There are a few ‘facts of life’ that need to be considered. Once you have made the decision to leave the UK, there is no actual ‘right’ to expect services you enjoyed in the UK to be available here, and that includes BBC etc. Having said that, needless to say the world of commerce is fully aware of your wishes and has made these services available in various ways. What we can’t expect is everything without any compromise.
IPTV, probably the most popular service
Complaints on Facebook say that many people are not satisfied with IPTV, but perhaps they expect too much. IPTV servers are based in the UK and receive all the national channels, and then re-route them via the internet. You need to choose a supplier who will then install a receiver and connect to your internet service. The first issue is speed, if you don’t have fibre, it will slow down the delivery of the signal to you. The second issue is that there are a lot of things that can disturb the signal on its way from the UK to you. The internet does go down sometimes, even for a matter of seconds, and that will freeze your picture.
The UK servers also sometimes have problems, even if for a few minutes. Demand on their capacity is high and getting higher. They all come with a catch-up service, some for one week, some for two weeks. Sometimes the programme you want to catch up on will not be available (file not found). You can buy a service direct from the UK or from a local supplier. Whether they have their own servers or are simply re-selling a service is up for debate. If you use a local supplier at least you have someone near at hand to complain to.
The receiver will cost you anything up to 250 Euros, in fact, the same receiver is available on Amazon for less than half of that price, but perhaps your supplier would not be willing to give you the necessary passwords etc. The make most local suppliers use is the MAG receiver, now in its 5th generation. IPTV is a good service, but it’s not perfect. If your supplier tells you, it’s your internet or your router that is causing the problems, it's highly likely that’s an excuse. IPTV is probably the best all-round solution, but it does have problems from time to time.
BBC Satback – HD and free…but…
This service has been around for a long time, it’s often called the military satellite but that is just urban myth. The reality is somewhat different. The correct name is BBC Satback, and it’s there as an emergency backup for the UK Freeview service. There are over 90 Freeview transmitters around the UK, and this service is designed to provide a signal in case one of these transmitters goes down. The good news is that the signal is strong and available throughout the Iberian Peninsula. The signal is high-quality HD but live only. No catch-up. You get BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, BBC4 BBC News, ITV, channels 4 and 5, plus some radio. Once installed, it's free to air, so no monthly subscriptions to pay.
The Apple TV box is something rarely considered, but I have one I am testing and as long as your computer tech can set you up with a good VPN (virtual private network) it gives you all the main UK channels live, plus it has catch up and you can access BBC iPlayer, ITV+ and most of the others. It also has Netflix (you need to register), Amazon etc. Although it has an app for Britbox, this is not usually available as it comes back with the ‘only available in the UK’ message.
There is no annual or monthly fee for the standard service, and that’s all you need for the main UK channels and their catch-up services. Don’t try to set it up yourself, it needs an ‘Apple-friendly’ computer technician, and one who knows what VPN services will work (and they all say that they do).
It seems that many people have given up their Sky box and gone over to IPTV. The Sky signal is strong here, even in the South although they stopped broadcasting BBC, ITV etc. What they do have, and it works very well, is their catch-up service. Nearly all BBC, ITV, etc programmes are available going back years. There is also a vast range of box sets. You need an internet connection and a suitable VPN service. The standard (pre–Sky Q) boxes are still available from the UK and come with up to a 2TB hard disk that can store up to 350 hours of HD programmes that you have downloaded. The Sky fee for the catch-up service and all their channels, except sport and films, is now almost £50 a month.
Plenty of choice and everything from free to expensive
Whatever service you decide on, get a good, recommended supplier who knows what works and what doesn’t. That especially applies to VPN services. They all claim to work but BBC and ITV are good at blocking them from time to time. One or two have found a way around this, personal I haven’t had a VPN service failure for over two years, but before that, it was something that occurred frequently.
If you want a simple trouble-free service with no monthly fees, the BBC Satback service is very good, though only live programmes. You will need a dish, probably around 1 metre and a suitable receiver.
IPTV is good, but never 100% reliable. It does have occasional dropouts and picture freezes. It certainly achieves 95% reliability. It's still a very good service with a range of packages that can include Sky Sport, Films etc. It’s probably the service most people use, though I hope I have made you aware, there are alternatives.
If you can’t locate a reliable supplier or satellite installation company, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org who may be able to give you some contacts.
Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy.