Television in France: How to Sign Up and Watch English Channels

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You've just moved to France and are settling in. You've got your electricity and gas service set up, your mobile phone, and your Internet. What's next?

Simple. Your television! Find out how to get started and access Bristish and American channels.

Introduction to Television in France

 There are 5 public TV stations in France: TF1, France 2, France 3, France 5, and M6. However, many people purchase additional cable TV channels, often as part of their Internet plan.

 Digital television is also well developed in France. Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) is known as TNT - Télévision Numérique Terrestre - in France. There are some free channels (France 4, France 5, France O, ARTE, LCP...), but you'll need a decoder to access them. You can purchase a decoder in any electronics shop (e.g. Darty, FNAC, Boulanger).

Did You Know?France was one of the first countries in the world in which television was introduced, in 1931, and was one of the first countries in Europe to receive colour television, in 1967.

find out how to watch English tv in France

As mentioned above, most Internet packages include TV channels ("standard" offers run from 100 to 200+ channels). While these tend to be France-centric, they often include English-language international news channels such as BBC World News, CNN, Al Jazeera English, Sky News, or CNBC.

Orange appeared to have the most extensive offer of English-language channels in its standard TV package. It even has a "Bouquet Anglophone" which costs €1/month for 2 months, then €5/month thereafter, on top of your standard package. This will give you access to 9 English-language channels, including Food Network, Fox News and BBC Entertainment.

In terms of entertainment, though it is becoming easier to find films in English in French cinemas, this is not necessarily the case for television. So while you may find shows and film you recognise on TV, they will likely be dubbed into French!

French Television Tax

In France, all households must pay a license for television use, if they have a TV set. This is called the contribution à l'audiovisuel public, or simply redevance télé, and is charged with your annual taxe d'habitation (housing tax). In 2018 it was 139 € (find out more here - in French).

How to Set Up Television in France

Will my UK television work in France?

Electrical outlets in France, like the UK and the rest of Europe, supply power at 220-240 Volts, meaning that your UK television will work in France (you will just need to use a plug adaptor).

The same advice applies to UK-purchased DVD players - they should also work in France with no problems.

Need help finding offers for watching English TV in France?Our Selectra advisors are here to guide you and advise you on which providers and plans will best suit your needs. Just give us a call at 09 77 55 72 27, Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 9 pm and 9:30 am to 6:30 pm on Saturdays and on Sundays 9 am to 5 pm or get a free callback.

Watching English Television in France

Streaming and VPNs

 Streaming is an increasingly popular option for watching English films and television series. You may need to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) based in the US or the UK to be able to access the shows you want.

 Plenty of websites offer this service for free; simply search something along the lines of "free US/UK VPN" to find one. As of 2018, the Hola plugin was a popular option, especially as it offered several VPN options (UK, US, and more). Tunnelbear is another option (required payment) that is reported to work well on smartphones and tablets.

 You can also purchase many television shows/access to certain television channels through iTunes.

Examples of English-language Bouquets

Here are a few examples of the English and American TV packages offered by French providers:

  • The Orange Bouquet Anglophone: As mentioned above, includes 9 channels for €5/month (€1 during the first 2 months).
  • The SFR Bouquet Anglais: Comes with BBC Entertainment + Boomerang UK, for €5.99/month.
  • The Bouygues Telecom Bbox: Comes with up to 180 French and International channels, of which France 24 in English, Sky News, CNBC, BBC World, CNN and Bloomberg.
  • The Free Freebox: Comes with 268 channels, of which CNN, Fox News, BBC Entertainment, English Club TV depending on the package you choose.

Watching British Television in France

Most providers include a few English news channels (such as BBC World or Sky News) and/or sports channels in their standard package Internet "box" offer. You may find a better selection in the premium packages, or by adding a "bouquet" of additional channels.

Depending on where you live in France (i.e. how close you live to England), you may be able to get a UK television signal with a large enough satellite dish. Some UK expats have also had success using their Sky/Sky+ digiboxes in France, but keep in mind that this is technically breaking Sky's terms of service and you risk having your service cut if Sky finds out.

How to Watch American Television in France

You may be able to find certain American news, entertainment, and sports channels in your "box" (Internet + fixed line + television) offer. Most French telecommunications operators offer options "a la carte", allowing you to pick and choose specific channels. Premium packages are more likely to have a wider selection of American TV channels.

Moving to France from the USA? Find out all about how to proceed, from your visa to healthcare in this guide dedicated to moving from the US to France.

How to Watch Live Sports on Television in France

All 4 of the largest broadband providers in France have offers that include live sports channels, with coverage of the major football, rugby and cycling events and more.

Find out all about how to get access to Sports on TV in France with channels such as beIN, RMC Sport, Eurosport and CANAL + in this dedicated article.