According to a 2006 publication by the Institute for Public Policy Research, there is an estimated 5.5 million British nationals living outside of the UK with many believing the actual real figure being significantly higher. With the majority of them spread far and wide in places such as southern Europe, Oceania and North America, our roots are reaching across numerous continents and cultures.
The Brits are well known for their creature comforts, none more so than the traditional English pub, the classic Sunday roast and of course UK television. If you are one of the several million living outside the UK, the former of those three may be hard to come by but accessing British television abroad has become a much simpler process thanks to the emergence of high speed broadband internet connectivity.
With various software and hardware developers creating applications and gadgets that can deliver a wide variety of TV channels from the UK and other countries, the choices have become vast. To some, this over abundance of choice has made the process of selecting the right option all the more confusing. So what app or gadget is right for you?
Let’s take a look at the options out there and explain their advantages and disadvantages:
As possibly the oldest kid on the block, Slingboxes have been around for quite some time now and were the first true hardware based option out there that delivered television anywhere in the world using a direct, single user connection. Known as a “place-shift” device, a Slingbox is quite old technology by todays standards but still have a popular following. Place-shifting effectively enables the user to watch live or DVR recorded content on any device with an Internet connection, anywhere they happen to be. So that could be a satellite receiver, a Freeview receiver or one of the many popular st-top devices that deliver premium content. The Slingbox enables the user to watch the live content being delivered from the source remotely on a computer, tablet, mobile phone or even another TV. So it’s a very customised and personalised set-up.Pro’s: your content is never shared, connections tend to be fairly stable, can be used across numerous devices.
Con’s: can be expensive – hosting and hardware costs can rack up, requires the purchase of an app on tablets and phones, prone to hardware failure, requires fast internet speeds, only one connection possible at any given time.
Virtual Private networks are all the rage these days as they offer a quick and cost effective way of accessing on-demand, online services such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, Demand 5 and even Sky Go with a subscription in place. Essentially, they are a small piece of software that you install onto your chosen device, whether that be a laptop, tablet or phone and when activated, changes your device’s local IP address to that of one associated with the United Kingdom. So instead of being blocked when accessing the above sites from abroad, the VPN effectively unlocks them by fooling the on-demand content sites into thinking you are based locally within the British Isles. So once your VPN is activated, you can access all of the UK based entertainment online without restriction.Pro’s: cost effective, quick and easy to install, minimal hassle, usable on most devices.
Con’s: connections can be intermittent and unreliable, requires fast internet speeds.
- IPTV Set-To Boxes
The newest kid on the block are the very impressive IPTV set-top boxes. There’s an abundance of them out there but most commonly used are the MAG250 and 255 range that are no bigger than your average pack of cigarettes. Like most other set-top boxes, they plug straight into your television and come with a remote control. Once hooked up to the internet via your local WiFi or ethernet network, you can connect your box to one of the many service providers out there that deliver a whole range of TV channels from numerous countries around the world, including the UK. Many of these service providers offer premium subscription as well as free-to-air channels so there’s literally no channel out there you can’t get! IPTV boxes are all the rage because they deliver near HD quality streams and allow users to watch pre-recorded content up to 7 days prior using their integrated EPG (Electronic Programming Guide) which effectively makes timezones differences a non-issue. So whether you are in Australia, America or Timbuktu, you can watch the shows you want whenever you like. And this makes IPTV set-top boxes incredibly attractive.Pro’s: superb picture quality, acts like a regular set-top box with remote, easy to set up, good value for money
Con’s: limited to just a single TV so not portable, IPTV providers disappear due to questionable legality of the service, requires hardware purchase
The above three options are what is considered to be the most common ways of accessing British-based television content overseas, so if you’re one of the many millions living abroad, this should give you a good indication to the type of service that will suit your needs and allow you to see the UK TV shows you miss and love.