Tell Me About Being A TV Watcher Outside The US

What are your options for watching TV outside the US?

For example, here in the US, for me (specifically) it looks like this:

Source: I have the option of two satellite providers (DirecTV or Dish Network), or cable, through whomever my municipality has a contract with (for example, Comcast, or Time-Warner, or whatever). I have DirecTV, for reasons not relevant to this thread.

Programming Options: There are four major networks, a handful of second-tier networks, and countless other channels.

The major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox) are all owned by corporations.

One second-tier network (PBS) receives government funding.

The other second-tier networks (CW, COZY TV, etc.) are all owned by corporations or individuals, as far as I know.

There are also dozens, nay hundreds, of other channels available to me via cable/satellite, depending on how much I’m willing to pay. For example, The Discovery Channel, TruTV, The Food Network, etc. are pretty popular and available on most basic cable and satellite packages. But I can pay more for movie channels (Showtime, HBO, etc.) and more obscure channels (Golf TV, for example).

How does this compare to, say, the average TV viewer in Australia or Japan or the UK? Do you have satellite as well as cable, or is it one or the other? Are the networks owned privately, or are they government-sponsored? Do you import American TV shows?

UK: Terrestrial: 4 BBC stations (2 being digital only), plus 3 commercial.

Then hundreds of cable channels

It might not make a lot of sense but if you have half a brain, one radio station (R4) is probably as valuable as half of the TV stations.

Really beautiful thing is all the main stations have very good iPlayers, and so you watch most things now on timeshift. The BBC iPlayer in particular offers a lot:

New Zealand:

All TV in New Zealand went digital a year or so ago, so older televisions need a decoder.

Freeview is the free to air suite of channels, either available through a satellite dish ( I and most people I know use an old pay-TV dish for this) with something like 13 channelsavailable (+ 4 time shifted 1 hour channels as well) along with four radio channels as well.

If you have a UHF aerial there’s a bunch more niche channels you can get as well. All channels are owned by corporations although TVNZ, the national broadcaster is wholly owned by the government.

There’re a few pay tv options, but the dominant player is Sky with something like 75% of NZ households as subscribers. Their range is vast but too pricey for my tastes (basic package is $48 per month, with sport or movie channels $20+ month extra). Cable TV isn’t a big thing in NZ at all.

We import vast amounts of American and British content. Virtually every TV show that gets a Cafe society thread is available in New Zealand, often on freeview.

UK: the distinction between traditional networks and other channels is increasingly vague these days, but in traditional terms we have five “networks”, although we just called them “channels”, and they were never set up like US networks. Two are BBC, paid for by a sort of tax on households that use TVs, three are commercial, owned by various media corporations.
Nowadays it’s all gone digital, so any TV can receive the five traditional channels and about forty others of varying quality, plus some pay channels.

Subscription TV is dominated by Sky (mostly satellite) and Virgin (cable) and I guess BT. Satellite has always been way ahead, and some areas still don’t have cable. There’s the usual hundreds of channels there, with sports packages, movie packages etc. Also a lot of on-demand services these days, and of course on demand internet video from the TV networks, Netflix, et al.

American imports have always been a staple of British TV. Although not so much on the BBC these days, it seems to me. Time was that things like Dallas and Cagney & Lacey would be prime-time shows on BBC1.

Here’s the biggest thing. Outside the USA, basic cable has TV stations from at least one foregin country. The USA and North Korea are, possibly, the only two where there is no TV of direct foreign origin on basic cable. Even BBC-America and LinkTV are American cable companies that buy the rights to show foreign programs, which are selected and rebroadcast according to whether they are deemed suitable for American audiences. Where I live, near the Mexican border, I get 36 cable channels in Spanish – all but one of them are American companies (one is from Chile, none are from Mexico) There are dozens of TV stations in Mexican cities along the border. None are carried on US cable, except in the adjacent border cities.

When I lived in Chile, I had basic 12-channel cable, with channels ffom USA, UK, Spain, Germany, Italy, and Argentina, besides Chile.

I was sick in bed for a week in Hanoi, with a remote. I watched direct TV channels from USA, Australia, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China, Thailanda, India, along with Vietnam.

When I visited friends in Germany, their cable had stations from USA, UK, Austria, Switzerland, France.

Wnen I lived in Jordan, Jordanian TV aired the news from Israel TV uncensored.

In the USA, you get hundreds of channels, every single one of them from American sources. Foreign programs only if someone in an American office views it and approves it for delivery to Americans. Not even Candian TV on US cable, except a few markets near the border.

whoa, that is different. Be kind of lost without RT and al Jazeera.

Love the Keiser Report on RT (also available on YouTube)

I would put the CW as a major network in the U.S. alongside ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. It competes for prime time ratings with those networks and is owned by CBS and Time-Warner. In fact it is a merger of two former networks, the WB and UPN. It runs at least a couple hours of first-run programs a night, about as many hours as Fox.

If you really want, you can get foreign TV in the USA. When my Chinese in-laws visit, we hook up our TV to the internet and they watch all the Chinese-language TV they want, straight from Hong Kong.

Here in Shangri-La we don’t even have televisions.

Are you a time traveler from the 1990s?

Freeview digital TV, which most, if maybe not quite all, of the UK now has, is broadcast over the air, and free of charge (apart from the license fee, which you have to pay anyway to view any TV at all). On Freeview, the BBC not only has four regular channels (although two of them are not 24 hour), but also a news channel, a parliament channel, and a children’s one. The three main commercial channels from before Freeview, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, now all also put out about 4 24 hour Freeview channels each (not counting the +1, versions that many of them have, which broadcast the same material as one of the others, but time shifted to an hour later). Then there is the Dave channel (yes, we actually have a TV channel called Dave!) and various others (mostly run by the same company I think) such as Yesterday, Really, Drama, and Challenge (the game show channel). (Dave and the other channels mentioned in the last sentence mostly broadcast reruns of stuff originally made by or for the BBC or the three main commercial networks, of for America, but Dave does make some original programming.)

Plus Freeview also has innumerable home shopping channels, and stuff like Al Jazeera, Russia Today, and several channels of naked women trying to entice you to pay to phone other women pretending to be naked, and Og knows what else. Plus there are numerous further channels on the “Freeview” system that don’t actually come free, but you can pay for access to if you want. (Many of the dedicated sports channels are like this, but there are non-sports pay-channels too.)

This I agree with. There is nothing like BBC Radio 4 in America. The nearest USA equivalent is NPR based public radio, but Radio 4 has much more original entertainment material (dramas, comedies, panel games, etc.) as well as extensive news, discussion and documentaries, and the general quality of most of the programming is of higher quality than most stuff on US public radio.

And despite having Freeview, I actually do most my TV watching via the various web based “players” offered by the BBC and all the main commercial TV channels.

Cable TV is available in Britain, and satellite too (which I think is probably actually more popular - there are quite a few satellite dishes down my street), but, personally, it seems to me that when you have Freeview and the web, those a pretty much redundant.

In fact, as explained in my previous post, the Freeview digital TV system actually provides 4 BBC channels, plus around 4 channels each (not counting their time shifter +1 versions) from each of the three “traditional” commercial “networks”, so that is about 16 channels from the “traditional” (pre-digital) players, as well as all the other stuff from newer companies (which - if they are not really shopping channels - mostly, but not entirely, re-run old stuff from the “traditionals”, or from America).

It is my impression that not only the BBC but also ITV (the longest established, by several decades, of the commercial networks) show a good deal less American programming than they used to, but the “younger” “traditional” commercial “networks” (confusingly named Channel 4 and Channel 5), both put out quite a lot of American sourced material. Indeed, one of Channel 5’s Freeview channels is called 5USA. Channel 4, however, like the BBC and ITV, also puts out quite a lot of high quality original programming. (Channel 5, not so much.)

Australia: AH yes, USA shows, and BBC . For example BBC’s New Tricks is on now.
We of course get CSI * , L&O * , Friends, Seinfeld, Big Bang, Get Smart… ?? MASH is on the bankrupt channel, cheap content…

Australia generally has VHF and UHF terrestial TV transmissions…
5 networks of which two are government (ABC … which is often either local content or BBC content… , and SBS which is often servicing minorities… but also tries to snare some young and ordinary market share with their own comedies (culture clash related … you know, lay-about or dodgy locals vs immigrants vs stereotype authorities)

There is cable in the 3 big cities (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne) or satellite pay tv - Foxtel - which has the popular USA channels shows mimicked, like Comedy Channel, Discovery, History… and so called movies, which of course have made for pay tv movies. More like 40 channels than 100’s. No third party supplier access is mandated…

South Africa - We have two satellite networks with, I guess, all the usual channels, 4 national free-to-air networks (3 owned by the state, one independent) and a handful of community free-to-air networks. We also have a licence fee that all TV owners have to pay, like the UK. Cable is non-existent, satellite is the way to go and affordable to even some of the poorest

There’s rarely a US show that gets mentioned here that we don’t get on satellite.

In France I would divide “regular” (non cable) channels the following way :

Three historical channels : One private, two state-owned (one generalist, one with more “niche” programming and dedicating time to broadcasts of local interest). They used to all be public-owned. There wasn’t any private channel in France until the 80s.

Three other channels dating back from the 80s : one private working on subscription, and trying to provide high value programming (recent movies, major sport events), one private targeting a young public, one public Franco-German channel with a very elitist programming (documentaries, old movies, art, etc…)

About 15-20 (not sure how many exactly) other channels since the switching to digital TV, all private (except one intended for French oversea departements and territories), and generally more specialized : news, business, series, music, etc…

I’ve absolutely no clue about cable, not even knowing how many such networks there are : I never had any since I already hardly ever watch TV as it is (don’t have any of those internet-based channels you pay €10/month for to your ISP, either. I understand most are of low interest for the average viewer, like for instance foreign channels).

Cayman Islands:
One government owned over the air channel which offers local news and programming as well as some CBS network programs from the US.
There is one other free over the air channel of religious programming. IIRC it is operated by the Seventh Day Adventists.

There is one cable company covering the entire main island using microwave relay towers. Costs around US$800 to get set up. They offer major US network programming though much of their offering is itself pirated. (e.g. They have no contract with HBO but steal their signal and resell it.)

There are two other fibre based internet companies, and one fibre based telecom, each apparently operating with suitable licenses. They are expanding their networks and may soon cover the main island.

US based satellite TV from Dish and DirectTV can be readily received but is only available through pirated means. I called them up when I moved into a place with a dish and asked to set up an account as I have a US address and Social Security number. No dice. I actually got their service rep to say I would have to pirate the signal.

Al Jazeera is OK, at least the English language versions (I believe that they use lots of ex-UK staff, and a British viewer will certainly see some familiar faces on screen). It is my understanding that local versions of Al Jazeera are… not so impartial.

Russia Today is a joke. An entertaining joke, at times, but not proper journalism. The Keiser Report is borderline conspiracy-theorist.

Slight hijack:

I’ve noted this major/minor network dichotomy in other SDMB threads. It always puzzled me because I never really noticed a difference.

Maybe because I grew up in the 80’s and always had cable. To me, ABC, NBC, and CBS are just…channels. Frankly, I get them confused with each other due to their similar names. They are just a channel number just like the discovery channel or AMC except they are more “general interest”

Now that I only use Netflix and Amazon, I haven’t a flying clue what show is on what channel.

I was born in 1970, so I’m used to having just three networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC) and PBS, all over the air. And if it was a rainy day…

Most of the channels we watch come from DSTv out of South Africa. It has most of the shows and sports channels we would find in the US and UK. Canal+ is also available assuming you are fluent in French. Luanda has 6 local channels that focus on national topics.

Question for those in the UK- how much is your license fee? Is it charged per set or per house?