UPDATED DECEMBER 2017 - check back soon as we update this!
Following the loss of the Sky satellite a few years ago, so heavily relied upon by expatriates in Spain, Portugal and throughout Europe, a number of IPTV providers have entered the market to provide entertainment, sports and films to television users using the internet. Like with all service providers, not all are created equal. We have had many many residents and holidaymakers to Portugal contact Algarve Connect to find our more about IPTV providers and options so we thought we would put together a buyers guide for IPTV here in Portugal.
How does it work?
Rather than sending TV signals from transmitter stations which are in turn received by an aerial and decoded by your television, IPTV sends video (data) streams from a central server(s) over the internet, this data stream is then decoded by a "set top box" (popular examples are MAG and ROKU boxes), an App on your android tablet/iPad etc or more recently an "app" on your SmartTV. Sending content via the internet and apps give broadcasters much more versatility in their offerings especially with regards OnDemand content and "catch up" of previously broadcast programmes. Over the past couple of years online content companies like Netflix/Amazon Prime/SkyGo have gone from strength to strength providing content over the internet - in fact some of these companies are now producing their own content (think Amazon's Grand Tour, Netflix's House of Cards etc).
What features are available from IPTV providers?
INTERNATIONAL CHANNELS: Providers can vary in a number of ways. Primarily the first consideration is, which channels from which country are you interested in viewing (this may be personal to you or a consideration for your overseas guests if you are renting your property in Portugal and wish to offer a television entertainment package). UK and European TV channels are common place, some providers will add Scandinavian channels or US/South American/Australian channels sometimes for free, sometimes for a cost.
CATCH-UP TV: People are now very familiar with the concept of catch-up TV nowadays - IPTV providers normally offer a catch up service - some might off 7 days, some might offer 14 days - some will offer catch-up on ALL channels and some might offer only on the popular channels.
MOVIES/BOX-SETS: Movie, TV series and Box sets are normally offered by internet TV providers - the range and availability will differ from case to case and it will normally come at an extra cost.
Pay-Per-View: Some IPTV systems will offer Pay-per-view content (usually Sporting Events) - check with you provider if they offer it and whether its an additional cost - 99/100 it will probably be offered for "free" (ie included in your IPTV subscription).
Other services on offer will be Radio stations (again from various stations around the world), Karoake, Games and Spoken Word.
Can i get free content?
Yes, there are many many sites that will restream live TV content over the internet or have films and box sets stored on their servers. You may have heard of Kodi which is simply a media center software that can be reasonably easily configured to pick up some of the content from free providers. A word of warning here, you get what you pay for in a way - many of the streams will come and go as the providers run out of resources or fail to keep their services up to date - after all they are not getting paid to do it! What you save in money, your probably pay for in time - often it will take a while to find a TV or film stream that works, even then it might be unreliable half way through the programme or experience frequent buffering. The other grumble with free content is that they are far more susceptible to loss of quality during peak times (popular evening and weekend soaps, series and prime time shows) and popular one-offs (football, large sporting events etc) - its not a surprise as they don't have the money to provision extra internet server capacity for these high demand periods, when 100s or 1000s of users connect to their servers, they naturally struggle.
Why do some channels buffer/pause?
This is a question with a very many number of factors influencing the answer - there are factors particular to your local set up:
Internet speed/reliability), hardware in use (set top MAG/ROKU or android app), whether you are watching an HD (high definition) channel/SD (standard definition) channels or a Low Speed channel, whether you are watching sports (believe it or not the sports channels use more internet bandwiidth than other programmes), number of users in Portugal using the same system, server capacity at the IPTV provider - especially important for "peak viewing" programmes, number of other internet users online at a specific time (an important consideration in the busy summer periods where the number of internet users rises exponentially). This list is long and confusing!
Do you recommend any internet television providers?
We have experience with a number of IPTV supplier proving content to the Algarve and Portugal - ultimately there are only a handful of actual providers (the guys who own and run the actual servers) but many of these services are resold through other third parties (the guys you pay your subscription to). Most of the frustrations come from not having direct contact with the actual providers, so we would say that customer service is pretty important when looking for a provider. There are other features and certain perculiarities to consider (which we will go into in more detail in another post) but ultimately the only guys we recommend are here. Our first advice will be that, when it comes to internet over TV, every scenario is different so if possible acquire a demo trial and test the system as much as you can - also, it applies to most things, try not to sign up to any contracts or agreements for too long with IPTV providers and if you have a poor experience (or the provider disappears) this will cause unnecessary bother and financial loss.
More to come!