We get a lot of calls from expats, quizzing us on the best ways for them to get to see their favourite TV shows from back home. There are many solutions out there and it can be a bit of a mine field to navigate through them for the less technically saavy people. We have summarised the main options for viewing decent TV here in Singapore to help you work out what is the best solution for you and your family.
Local Cable TV packages
Let’s start with the obvious choices available – cable TV. Both StarHub and Singtel offer cable TV services and a varietry of packages depending on what channels you would like. They provide added value when bundled with broadband and telecom services. Chosing between the two, and depends on what you want to watch. StarHub is generally better for children’s programmes and also has a number of UK satellite channels such as BBC Knowledge, Entertainment and Lifestyle; Mio TV is superior for sports. If you are not big TV addicts and just want to keep the kids happy, keep up with current affairs and watch the odd lifestyle program then StarHub’s 3 group package offers good value at just $27.82 per month.
The key benefit of cable TV is that it is convenient; you just switch on the TV and watch/ channel surf. The downsides of cable TV is that in order to get more choice across a broad genre of programmes, the cost of packages mounts up considerably and you could easily end up spending over $100 per month once you add in movie and sporting channels. Even then the service is not that great – programs are frequently repeated and full of adverts.
Direct from the source over VPN
Newbies to Singapore may assume that one can watch BBC iPlayer or other web-based content providers such as Netflix and Hulu. However, this is not the case as broadcasters block streaming video abroad due to digital rights restrictions. The simplest way to get around this limitation is to install Virtual Private Network (VPN) software which lets you connect through a third-party server and makes it look, to the external world, like your computer is actually located in the UK, Australia or indeed anywhere in the world that you choose. When you want to watch something, you just connect through the VPN and start downloading. There are a number of VPN services available, some are better than others and the cost per month can vary quite a lot as well. Two that I have personal experience with are “Strong” and “Identity Cloaker”. Both have their pros and cons. The downsides of watching your favourite TV shows through a VPN tunnel are that there are often bottlenecks in the streaming which result in buffering or reduced picture quality. Having a good and reliable high speed broadband, ideally a fibre connection, as well as downloading programs in advance, can help. You also need to fiddle around with wires to connect your computer to the TV if you want to view on a large screen, which isn’t the end of the world but is not as simple as just turning on the TV for the kids to watch something there and then.
From the source through MyRepublic’s Teleport service
An exciting new way streaming your favourite TV shows and sports events from content providers such as BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, Tennis TV, and National Football League (plus more) is through broadband provider, MyRepublic’s, new Teleport service. What sets this method apart from VPNs is that it is integrated with the MyRepublic’s high speed fibre network and does not need a VPN. This assures users premium transmission priority and minimal buffering. To get the Teleport service you need to subscribe get a MyRepublic broadband connection and then pay a monthly subscription fee of around $5. In our opinion, it is a great new service for homesick expats.
Downloading TV shows and movies from iTunes
Another way of getting access to your favourite TV shows is via iTunes. All you need is an Apple ID, and you can easily connect to the iTunes Store and choose from a large amount of content. You can either plug your computer into the television or use a piece of kit called “Apple TV” to transmit the content from your computer to your TV screen wirelessly. The key drawbacks are that you have to pay for everything you download;there isn’t any live TV, only on-demand content, and you have to plan in advance what you want to watch. If you have a Singapore Apple ID, the content in their store is extremely limited. You ideally need a UK or US Apple ID.
Downloading shows via Torrent sites
Far and away the cheapest way of getting your fix of British TV is to download it using a torrent application. Yes, it may infringe copyright agreements and yes, a lot of people do it. If you’re going to do it, make sure you get a decent antivirus and antispyware program on your computer. You can get your pirated TV shows and movies via torrent sites, such as “BitTorrent” or “Vuse”. It can be a bit tricky to set up and whether you feel it is ethical or not is up to you!
In summary, there are lots of ways to get to see great TV here in Singapore. The solution you choose will ultimately depend on what you want to see. It may be that you use a combination of methods to let all the family get their TV fix!