Craving your favorite shows? Here's how to watch American TV abroad online. While living abroad is amazing, sometimes you just need a night to kick back and watch something from back home.
“Special thanks to Gringos Abroad for sharing this article with their readers. It is an excellent resource of tips and advice for those considering whether to expatriate any time soon.” ~ Jess Signet, of Tripelio. The first section of this post was written by Jess.
Living abroad is a lot of fun, but there's no denying that you can start feeling a bit out-of-the-loop with things back home.
Maybe you're feeling homesick, miss the sounds of your native language or are frustrated with not being able to join in conversations about popular shows that everyone else is talking about—there are plenty of reasons why you might seek out American entertainment when you're traveling.
But finding reliable sources that you can access abroad can be difficult.
How to Watch American TV Abroad Online
Here's a step-by-step guide to getting yourself set up:
1. Find a source.
Although it used to be that the best movies debuted in cinemas and the best shows debuted on TV, these days, increasingly more content is popping up online.
Netflix has a whole string of popular shows that they've created, and they've taken over the rights to continue some popular shows too, such as Black Mirror or Arrested Development. It's not just Netflix either.
Hulu and Amazon have come out with their original content too. Not sure what your friends are watching?
For sports, you can generally look for live streams listed in forums. Reddit usually gets a good selection of them. And as for movies, you should also try Googling for cinemas in your area; many movie theaters abroad still show American movies either subtitled or dubbed with English subtitles.
2. Know about geo-restrictions.
Many online entertainment sources restrict their content only to be accessed from the US. Let's say you have a Netflix account back home and try to watch Netflix abroad, as soon as you try to access their streaming content, you'll be faced with an error message.
Now, it's not just that Netflix (or Hulu, BCC iPlayer or whatever else) are trying to be mean to you; instead, geo-restrictions are mandated in the contract agreement between the streaming provider and the owner of the rights to the content.
3. …and know how to get around them.
How does Netflix know you're out of the country? They look at your IP address, or where your network server is located. So tricking Netflix into thinking that you're located somewhere else is as easy as hiding your real IP address.
Of course, your internet traffic has to appear as though it's coming from somewhere, but that's where a Virtual Private Network (VPN) comes in. A VPN will reroute all your information through a third-party server located in the country of your choice.
If you have a US Netflix account, set your VPN to route your traffic through a US server and Netflix will never know you've left the country.
4. To torrent or not to torrent…
The great thing about torrenting shows and movies is that you often get a better selection than you would with a streaming provider and can download things for off-line viewing.
For example, let's say I know I have a long flight coming up. Maybe I'll download a few shows that I can watch at the airport. The legalities of this are in a bit of a gray area, though, and penalties vary from country to country.
Make sure you know your local laws!
If you do decide to torrent, you should still make sure you're using a VPN to restrict who can see what you're up to on the internet. Even if you're torrenting legal content, internet service providers have been known to block people who torrent, partly because of how much bandwidth the downloads can take up and partly because of the possible legal issues.
If you're torrenting illegal content, well, you have even more reason to hide what you're doing. Beyond obscuring your location, a VPN also encrypts your internet connection. This will also make you a lot safer from would-be hackers and identity thieves.
5. Join expat groups in your area.
Another way to keep up with American entertainment while abroad—particularly when it comes to sports games—is to join expat groups on Facebook and other social media sites so that you can find out about group viewings in your area.
For example, you might find out that the Superbowl is being broadcast live at XYZ bar or that a group is getting together to see a new movie. It can be a fun way to meet some new people with similar interests, especially if you're looking to watch that show or movie anyway.
Although it can be challenging to keep up with American entertainment while you're living abroad, it's definitely doable.
And even though you might expect that when you're abroad, you'll spend the whole time meeting new friends, exploring new cities and living a whole new life, different from what you had back home. Well, sometimes you just need a night to kick back and watch something from back home.
Now, the quest to find decent popcorn.
Update (January 7, 2016): After publishing the post yesterday, I shared it with the Ecuador Expats Facebook group.
Here are some additional tips for catching your favorite shows abroad.
- Tom Bombadil: I watch all sport etc on Stream2watch.me…all free!!
- Kelly Reeves: We use our Roku to watch Netflix. We can live without watching all the current stuff on Hulu. I miss it in a way, but it also keeps me from spending so much time in front of my TV. Sometimes we watch Netflix using a laptop instead, where we can go through the Hola unblocker, and watch the US-based programming instead. but SO many US shows and movies are available on the SA-based Netflix offerings, that it's rare now.
We also rent or buy movies through Amazon, and watch those with the Roku. (They rarely have anything on the free Prime options that can't be found on Netflix anyway).
- Nathan Hahn: I've been using Netflix in Guayaquil for a few days now in Safari without added measures. I haven't experienced any problems. Is anyone having problems with it?
- Steve Brown: The only thing I want to watch from back home is NASCAR ! I will have a VPN line before February 22nd !
- Dean Alcorn Keyes: We have an Apple TV box.
- Linda Todd Murphy: I was given Chromecast for Christmas. It works well with Netflix to cast what's on my computer or celular to my TV.
- Susan Mullins: try tvmuse.com
- Patrick Van den Nieuwenhuysen: AppleTV
- Bard Webb: These all work great with uninterrupted high speed internet. If you live in an area with slower speed you can use DirecTV, although more expensive.
Editor's note: Watching familiar shows while living abroad can help reduce culture shock.
Can I Watch English Television in Ecuador?
Ah, the joys of TV! After a long day at work, what's better than kicking back with a little supper and a good show?
A common question about moving abroad is:
“Can I Watch English Television in a Spanish Country?”
Just for plugging in your television, you'll pick up about 20 or 30 channels for free. Everything is in Spanish, and while it's a good way to learn the language, many people don't find it all that relaxing.
You can purchase TVCable, which will have some programming in English, but the majority will be Spanish – this is a Spanish country after all.
Until last week, I didn't know of a better option. Introducing: DirecTV. DirecTV has a little booth in the mall and Fredi Torres (copy of his business card below) explained how it works. When I asked him if there were many English channels, he explained that almost all of them are. The channels need to be switched to Spanish. Because it's digital, you can alternate between languages just like on a DVD.
I've included a copy of their recent flyer below. Here's a summary:
The Family Pack (the entry level package) costs $26 and includes:
- 6 National Channels
- 63 International Channels
- 30 Audio Channels
- 6 Radio Stations
The Preferential Pack costs $34 and includes:
- The same as above, plus 31 additional International channels.
Add 9 HBO channels for $10 and/or 8 MovieCity channels for $8.
You are required to purchase a decoder. There are three options:
1) Digital Decoder. Costs $15 with a credit card, or $30 with a bank debit.
- Programming Guide
- Programming Synopsis
- Programming blocking, based on rating, time, age, or cost
- Change language or subtitles.
2) Decoder Plus. Costs $50 with a credit card, or $75 with a bank debit.
- Same as above, plus
- Pause live tv and rewind
- Record up to 100 hours of your favorite programming and watch when you want.
- Rewind/Fast forward live tv in 4 different speeds.
3) Decoder Plus, with HD. Costs $75 with a credit card, or $100 with a bank debit.
- Save as option 2, but in HD.
- Also, record up to 400 hours of your favorite programming.