Foreign TV channels via computer?
October 14, 2008 5:48 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to watch foreign television stations on your computer or via High Definition antenna?

I'd like to find a way to watch French TV stations. I was thinking that there might be a way with a TV converter to my iMac and some sort of HD antenna.

I know that there are a few free channels that you can stream online but in general the quality is not very good.

Any ideas here? I'm looking for a solution that would not cost 100 dollars a month by renting a satellite.

posted by fantasticninety to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm assuming you're in the U.S., and not, say, Switzerland or somewhere significantly closer to France.

If you mean to receive TV broadcasts that are actually originating in France, then I think the answer is no, there's no way to just get them using an antenna. First, the distance is just too great; second, there are too many other things here in the U.S. (and in other parts of Europe that would interfere) using the same frequencies, even if otherwise you could pick up some of the signals over the Atlantic.

So direct-broadcast TV is out, unless your question is more subtle and there are French TV stations broadcasting in your area. (Up in northern New England where there are significant French-speaking populations there are some French-language TV channels, albeit speaking le français québécois, but I think they're almost all on cable.)

By far the easiest option is going to be to pay for a satellite package, but given that you've ruled that out, the only other option that comes to mind is free-to-air satellite. Basically, this involves getting a satellite dish and equipment, pointing it into the sky, and trying to grab signals that are beaming down that don't happen to be encrypted.

This used to be fairly popular, before most of the satellites started broadcasting digital, encrypted signals. You can get a lot of really strange TV this way, and after the cost of the equipment it doesn't cost you anything. It's basically 'antenna TV' but with a very high-gain antenna.

Most people doing free-to-air satellite reception used to get C-Band setups, which are big dishes (6 feet in many cases), but there's also some free stuff on the Ku-band, which is higher frequency and uses smaller dishes. SkyVision is a site that deals with both.

FTA satellite is more of a hobby than just a way of watching TV, so you should do your research before diving in; it's potentially a lot of work. Unless you're actually interested in it as a leisure activity, or you're unemployed, a college student, or make very little (and place a correspondingly low value on your free time), it pretty quickly starts to cost more in your time than a commercial satellite package costs. Just a warning.

Honestly I suspect your best bet is to download stuff from the Internet; I bet there's at least as much programming on BitTorrent as there is on C/Ku-Band these days, and it'll require less equipment that you don't already own to get it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:25 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

I don't know how good the quality is, but lets you stream TV from all over the world.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 2:10 PM on October 15, 2008

Response by poster: Some of the TV channels are offering free shows now, such as this one.
posted by fantasticninety at 6:34 PM on October 21, 2008

We just ordered our FTA system (a Viewsat Max HD and 1000 Dish) from We're hoping to catch Spanish channels amongst all the other free goodies. posts a regularly updated list of available FTA channels. There are several French channels available now. Kadin2048 is right about it being a hobby. There is a tons of information about the whole thing online. Some of its good but most is bad. I definitely recommend getting expert advise to keep it fun and help you stay out of trouble. The owners of FTA2Z are super friendly and most importantly they provide both installation and continual support on their products. I highly recommend them.
posted by aurise at 2:15 AM on October 24, 2008

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