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Place Shifting: My Solution to Watching American TV in France


Ever heard of place shifting? Me either.

According to Wikipedia, this is the definition of place shifting:

Space shifting (or spaceshifting), also known as place shifting (or placeshifting), allows media, such as music or films, which is stored on one device to be accessed from another place through another device. Space shifting is frequently done through computer networks, for example by viewing a television broadcast from a WiFi equipped set-top box on a WiFi equipped notebook. Other media shifting processes include time shifting, a process whereby a radio or television broadcast is recorded and played back at a different time, and format shifting where media files are converted into different formats.[1]


Ever heard of a Slingbox? I had seen the ads, but honestly I had never looked into what a Slingbox was for or why anyone would need or want one.

According to Wikipedia, this is the definition of a Slingbox:

The Slingbox is a TV streaming media device made by Sling Media that encodes video into the VC-1 format for transmission over the Internet and provides an infrared blaster. The video encoding and IR blaster can both be operated remotely over the Internet. These features allow users to remotely view and control their home’s cablesatellite, or personal video recorder (PVR) system from an Internet-enabled computer with a broadband Internet connection.

A Slingbox can redirect one of its inputs to one computer or mobile device located on a local network or remotely, when using a broadband Internet connection, anywhere in the world. To avoid copyright infringement, only one user can access the stream from a Slingbox at a time. This way to access content is named placeshifting.

Why does any of this matter to me? Now that we’ve found our house in France (outside of Cannes) I’ve begun to look into the things that make up a typical American household and how they will work abroad. One of those things is home entertainment- television, cable/satellite, internet, gaming systems, etc. I have a ton of questions regarding all of these and I am starting to get some answers, but honestly no one source has all the answers. Which means I have quite a bit of work to do in the next few weeks and a lot to learn.


For this post, I want to focus on cable/satellite. As I type this blog post, I am listening/watching college football from the comfort of my couch. Like many Americans, televised sports is not something I can live without, even for a year. (Sidebar: Heck, the Colorado Buffaloes might just have a football team worthy of winning 6 games next fall and I don’t want to miss it.)

The problem: from everything I have found, it is impossible to watch American college football or other American cable stations in southern France (would be nice if someone could prove me wrong here). I’ve checked with the local cable and satellite providers in France and although they have some American/UK channels such as CNN, Bloomberg, BBC, etc, most are news or financially channels and they don’t have the typical American sports channels or kids/family programming.

This is where the Slingbox and place shifting come to the rescue. During the Christmas holiday I bought and had my brother install a Slingbox at my parents house in Austin. I now have exclusive access to a cable box with DVR in their office from anywhere in the world with a high speed internet connection. This means I can watch all the same channels that someone living in Austin, Texas can from southern France, including American college football.

We are still playing with the set up to optimize and increase the resolution, but fundamentally it works. I’m in Colorado, controlling a cable box with DVR in Austin and watching ESPN from my laptop as I finish this post. I even set up the DVR to record a program that we watch frequently, so we can have several episodes ready to go by the time we move. The next step is to download the iPad and iPhone apps and see how those work.

Now of course the real test will come once we make the move to France, but I am feeling good about my chances of watching American college football (and other programs) living 5300 miles away.  With an 8 hour time difference, I’ll be using the DVR quite a bit for those late Pac-12 games, but at least one house on the Côte d’Azur will be streaming (sometimes live) American college football. Stop by next fall if you are in southern France and need a fix.

  • That’s pretty cool. You can’t get the same services outside the US either. Like Netflix I don’t think. I don’t watch much OTA content, or content that is “timely.” Closest i got was Piratebaying in season Walking Dead episodes. That would be a decent solution for a lot of content as most TVs will play any video format from a USB drive.

    Being able to watch Austin Cable in France is a pretty sweet trick. Can you patch me into that too?


    PS Have fun in France!

    January 1, 2012