I moved to Canada from Ireland in 2004. Back then there were very few options available if you wanted to stream TV from home, or elsewhere in the world for that matter. Having friends or family send you a DVD or VHS (“what’s VHS?” I hear the kids say!) was about the only option available. Over the last number of years I’ve spent some time researching the best ways to catch up with TV broadcasts from outside Canada, and I would like to share it. With a bit of knowledge, streaming TV is simple.
If you’ve recently moved, or are about to make the move to Canada, it’s important that you’re aware of what you’ll need to ensure you never again miss an episode of your favourite soap opera. Maybe you also want to catch the “big game” live at 3 a.m. and follow news broadcasts.
There are lots of services and tools available that can allow you to catch up with all of the TV you need. I’ll outline the ones I’m familiar with, and hopefully you’ll find something that satisfies your needs.
1. Sign up for a VPN service and stream TV
You’ll notice that lots of content is becoming more regionally restricted due to publishing rights. For example, you can’t access certain content on the BBC iPlayer from outside the UK. Over the last number of years many online businesses have popped up offering Virtual Private Network (VPN) or Domain Name Server (DNS) services. These services allow your computer to appear to be in a different location. The idea is simple; you connect to a website through another computer that is conveniently located in the country you should be in to view the content. Most of these services are also set up to help you appear to be in whatever country you need. Two of the most popular ones are:
I use Overplay.net, and have been doing so for over four years. I have never had a problem with it. It’s simple to sign up and follow their handy guides to help you configure your computer or router to connect to the service. They have a simple test page to determine if the service is working or not. Once you’ve set this up once, you should not have to do it again. There is one situation where you may have to do some reconfiguring, and that’s if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) has a tendency to change the address of your router. Normally you would never know that this has happened, but VPN services will need to be updated when this occurs. Usually you’ll get a message notifying you how to resolve the issue when you attempt to browse the web. I am a Telus customer, and this has happened twice in the last four years.
2. A laptop and some websites
This is the simplest method to get quick and easy access to your favourite channels from back home. With your VPN set up and ready to go, you should be able to connect to and play content from your favourite streaming sites. The following are a few links to some sites to get you started:
3. Push content onto your TV using a Google Chromecast
Google introduced a revolutionary little device called the Chromecast in July, 2013. It’s a small dongle device that plugs into the HDMI port on your TV (all TVs manufactured in the last five years, as well as most the last 10 year,s will have a HDMI port). This allows you to stream TV content from your web browser over your Wifi network to your TV. For example, if you’re using your laptop and the Google Chrome web browser to watch your favourite channel from the above list, you can quickly cast that video to your TV and watch it there. You just need a few things to get this set up:
A TV with a HDMI port.
The Chromecast add-on for Google Chrome browser.
A Roku player is a streaming TV box, similar to an Apple TV, that allows you to stream content to your TV using your home internet Wifi connection (or using an Ethernet Cable). It’s about the size of a hockey puck or deck of cards. The Roku player has a comprehensive Channel or App store, similar to the Google or Apple Store, which allows you to download and install free and/or paid Channels or Apps from many countries. For an up-to-date list of channels, visit the Roku website. You can read more about the Roku on my blog.
5. NowTV Box
If you’re from the UK or Ireland and you’ve yet made the move to Canada, here’s something you should definitely put in your suitcase. It’s called NowTV,and it’s a £10 box that plugs into your TV. It’s essentially a Roku device that has been rebranded by Sky TV with custom software installed. It also has a number of packages available that give you more access to sports and movies. From the information on the website, it appears to have the following channels for free:
- BBC iPlayer
- ITV Player
- 5 On Demand
- BBC News
Depending on which package you choose, you have access to all the Sky Sports and Movie channels. There’s no doubt this should be the last thing you purchase before you leave and the first thing you plug in when you arrive. Don’t forget to sign up for your VPN service first, however.
As with all cutting-edge technology, there can be hiccups during setup and along the way. If you need help or support with anything I’ve outlined above, I am available for help online. It usually involves a phone/Skype call and a remote desktop session where I configure things for you while you watch and ask questions, etc.
If you have further questions or would like to talk about some other custom options that might work better for you, I offer a consultation process that is designed to help you find a solution that fits your needs.
Visit us at http://tvsolutions.ca
Call toll-free: 1-866 456-7842
Colin is passionate about all things digital, especially things that connect people and the internet. He has been experimenting with digital TV streaming devices for a number of years. He is currently Technology & Development manager at a Vancouver-based web agency.