Watching TV is not just a favorite pastime in the U.S.. Spaniards watch the most television in Europe second only to the folks in the UK. I was a television junky (still am) and I missed not only my favorite shows but also sports and movies that I had on my cable system back home. In the early days I lived off of tape delayed and sometimes 3am broadcasts of sporting events at bars.

While I miss the programming I enjoy the clarity of the picture here - much improved over the system used in the U.S. This page will help you understand PAL and NTSC and your viewing options, covering the following topics:

Topics in this section

Technology of Television

Tecnología de televisión

You might be thinking of bringing your little Casio 2" portable television, or perhaps are planning a bigger move where a lot of your entertainment equipment is coming with you. Aside from the voltage difference - you of course won't be able to plug that TV directly into the wall - you also likely won't be able to use your television because the video format for Spain (and Europe) is different from that of the US. This goes for VCR's as well. The US, Japan and most of the America's use a system called NTSC, which stands for the National Television Standards Committee, while Europe uses a system called PAL, or Phase Alternating Line. That is all of Europe except France, who still seem to cling to SEACAM, a format which is not compatible with either PAL or NTSC. What are the differences? NTSC has 480 horizontal lines for resolution with a frame rate of approximately 30 per second. PAL has 576 horizontal lines for resolution with a frame rate of 25 per second. With the recent trend going towards flat screen televisions (Plasma or LCD), many now offer the ability to change between NTSC and PAL. Add to this the light weight of the televisions and the possibility of bringing your flat screen TV over to Spain becomes more of a reality.

What does this mean? First, your NTSC television will not handle a PAL signal - either over the air or when using with a cable system. It also means that picture quality here is a good bit better. Check out a soccer game and notice you can see the details on the player's jerseys a little better. This is especially noticeable with the color red, which seems to bleed more in NTSC than it does in PAL. You get more of a "live" feel when you are watching shows as well. Why did they do this? Well, the folks in Europe had the chance to improve the system a bit from the original U.S. standard. While it makes for incompatibility it also makes for a better viewing experience.

Another plus here is the use of Teletexto - a kind of primitive and not so interactive internet. Teletexto allows you to navigate through content by punching in numbers through your remote. You can see the TV schedule, weather, soccer league results and standings plus a number of news and sports updates.

Many, as I did, may plan to use a TV tuner card on their computer to watch television in Spain. The problem is many cards in the U.S., like televisions, come only with NTSC compatibility. The ATI All-in-Wonder is a good example. The card sold in Europe is only PAL compatible while the card in the U.S. only NTSC capable. There are a rare few models out there which include both PAL and NTSC capabilities. I think back to my first ATI card that offered PAL and NTSC some 5 years ago (those days are long gone), or a few other models which are still out there. However, this only applies to the actual antenna which plugs directly into the card. If you choose to use composite video cables you can switch the tuner to PAL video and receive a perfectly good signal. The downside to this is that you'll need a separate tuner, like a VCR or cable (satellite) box. With one of the two you can hook up to your computer but you'll need to the remote to the VCR or cable box to change channels. Using this set-up you'll also lose Teletexto. If you do buy the tuner card in Spain and install it (an easy option) you'll be able to plug it in and go, and get the use of Teletexto.

Television Programming

Programas de televisió

I've heard it before - "Why would you want to watch television when you're in a place like Seville?" For one things TV here is a great way to learn the language. See an ad for milk and now you know how to say milk, or leche, and so forth. People do watch a lot of television here - I've not been to a household in Seville where the television wasn't on during lunch. Without cable you have about 13 channels to choose from. 10 of those are local, with 5 of the local channels broadcasting a lot of crap I don't think anybody watches. On all channels commercial breaks are often an agonizing 8-10 minutes, and in some cases you may find yourself waiting almost 15. Start times for some programs are also at best an estimate of when it will begin. Every once in a while, but not often, you can catch a late night movie in English with subtitles in Spanish. One night I watched a movie in Italian with English subtitles on Canal Sur 2. Interestingly it had a message that it was a screener and not for commerical broadcast. Not sure what went wrong at the station that night. However, TV programming in Spain has improved a lot over the years, with more and more shows of high production value coming out. Aside from these shows you have 6 types of programming that dominate the airwaves:

  • Talk/variety shows - every day and night with some hours of the day where you'll find no alternative.
  • U.S. shows - well dubbed, they have managed to pluck some of the best sitcoms (if there is such a thing) and dramas from the American airwaves. That includes the Simpson's (twice daily) and even a few HBO original dramas. If something does well in the U.S. it will make it over to Spain, although often these shows don't last because they simply don't appeal to Spaniards. There is some entertainment which is universal, while some is too "cultural" to make an impression.
  • Sports - football (soccer), toros, motorcycle, formula 1 and bicycle races, tennis, basketball (Spanish League) and more.
  • Movies - many each week, most of which are from the U.S. Three things they do with them that I like a lot: 1) show letterbox versions a lot; 2) do not cut nudity, violence or "offensive scenes" in most R-rated movies; 3) every so often they show a movie without commercial breaks on Canal Sur.
  • News/Documentaries - news is twice a day much like the U.S.. Canal Sur 2 offers the most documentary programming, especially on cultural and nature topics.
  • Reality - from Gran Hermano (Big Brother equivalent) to Isla de los Famosos (Survivor with celebrities) there are a good amount of reality shows to choose from.

Another media offering which is typical in Europe is Teletexto. If you're television supports it you can get news, sports scores, weather, horoscopes and more in the form of a text display on your screen. I like to think of it as a primitive internet, and it sure comes in handy when arguing who is where in la tabla during fútbol season.


Helpful Information & Links

National Stations

Antena 3
Canal +
Tele Cinco

TVE La 2
Regional Sevilla
Canal Sur
Canal Sur 2
Canal 47
Giralda TV

Tele Sevilla
Onda Giralda
Sevilla Televisión
Regional Spain
Barcelona TV
Canal 9 Valenciana
Tele Madrid

TVG - Galicia
TVC 3 - Catalunya
TVE Canarias
TVE Castilla y Leon

Cable and Satellite TV

Televisión por cable / antena p

Spanish providers

If you're looking at subscribing to cable you can widely expand your television viewing. You have two options as it stands today, Digital Plus being the dominant player in the market. Digital Plus was two separate companies in Via Digital and Canal Satelite Digital. Canal Satelite bought out Via Digital and now you can get a wider selection of channels on the new Digital Plus service. You can choose from basic to full-blown packages, and while the choice of channels may not be the 200-300 you can get in the US or UK, you'll have plenty of time to waste with the options. Channel lineups are listed on the two sites below. I've noticed there are differences between the two major players, but not too much. Some English friendly features: When available on movies, you can watch the versión original (V.O.), which is the English audio track. Many sitcoms and other shows from the U.S., including The Simpsons and Seinfeld, are broadcast with the two language tracks. On rare occasions you may find another language such as Catalan or German. This second language track is only offered on cable or satellite television, as I have never had any luck picking up this track on non-cable channels through the SAP (Second Audio Program) function.

A similar offering of channels can be found on cable television service offered by Auna, which is commonly referred to as Supercable. There are small performance advantages to Supercable such as the lack of rain fade (signal interference due to heavy rain - hardly ever a problem in Seville) as well as the speed of the interactive guide (painfully slow and terribly clumsy in Digital Plus). But Supercable also has a limited service area, which works fine in much of Seville and urban areas, but is difficult to get in parts of the city as well as in rural areas. Digital Plus offers more channels and has no problem with a service area because it is a satellite service!

Finally, a new service by Telefonica has just been launched to the major urban areas (over 100,000 in population) called Imagenio. This is television over broadband, or as they are calling it, IPTV. You rent a cable box, so to speak, for about 7 Euros per month and then your ADSL line is used to deliver 45+ channels as well as a larger library of video on demand, including movies and many unpopular series. We took a look at the listings for series, and there is very little you would want to follow. The advantages include more movies to choose from (paying for each one of course) plus the ability to watch them when you want, even rewind, fast forward or pause! Wow this sounds great, doesn't it? Well, for now there is much to be desired for this service. For one you have a much smaller offering of channels and are missing some important ones for sports lovers like Canal Deporte 1, 2, and 3. There are also a limited number of movie channels. And Telefonica has made it clear that expansion of the service area is more important then expansion of channel offerings (which is not part of their immediate plans for the moment). Recent news puts 200 channels on the system by 2007. We'll wait and see. Perhaps expanding the service area is good, because worst of all is this service has a range of 1-2 km from the central broadcasting area, which happens to be in Plaza Nueva. The central service area is where the content or programming is pushed to you over the ADSL line. This means if you are any further than 1 km from Plaza Nueva you will have problems such as losing your internet connection many times during the day as well as break up in the signal for your television. Essentially you will pay more to receive a low quality service for both television and internet. We were sold on Imagenio for about a week after someone from Telefonica called pushing an oferta, which we accepted. One week later the contractor for installation called us, indicating all of the problems we would have because of the range. The coverage is getting better and there is hope this will be a good rival to Digital Plus in the next year. As for the ofertas, well if you follow the link above you'll see telefonica has about 30 of them. Enough to confuse the hell out of you and make you forget all together of Imagenio as an option. For more information on sports programming see the section below.

Sky Satellite

An update after a friend and I had a conversation about alternatives to the Spanish programming. I don't claim to be breaking any big news with this, but it was nice to know that getting Sky satellite network, and English satellite service, is possible in Sevilla and Spain. So many expats from the UK around the Costa del Sol have been doing this for some time and have the advantage of a UK address so they can sign up for the service. I thought this may be one of the problems in getting the service, since I don't have an address in the UK. However I've learned that there are several reputable companies based in the UK which act as an intermediary for Sky service. You simply set up the dish, buy the set-top box from them and provide a credit card. They provide the billing address and make the payment after charging your card each month. So what might this cost? It's a bit steep, although I think the numbers could be less with self installation of the antenna. For my friend he dropped 220€ on the set-top box, postage included. Then another 450€ for installation of the antenna - you'll need a size of at least 1.3 meters to get the signal in Sevilla. Packages just depend on what you want and range from £20 to £60. Channels such as NASN, the North American Sports Network, run for about £10. Everything in my friend's house is set-up and working well for about a month now. All seems good until I show up at 3am on a February night for the Duke-Carolina game. I'll soon have the link up for the site/company which provides this service, plus any others I may come across. Note: just about every web site or company which wants to get you connected will tell you how the law in Spain and the E.U. gives you the right as an owner or renter to erect a satellite dish to receive your service. It is much easier when the dish is a small one, and not the 1.3 meter dish you need to set up to receive Sky in Sevilla. You do have the right, but that does not mean you will get permission, nor please your neighbors by taking them to court to get permission.

Internet and BitTorrents

This isn't a bit about live television streaming on the internet. While I've watched a few things in a postage stamp size window the pickings are pretty slim and of course the quality poor. If you have a broadband connection then I happily refer to file sharing. Discovering bittorrents, or torrents, has been a godsend for following some of my favorite shows such as the Simpsons and the Amazing Race. Download a small application and then head out to look for files on a lot of pages and directories. Simply type in “bittorrents” in Google and you will find plenty of pages. Some of the good ones have them classified as movies, series (i.e. TV Series), music, and games. You are a at the mercy of what people want to offer up, but most of the popular series and shows are listed, and most are available the day after the original air date. The great thing about bittorrents are the way it works – it takes advantage of the unused upload bandwidth of each individual user so that other users can download the file. That is, at the same time that I am downloading the file or show I want to watch I am also uploading the same file to users. In general, when more people are downloading a file my download speed actually increases rather than decreases. I won’t get into all the specifics because other, more technical folks can explain it much better. But don’t be afraid to try if you have little experience. Simply download a program – there are several to choose from. Then find some listings on a page and click on the link. Most downloads come in a format like MPEG or AVI which you can watch with windows media player. I warn you that it may take several hours or even a day to download some large files, but you can start downloading before you go to bed and then wake up the next morning to an episode of your favorite show. I like this over programs like Kazaa, etc. which like to install spyware (there is a spyware free version, too). But this is as simple as it gets and you just need a lot of hard drive space or at least a CD burner so you don't cram your cpu full of large files.

Below are some helpful links to get you started – there are plenty of programs and sites about this, and I am surely a late entry into all of this. As with a lot of file sharing of this nature be prepared for a few banners on the sites (with links to files you want) advertising some adult content. It’s just the way it goes. I have recently switched to Azureus, a very good client for downloading.

Helpful Information & Links

Links to the two national providers:
Auna (Supercable)
Digital Plus

The coveted sports channel for American expats:

Bittorrent links:
Azureus - bittorrent client

Where can I watch the game?

¿Dónde puedo ver el partido?


Most of you will have only the option of going to a bar to watch the game. One good location for many sporting events is the Texas Lone Star Saloon, or the Tex Mex Bar as most call it. It's close to the cathedral located on Calle Placentines, 25. Every week they show two live NFL games. They also show NBA games and a tape-delayed (1 day) broadcast of the NCAA basketball final on Sportmania. For the NCAA final the place is packed, but unfortunately this past year Sportmania decided to show highlights and the final result of the game right before broadcasting it. For those of us who avoided the news all day so we could watch it as if live were quite upset. You can catch any Betis or Sevilla away matches here on pay-per-view as well, and the crowds are pretty good. If you like the Premier League or other European league soccer games they are likely to carry them, too. These guys do a good job of showing what you want to see - normally you can pass by outside and check out the chalkboard where they post what games or events they'll have that day.

One bar, Flaherty's, (located at Calle Alemanes, 7, right next to the Cathedral) would not show the NCAA Final no matter how many Americans wanted to go to their bar. I've since spoken with the owners who were kind enough to invite me to lunch one day after seeing my complaint on this very page. I have to admit, it was a nice change to have someone want to sit down and chat a bit rather than quickly sending me a hate email. I like these guys, and they have assured me that my last experience was just one person behind the bar who didn't know what they were talking about! So, if it's a big game and not showing at 3am they will do their best to put the game on. You can check in anytime to see if something is schdueled to air. If you bring a few people along the day of the game I'm sure they'll appreciate you more!

Another option might be Merchant's Malt House, located on Calle Canalejas, 12 (on the corner of Canalejas and Gonzalez Abreu). They carry every Betis or Sevilla match, as well as English Premier League and UEFA matches ona big screen television. They likely have other broadcasts as they mention they broadcast major sporting events, but I have yet to enter in this bar. I'll have more info soon. If you are looking to catch a Betis or Sevilla match when they are playing away just listen for the shouting in the bars. What was once a choice of a few places is now a choice of thousands which carry the games in the city.


A question often asked when living abroad. In some cases if you have a broadband connection you can watch a game or sporting event online. Yahoo Platinum did me a great service in offering almost the entire NCAA tournament one year, and they planned are to offer it again in the following year for $9.95 per month. The service was then switched to CBSsportsline.com, who previously had the rights but chose Yahoo as the platform to launch the service. Access is $9.95 for up to 37 games, but unfortunately they blacked out games in your local area - meaning if you have a U.S. billing address with a local zip code close to the team you root for, they may black out those games thinking you get a local broadcast, even if you live in another country. They denied this but still blacked out some of the nationally televised games. I received an email apologizing and saying they were working on a solution for international users. The way around it would have been to use a card with a different billing address, but even that didn't work. Why they think a blackout is necessary is beyond me - who would choose a 2 inch pixilated image over their 27" screen in their living room?! The Elite 8 and Final Four were delayed by five days, but all of the opening round games were there. The size of the screen was maybe 2" x 2" but it was good enough to see the action. You could also flip between any game being played, plus there were highlights posted within a few hours of each round. Had my connection been a little better I would have had better clarity and a little bigger screen size. In 2006 the NCAA Tournament was offered online by CBS for free. The pros to this service: you don't have to pay. The cons: CBS doesn't have to offer any customer service nor adhere to any kind of quality standards. The service through Real One offers MLB games, and there is a fee to view the entire season. You can watch the games and playoffs online by subscribing here. ESPN offers their college football package online as well, and I have found this to be of good quality. If you sign up early enough there is a discount as well. But the fact that they charge the same amount for the online version as the cable or satellite version is a bit of a rip-off in my opinion. These are not the same quality product! And beware of phantom blackouts even though 1) you use a card with a European billing address; 2) they allow you to purchase this outside of the U.S.; and 3) there are no games being broadcast in my local area! The worst part is that ESPN just doesn't answer any emails sent to them. Despite the fact that I spent over a $100 for this service, they feel I do not deserve an answer. I like the ESPN site, but when it comes to customer service, well they don't get the job done. There is also a Real One SuperPass available for Europe which includes UEFA and Wimbeldon coverage. I have yet to use this since I receive broadcasts of these games.

Cable or Satellite

If you have cable or satellite with the right package you can see a number of games. Canal+ Deportes shows NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and NCAA basketball games, including the Superbowl and NCAA basketball Final. There is also full coverage of UEFA Champions League and one Sunday night game per week from La Liga. The selection and frequency of NCAA basketball is somewhat limited. Sportmania shows at least 3 tape-delayed NFL games per week, plus an assortment of NCAA basketball games. Here is the breakdown of channels and what they offer:
  • Canal+: Superbowl, Wimbeldon, NCAA Basketball Final Four and Championship (live at 3am), 1st Division Spanish League Sunday match, UEFA Champions League, NBA. These are also carried on their three sports channels below.
  • Canal+ Deporte 1: UEFA Champions League, English, Italian, German, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Argentinean and Brazilian first division soccer/football leagues.
  • Canal+ Deporte 2: NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, golf, rugby, Spanish Pro Basketball, boxing, tennis.
  • Canal+ Deporte 3: tape-delayed broadcasts of the above two channels, some special events and from time to time a live game.
  • Sportmania: International and National Soccer; NCAA, NBA, European Basketball; Sailing, NASCAR, golf, tennis, boxing. Most events are tape delayed.
  • Golf+: all 4 Grand Slam events, PGA Tour, PGAET tour, Grand Slam Cup, WGC, Ryder Cup and more.
  • Eurosport: Olympics, European Cup (soccer/football), motorcycle racing, French and Australian Open (tennis).
  • Eurosport News: All news, mostly covering European sporting events and leagues.
If you have Sky network you will be much happier, with NFL games and more. You'll also get NASN which offers everything a good American sports fan misses: NCAA basketball and football, other college sports, NFL games, hockey and more.


Movies at home: Renting DVDs or Videos

Cine en casa: alquiler de DVD o

If you are fortunate enough to have a good TV and a video or DVD player you can rent movies at several locations in Sevilla. There is a Blockbuster or four around, which is always a choice. Video Drugstore seems to be a competitor and their prices are reasonable - you can rent two older DVDs (ie: not new releases) for 1,95€ and keep them for two days. A new release costs around 2,50€ and you have one night to watch it. Prices rise depending on it being a holiday or weekend. In recent comparisons I see that Video Drugstore is a much better value than Blockbuster, Mainly because Blockbuster keeps titles on the New Releases rack for up to 6 months after Video Drugstore, meaning they will charge you more. Then they have a recommended section which are older films that people like, for which they charge more. Finally they have catologo which are the older movies that people are less likely to rent and so they are cheaper. There are smaller stores around the center and throughout various neighborhoods as well, but the selection tends to be fairly limited. Be prepared for most places to ask you not only for ID but some type of proof of where you live - a lease with your name on it, or one to two bills from a utility to show you've been in the same place for a while. DVDs have the advantage of the extras, but also the original version language tracks which make it nice if you miss hearing Dustin Hoffman's real voice. Some DVDs will not have the same bonus materials you will get at home. Not always the case but I've noticed some missing material more than a few times.

Helpful Information & Links

Video Drugstore locations:
web: videodrugstore.com
Carretera Carmona
La Florida - near Puerta Carmona

Blockbuster locations:
web: blockbuster.es
Avda. Cruz del Campo, 60
C/ Felipe II, 7
Avda. República de Argentina, 41


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Editor: Jeff Spielvogel
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