Football fans and pub owners alike were crossing their fingers and holding their breath in anticipation, following the news that Karen Murphy (landlady of the Red White and Blue in Southsea) stood on the verge of a landmark ruling that would allow her to legally show Premier League football matches to her punters without a Sky TV subscription.
While on one hand it means that Sky Sports packages may become drastically cheaper in order to stay competitive, it also means that using foreign satellite dishes to pick up free Premiership football may soon become far more mainstream. It's relatively inexpensive to set up, and offers many matches not available on Sky Sports, particularly 3pm Saturday kick-offs.
It's a moderately complex process, but this beginners guide will point you in the right direction for viewing football via foreign sports channels, and offer some links to where to find more info should you want to delve a little deeper into international satellite TV.
What You Will Need:
A satellite dish - This is used to pick up the broadcast signal and pipe it into a set-top box. You need one at least 78cm in diameter, but a bit bigger than that, around 100cm, is probably optimal for residential use. Signals from European channels tend to be weaker than UK ones, hence the need for a larger dish.
Dishes can be manually pointed at the orbiting broadcast satellites, or you can purchase a motorised one that does the hard work for you, particularly useful if you plan on accessing channels from multiple satellite sources (more on that later). We'd recommend the
110cm Hi-Gain Satellite Dish from System Sat (£60, Amazon seller) or the 80cm Satgear Anthracite Satellite Dish (£31.95, Amazon seller).
A satellite receiver - These are designed to pick up European channels, perfect for getting Premier League matches, as well as La Liga, Serie A football and other European competitions. There are plenty of receivers to choose from, but a quick search around the web shows Technomate branded ones such as the TM-3000D (£53.75, Amazon seller) to be well recommended.
A universal LNB and cable - The LNB (Low Noise Block-downconverter) sits on an arm pointing at the dish, and is used to focus the satellite signal, converting it a lower frequency which your receiver can take via coaxial cable.
A viewing card or Cam - These are used like a Sky Viewing card, and are needed to de-scramble encrypted signals. Different cards and Cams provide access to different channels, and are also needed If you're looking to access Pay-TV channels.Spend a bit of time researching the channels you're after before buying a card or Cam, but one good place to pick them up is www.pulsat.com. They also provide receivers too.
How To Set It Up:
Setting up a satellite dish can be a potentially frustrating process, though the actual steps aren't necessarily that complex to carry out. Either way, if you're not particularly comfortable with installing equipment (or are afraid of heights if you're planning on wall mounting your dish on an outer wall), you're probably best off getting a professional to come around and install it. Megasat offer a UK wide installation service, but for a comprehensive list of engineers check out the Confederation of Aerial Industries trade lobby website.
Alternatively, there's the good-old-fashioned DIY method. Thankfully you don't necessarily have to wall mount a dish, so long as you've got a bit of open ground in your garden that can house it and point between East and West without being obscured by trees or towerblocks. Either way however, wall mounting is preferable, even if merely not to clutter your finely-mowed lawn.
From here you need to point the dish towards one of the satellites throwing out the appropriate footy channels. The best for receiving Premiership Football on are Hispasat, Astra 1 and Hotbird. A great list of channels and kick-off times can be found on Liveonsat.com, which also handily shows which satellites you'll need to be pointing your dish at to view the appropriate channels. Many matches will be broadcast on free-to-air channels, though some will require a viewing card, as mentioned earlier.
If you've nabbed yourself a nifty motorised satellite dish, it can be programmed to automatically point at numerous orbiting satellites. It's a process that can take some hours to fine tune, but it saves a lot of manual faffing about.
Otherwise, it's time to grab your compass, and maybe even a satellite signal strength monitor, and get tweaking your satellite direction. A whole list of satellite positions and the channels they pick up can be grabbed from www.satellitetvlinks.net (to whom we are indebted to for help in researching this post), but the main three we mentioned earlier are positioned at:
Hotbird: 13 degrees East
Astra 1: 19.2 degrees East
Hispasat: 30 degress West
Remember, if you haven't grabbed a motorised dish you'll have to manually realign it every time you want to pick up channels from a different orbiting satellite. Alternatively, look into grabbing a dish with multiple LNBs built in and then align each of those individually, or buy a compatible multi-LNB arm and attach it to your dish. Most decent receivers will have a little signal strength icon that will help you fine tune the dish placement to the best possible angle.