How to watch English TV in Portugal

How to watch English TV in Portugal

The only guide you need

 There are plenty of ways to watch English TV in Portugal, most of them free. Much of it depends on what equipment you have and whether or not you have internet access. This guide gives a reasonably detailed overview of the options available.

 

Note 1: Guide updated on 02 May 2017 as a result of Filmon TV moving to a paid subscription model (see here for details).

Note 2: Guide is updated every now and again to list changes to apps, sites and other info. Pop back regularly.

 

Whether you’re in Portugal for a short break, a few months or you’ve moved here permanently, there may come a time when you want to catch up with English TV. This guide will show the different options available.

Like most countries, Portugal has a few free-to-air (FTA) channels available using just a standard TV aerial – RTP1, RTP2, SIC, TVI, RTP Açores (regional only), RTP Madeira (regional only), ARtv, RTP3 (certain areas only), and RTP Memória (certain areas only). All of these channels, as you would expect, are broadcast in Portuguese.

If you want to watch English-language (from now on referred to just as “English”) TV you need one of the following:

  • Cable TV
  • Satellite TV
  • Reliable Internet Access

We’ll take each one in turn but will expand on internet access as there are a number of options available depending on the equipment used.

Cable TV

The Portuguese government, through the brand MEO, offer cable TV packages to people with a Portuguese address. Whilst we wouldn’t recommend this route as you’ll end up paying for lots of Portuguese channels you may not use or need, the TV packages do include the Sky News International channel and the odd English movie/documentary broadcast with Portuguese subtitles. This might be useful to people who want to use TV broadcasts to help them learn Portuguese, but you can always do that with the FTA channels.

MEO TV packages are supplied either via fibre internet or satellite (both supplied as required), dependent upon your location.

Satellite TV

A few years ago, the frequencies of the satellites used for UK broadcasting were changed to reduce the footprint of availability in order to strengthen the signal in the UK. Prior to then it was relatively easy to pick up UK Freeview channels via satellite from Portugal. This is no longer the case.

Now, to receive UK Freeview channels in Portugal via satellite you will need a least a 3m diameter dish (4m or more recommended). These are very expensive and unless you own one already, it will be difficult to justify the expense when other cheaper alternatives are available. However, if you already own such a dish and receiver, or none of the alternative methods work for you, you have a few options:

  • Astra 2E, 2F and 2G broadcast at between 28.2 and 28.5 degrees East. These will give you a number of UK Freeview channels, including BBC, ITV and Channel 4, etc. You need a 3m or 4m dish for this.
  • Astra 1L and 1N broadcast at 19.2 degrees East. These are mainly German programmes but include a number of English news and entertainment programmes (Sky News International, RT News, MTV, US Discovery Channel, etc). A standard dish will receive programming from Astra 1L and 1N in most areas. You will need a larger dish in low areas.
  • Eutelsat Hot Bird 13B, 13C and 13E broadcast at 13.0 degrees East. These contain multi-European and Arabic channels but include a variety of English news sources (BBC World, Sky News International, CNN International, Aljazeera, Euronews, etc), some sports (Eurosport) and entertainment (MTV, Discovery, etc). A standard dish should be fine in most areas.
  • Badr 5 & Badr 7 broadcast at 26.0 degrees East. These contain Arabic channels but include MBC2, MBC4, MBC Action and MBC Max. These channels all broadcast movies and entertainment in English with Arabic subtitles. The movie selection is Similar to Sky Movies in the UK. English news channels (Euronews, etc) are also broadcast. A standard dish should be fine in most areas.

Other satellites may be available in different areas. Check lyngsat.com for a complete list of frequencies and programming.

Internet TV

Receiving English TV over the internet obviously depends on the speed and reliability of your internet connection, what equipment you have, and which software (or apps) you are using. We’re not going to go into detail on internet connections – that’s for a separate article – but we’ll try to break the rest down into manageable sections. We’ll cover the following (click the titles to jump to the relevant sections):

Websites / Apps / Software

Before we get into the equipment side of things, let’s start with the websites, apps and software you can use to watch English TV. There are loads of websites and apps which will allow you to watch TV. New ones are being created all the time.

A quick note about the law

There is a lot of confusion about whether it’s legal or illegal to watch TV and other content from the UK when outside the UK. Let’s clear this up…

The UK television licencing laws do not apply outside of the UK and its territories. It is not illegal in Portugal to watch a stream of content (live TV, prerecorded TV, prerecorded movies, prerecorded music, etc) over the internet. It is not illegal to download that content over the internet. It IS illegal to share that content with others without authorisation. If you’re connecting directly to broadcast feeds through set-top box emulators or the like, that also IS illegal. We’re not going to show you how to do anything illegal in this guide, or anywhere else on this site for that matter.

It’s as simple as that. It’s perfectly legal for you, the end user, to watch live TV, prerecorded TV box sets, movies, listen to music, etc., from wherever you like. Just don’t upload or share the stuff anywhere (including using torrents) and you’ll be fine.

Right, now that’s cleared up, back to the action.

These are the most popular websites:

Edit: As of 1st May 2017, Filmon is no longer free to watch. We have updated the following list to reflect this.

Honorary mention to YouTube. Sky News International broadcast live on YouTube here.

Popular Android Apps:

  • TV Catchup – in app store
  • Mobdro – live TV – not in app store. Go here
  • Solid Streamz – live TV – in app store
  • Terrarium TV – movies and TV shows – not in app store. Go here
  • Megabox HD – movies and TV shows – not in app store. Go here
  • MovieHD – movies and TV shows – not in app store. Go here
  • Filmon Live TV – in app store – No longer free to use.
  • MobiTV – uses Filmon backend – in app store – No longer free to use.
  • Free Live UK TV – uses Filmon backend – in app store – No longer free to use.
  • ToView Live TV – uses Filmon backend – in app store – No longer free to use.

Popular iOS Apps:

  • TV Catchup – in app store
  • TVPlayer – live TV – in app store
  • Cinema Box – movies and TV shows – not in app store. Go here
  • Filmon Live TV – in app store – No longer free to use.

Popular Software

There are no software programs specifically for watching TV. The popular ones – Kodi, VLC Player, Quicktime Player, Plex, Emby, OSMC, etc – are all media players which need additional features to be enabled or addons to be installed before they can be used to watch streaming content. How to do this is outside the scope of this guide (or we’d never get to the end!). Separate articles on this site give more detail. We personally recommend Kodi due to its flexibility and the amount of third-party addons available for it.

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VPNs – Virtual Private Networks

A VPN works by routing your internet traffic through a particular server in another country. By doing this, the end point you are connecting to will see the server rather than you. This allows you to access things which are country specific when you’re away from the country. A good example when it comes to English TV is BBC iPlayer. You cannot use BBC iPlayer (either the website or the app) outside of the UK. It won’t work. However, if you use a VPN and pick a server in the UK, BBC iPlayer will think you’re in the UK and allow you to use it normally.

There are free and paid VPNs. The free ones usually limit the amount of data you can download through their servers and often come with adverts. Paid ones usually provide faster speeds, are unlimited, and have no adverts.

There are also browser-based VPNs, both free and paid. These are usually provided as browser extensions and will route all traffic from the browser to their servers. They will not route any other traffic on your device. For instance, say you have a Windows 10 PC with the BBC iPlayer app installed from the Windows app store. You also have Chrome installed with a VPN extension (ie: Browsec from the Chrome app store). If you try to use the BBC iPlayer app it won’t work but if you visit the BBC iPlayer website in Chrome, it works perfectly. This is because the VPN extension will route all traffic used by Chrome, but not anything else.

All the main UK TV sites and apps – BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, 4OD, Channel 5, etc. – require a VPN pointing to UK servers to use them outside of the UK.

Which is the best VPN to use really depends on what you are trying to achieve. Contact us if you need any help with your particular situation.

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Smart TV

It seems like every TV you buy these days is a “smart” TV. All that actually means is that it has some software built into it that allows you to run certain apps on the TV itself (a weather app or Facebook for instance). The most important point to remember is that TV manufacturers want you to replace your TV fairly frequently, so don’t be surprised if your Smart TV software never gets updated, stops working one day and cannot be fixed.

Most Smart TVs come with an app store included. Here you can browse apps you that can install on your TV to give you more functionality. You may be lucky and find an app which can stream TV (i.e.: TV Catchup, Netflix, etc). If not, hopefully there will be a web browser, in which case you can try going to the sites listed earlier. If that doesn’t work it’s likely that some software is required to allow them to stream, which is missing from your TV (i.e.: Flash). Unless you can find a way of installing that software, unfortunately you’ll be stuck.

Smart TV software is a fairly closed system and the manufacturers would rather you buy a new TV than allow you to upgrade and install software. For this reason, we can’t really recommend a Smart TV as a viable solution for watching English TV. However, if you have one and it’s working for you, great!

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Apple TV & Google Chromecast

If you’re a fan of Apple you’re probably heard of Apple TV. It’s a small box which plugs into your TV via an HDMI cable and comes with a number of apps allowing you to stream content from various sources. The big problem is that most of these sources either charge for content (Netflix for example) or are geared towards a US audience. Later versions of Apple TV introduced an app store where you can download more apps to the box. The app store is massively cut down compared to the main App Store that iPhone and Mac users are used to. And, most of the popular English TV apps (TV Catchup, etc) are not available. One which is though, is TV Player (mentioned earlier). TV Player should provide you access to BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as a few others, but the quality of the streams can vary. A better option is to use the built in Airplay function of Apple TV which allows you to send content from another Apple device to the Apple TV box. This way, you could launch the TV Catchup app on your iPad for instance and send it to Apple TV so it runs on your TV.

Google Chromecast is a small device which plugs straight into the HDMI on your TV. Similar to Apple Airplay, you send content from either an Android device or the Chrome browser (regardless of what device it’s running on – even a Mac), and it plays that content on your TV.

The beauty of both of these solutions is that once they’ve received the content you sent them from another device, you can either switch that device off or use it for something else. Both Apple TV and Google Chromecast will manage the content themselves.

There are other similar devices which will do the same thing – Samsung Allshare Cast, WD TV Live, etc. We’d recommend the Chromecast over all of these though, due to its cross-platform compatibility.

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Windows / Linux /Mac PC or Laptop

If you’re using a computer to watch TV you’re already covered by the websites we mentioned earlier. To broadcast web or app content on your TV either connect your computer to your TV with an appropriate cable or use a Chromecast (or Apple TV).

One advantage of using a computer is it’s going to be more powerful than most other options. If you have an old machine lying around, you could for instance install Kodi and various addons, get yourself a small wireless keyboard, attach the computer to the TV (if it’s a laptop set it up so it keeps running when the lid is closed) and watch TV to your heart’s content. Being a computer, you’d then have full access to it through your TV – browse the internet, watch DVDs, listen to music, etc.

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iPhone / iPad

We mentioned some the apps you can use with iDevices earlier. Couple them with an Apple TV or a Chromecast and you have English TV in your living room.

Even though it’s not listed in the Apple App Store, you can install Kodi on an iPhone or iPad without jailbreaking it. We’ll show you how in a separate article. If you need help, contact us.

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Android phone / tablet

We mentioned some of the apps you can use with Android devices earlier. If you happen to be using a Windows tablet, similar apps exist in the Windows Store.

Couple an Android device with a Chromecast and you’re laughing. Especially if you combine it with another app – for instance, LocalCast in the Android Play Store. LocalCast will allow you to send all types of content to the Chromecast, including stuff that doesn’t work by default.

Kodi is available in the Play Store for Android devices, opening up additional content possibilities.

If you need any assistance with any of this, give us a shout.

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Android boxes – Android TV, Unofficial TV boxes, Amazon Fire TV / Stick

This is a big subject but we’ll keep it brief and will expand details in separate articles. Here’s a quick breakdown of the different types of Android box available:

  • Android TV – these are Google-approved devices which run the Google Android TV platform. An example is the Nvidea Shield. This is a 3GB RAM device with 16GB of storage (a 500GB version is available).
  • Unofficial TV boxes – these are media devices which run Android (usually the phone version). They are not officially endorsed by Google but they work perfectly well. The specs can vary widely so be careful what you buy. They can go from 1GB to 4GB of RAM, and 8GB to 64GB of storage. Obviously, the more powerful the better. Many devices are sold “fully loaded” which usually means they have lots of apps which you’ll never use or don’t work. Try and buy a device that just has Android installed and nothing else – it’ll be much cheaper and you get total control over what you install on it.
  • Amazon Fire TV / Stick – Amazon offer their own Android-powered devices, the Fire TV being more powerful (2GB RAM / 8GB storage expandable to 128GB with an SD Card) than the Fire Stick (1GB RAM / 8GB storage). Both devices now come with Amazon’s voice control, Alexa, built in but Fire Stick users will have to buy a separate voice remote (included with the Fire TV).

All of these boxes connect to your TV via HDMI and run apps which you control with an included remote. Because you can decide which apps you want to install and run (Amazon devices are locked to Amazon’s version of Android so a few more steps are needed to install certain apps), they really do make your TV “smart”. For instance, you could run TV Catchup, Mobdro or Kodi as if they were built right into your TV.

Out of all the ways to watch English TV in Portugal, these boxes offer the best experience. Let us know if you need any help choosing the right option or setting it up.

A note about TV “solutions” sold via Amazon, eBay, Facebook, etc.

In short, don’t buy them. You’ll be ripped off. There are many, many, adverts all over the internet for providing English TV to ex-pats. Pretty much all of these are either expensive IPTV packages by resellers or “fully loaded Kodi boxes” selling for hundreds of euros. Here are some facts:

  • If you really want IPTV (we discuss it below), you need a supplier who has control over their own feeds. Do not buy from a reseller and do not pay more then 10€ per month for the content.
  • A TV box which is preinstalled with lots of apps (and maybe IPTV) is known as a “fully loaded” box (as we mentioned above). Often, if Kodi software is preinstalled with a number of addons, they will be referred to as “Kodi boxes”. Buying one of these without knowledge of how Kodi and addons work is a waste of your time and money. You can buy a really good Android box for around 60€. Kodi and all the other preinstalled software (except IPTV) is free.
  • Some TV boxes are sold as being “chipped”, so you can get access to all of the UK channels including Sky, etc. This is a blatant lie. There is no such thing as a “chipped” box and no “chip” is necessary to receive UK TV. Many of these boxes simply have Mobdro installed.

If you are considering any of these solutions and are wondering if you’re doing the right thing or being ripped off, please contact us first. We’ll show you how to save a great deal of grief and money.

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Slingbox

Slingbox is worth a quick mention if you’re only in Portugal for part of the time and “home” is still in the UK. Slingbox is basically a unit which attaches to any TV broadcast device you have at home (Freeview, Sky, etc.) and allows you to pick up that signal over the internet wherever you are the world. It uses an app you install on a second device which connects to the Slingbox you have at home. The app will allow you to change channels (and other things) as if you’re sat in front of your home TV. It needs a good, stable internet signal and can be awkward to set up but the final results can be good.

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IPTV

Internet Protocol Television, or IPTV, is content that’s streamed over the Internet rather than via terrestrial, satellite, or cable. We’re mentioning IPTV here for three reasons:

  • It’s illegal to sell it.
  • It’s being sold all over Facebook Groups as a way to get full English TV packages (often including Sky and 1000s of other channels).
  • It’s being sold for ridiculous prices. People are being ripped off left, right and centre (30€ per month for example).

There’s a massive legal grey area as to whether it’s legal or not to watch IPTV streams in Portugal. It’s a grey area because a case hasn’t occurred yet. However, given that the huge majority of IPTV is a paid subscription model, we would suggest that it could be a problem IF anyone bothered to pursue a case. Hooking into an IPTV stream and selling access to the public definitely IS illegal.

That being said, it’s untested water for the moment (no cases have ever been brought to court in the UK or the US, let alone Portugal), and it is a good option if you’re willing to pay for access. It will, depending on the speed of your internet, provide multiple channels of English (and other countries/languages) TV in 4K, HD and SD quality. You can expect to receive all the main UK channels (including all Sky channels), with TV Box sets, on-demand movies, and electronic programme guides (EPGs) also included. Most decent suppliers will allow for Pay As You Go contracts. A decent service should cost less than 10€ per month.

Contact us if you need any further information. Note: we DO NOT sell IPTV access or packages but we can advise on the best solutions.

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Conclusion

Many ways exist to watch English TV in Portugal. The best ones rely on a decent internet connection, which opens up the world of websites, apps and TV boxes, most of which are free to download and access. Satellite users are not left out, even those with a smaller dish.

Please, please, please, don’t get ripped off by ads you see on the internet for English TV access. Let us help you.

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