an absolute must-have option considering the time zone issues. I can’t stress this enough. It’s been over 5 months now and I can say I’ve never been happier.

    One bit of advice: if you’re into football but want to follow a team that’s outside of the available services’ markets, you should take a look at the NFL’s online season passes available to customers outside of the US. Or, if you use a VPN you can subscribe to the US version and not be served to commercials reserved to the foreign markets. Just go to NFL.com and look around. They also have an archive service with three years worth of games in the off-season.

    That’s all I can think of for now. Hope it helps.

    Reply

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