In Paris you will generally be able to receive 5 channels (TF1, FR2, FR3, 5/Arte, and M6), plus certain “unscrambled” shows and newscasts on Canal+ (channel 4). All broadcast in French and will dub over original language films into French. Sometimes late-night programming will retain its original language, and 5/Arte often subtitles its programs. In order to receive all of Canal+’s programming (premium movies, sporting events, etc), you have to rent an unscrambler (decodeur) and pay for a subscription. (http://www.canalplus.fr).
- TF1 is the most popular French channel, with a widely-watched evening news program and popular French television serial and reality programming.
- FR2 also has a large number of popular programs, including many American and English programs dubbed into French.
- FR3 has the second most popular evening news program, and a great deal of varied programs – cooking programs, game shows, etc.
- Arte is closest to ‘public television’ in the American sense, or BBC4 for UK viewers. It’s a German-French venture so all programming is presented in both languages. Its programs are high quality and aimed at a culturally sophisticated audience, with an emphasis on the arts and nature.
- M6 was the innovator in reality programming in France, and also has a great number of French-dubbed UK and US programs.
If you buy a French television, you will automatically receive a yearly tax bill – ‘la redevance audiovisuelle’. The latest government charge, on the TV tax per location, not per set, was 133 Euros. This supports the public television channels and is one reason why there are fewer commercials in France.
Digital Ground Television
Digital ground television (TNT – television numerique terrestre) is available in France since 2011. It provides about a dozen more channels for free via a special adapter which must be purchased if you have an old TV. If your television is new, the adapter is intergraged into the set. The ground based digital network offers more channels, new services and quality picture and sound. The digital ground-based network consists of approximately 430 masts on mountain tops and ridges. Only 60% of the French population has access to TNT, so you need to confirm whether your area is affected before you can jump on the bandwagon.
Before purchasing a TNT adapter, check with your guardien(ne) to make sure that the adapter will work with your building’s antenna system. For more information, visit http://www.tvnt.net.
TNT is free and can piggyback onto your existing cable and satellite bills. If you do not have cable or satellite, then you will need to buy the antenna/adapter which costs between 150-200€ for the intervention, unless you have a new TV.
The truth is that very few people in Paris use TNT and that it is more suitable for those in remote areas who may not have access to, or do not want to pay for, cable or satellite service.
Cable and Satellite Television
For more programming options (including more options in English such as BBC, CNN, Euronews, etc), you can subscribe to cable service like Noos/Numericable TV, (http://www.numericable.fr), Free (http://www.free.fr), Wanadoo (http://www.cablewanadoo.com); purchase a satellite and satellite TV service (Canal Satellite, http://www.canalsat.fr or Sky TV, http://www.skyinfrance.co.uk), or sign up for ADSL digital cable via your phone line. Cable television is evolving rapidly in France, so be sure to research current information on the latest providers and their offerings. You may also compare cable TV packages at large retailers such as Fnac (http://www.fnac.fr) or Darty (http://www.darty.fr).
Most of the time, these days, your telephone(s), internet connection and television packages will be bundled together with one provider.
There is a wide variety of channels and packages available for a range of prices, so it pays to study the options. In general, most companies offer a combination of DSL internet, digital phone service and digital television with between 120-200 channels for roughly €35/month. Often these prices are introductory and will raise slightly after three or six months.
Satellite television is available but you should first check with your gardien/ne to see if your building is already equipped for such services. If not, your fees will be substantially higher as you will need to pay for installation costs of the basic infrastructure. France uses the SECAM-L transmission system, and SCART leads. This differs from the rest of Europe so be sure that your equipment is properly installed and connected. These three companies are experienced providers of satellite service in France.
- City Sat & Co, http://www.citysat.net
- DD Electronics, http://www.ddelec.com
- Big Dish Satellite, http://www.bigdishsat.com/television-products
Slingbox, http://www.slingbox.com, allows you to watch TV from the USA in France on your computer, tablet, Smartphone or connected television. You must have a physical presence in the USA (some use a parent’s or friend’s spare room) to connect the Slingbox. There is only the cost of the Slingbox and whatever monthly TV cable package you pay for in the USA. You are then able to watch live sports, local programming and also use DVR (Digital Video Recording).
AppleTV, http://www.apple.com/appletv, hooks up to your TV in France and, as long as you have an American-based credit card, you can download current television shows (as well as past seasons) and movies directly to your TV through the Apple iTunes store. If you do not have an credit card in the US, you will be forced to use the iTunes store in France which doesn’t give you access to some of the movies or TV shows that have not yet aired in France.
Chromecast is basically a USB-sized “dongle” that plugs into your HDTV. You can download applications to stream TV shows and movies onto your phone or computer and then use Chromecast to cast these on your television. You can purchase the dongle at FNAC for about 20 Euros. There is a helpful article at http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/chromecast-features.