After reading a number of questions, inaccurate answers and “scaremongering” on the internet and social media over the last few days, I hope this will help understand what changes are going to happen when watching UK TV in Spain post Brexit.
UK Streaming Services in Spain post Brexit
Since 2018, UK residents travelling within the EU were able to keep watching their UK streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, SkyGo, NOW TV , Britbox UK and ITV Hub without the need for a VPN or Smart DNS service as part of the EUs “Digital Single Market” and “portability” rules.
These rules allowed short stayers like holiday makers, travelling from one EU country to another EU country would be able to access the same streaming video library they’re subscribed to at home without the need to “hide your ip address” or the use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) / Smart DNS (SDNS) services.
This was all monitored by use of your internet IP address, and your service accounts.
So, for example, you could use a SkyGO UK account in Spain for 35 days without the need of a VPN / SDNS service to hide the fact you were trying to access UK Only content from outside the UK. After that 35 day had elapsed, then you either needed to log into your SkyGO account from within the UK, or use a VPN / SDNS service to hide your Spanish IP address.
However, starting January 1 2020, things are going to change – due to Brexit.
The EU “Digital Single Market” and “portability” rules will no longer apply to UK based streaming services.
( I actually mentioned -“…as these rules are for EU countries, and unless the UK adopts the rules, then these changes may be short lived for UK based paid streaming services…” that this would happen in a blog post back in March 2018, when these portability rules were introduced, so this situation is not entirely a surprise)
So logging into your Amazon Prime UK account from Spain will no longer be possible, as your Spanish IP address will be recognised, and your access blocked to the UK content will be blocked. You may be totally blocked, or the content offered to you will only be that which is offered in Spain.
Content on streaming services will differ from country to country due to how the programme makers sell their content to broadcasters on a country by country basis. So , for example, a programme available via UK Netflix, may not be on Spanish Netflix, as it may have been sold to a traditional broadcaster like TVE or Mediaset instead.
This has been confirmed by Amazon Prime in an recent email sent to subscribers they have identified as using their UK account in Spain :
“We noticed you have been watching Prime Video content from outside the UK and we want to notify you of upcoming changes to your experience. These are a result of the changing applicability of the EU regulation on cross border portability of online content services when the United Kingdom’s post-Brexit transition period ends. As a result of this, UK customers such as yourself will no longer have access to the full UK catalogue while traveling to EU countries, including Ireland starting 1st January 2021 …while outside of the UK, you will have access to a limited catalogue … Access to your full UK catalogue will resume when you return to the UK”
And also by Sky for SkyGO and NowTV users:
From 1 January 2021, you won’t be entitled to stream Sky outside the UK using your Sky Go, Sky Kids, Sky Sports, Sky Sports Mobile TV and Sky Sports Box Office apps. Some Sky apps will allow you to download your favourite shows and movies over WiFi before you leave home to watch offline while you’re abroad.
Certain rules mean people within the EU can stream content across all EU countries. From 1 January 2021, the UK will no longer be part of the EU, so we won’t be able to provide this service in the same way.
This change affects lots of online video, music and entertainment services, not just Sky.
To access that UK only content in Spain and other EU countries you will need to use a VPN or SDNS service.
These changes to watching online streaming services from the UK in Spain are the only real change end users will see due to Brexit.
The UK Britbox service, which for a subscription offers “classic” and new (“Spitting Image”!), UK content, is also affected. However it is thought that Britbox will soon be launching a European version of the service, which would also be a good reason for Britbox owners, the BBC and ITV, to be more aggressive in blocking the use of VPNs / SDNS services.
UK TV via Satellite in Spain post Brexit
UK satellite TV services like those offered by Freesat or Sky will not be affected by Brexit. The signals cannot be “magically” turned off at the UK borders.
(technically they can do this by changing the transmission type, and really limiting reception, but this would mean having to change EVERY satellite dish LNB in the UK, which would be time consuming and expensive. An example of this is the Irish Saorsat system, the Irish version of UK Freesat, whose signals are on a very very tight beam which covers Ireland and Ireland only, with virtually no overspill to the UK!)
No changes are expected to be made to the UK satellite TV signals used by Sky and Freesat channels until the current UK TV satellites, Astra 2E, 2F and 2G, are due to be replaced, expected around 2030.
In fact, the main issue with Brexit and UK TV in Spain and the EU, is the fact that many broadcasters had their EU base in the UK.
Under EU rules, a broadcaster only has to meet the license agreements for one EU country, (ie via Ofcom in the UK), and then it was considered that it would have an license in all other EU counties…meaning no need for multiple offices or more red tape. (So yes Sky do in fact have a license to operate in Spain! IF not via their UK license, but their German, Austrian or Italian operations!)
Now Brexit has caused a problem, as broadcasters now need a UK and EU base.
So the BBC (worldwide) had had to set up a bases in the EU , so it can offer its channels on EU cable and satellite packages.
– BBC Studio is using a Dutch licence for European distribution of its channels BBC First, BBC Entertainment, BBC Brit and BBC Earth.
– BBC Global News is using a Luxembourg licence for its 24 hour news channel BBC World News.
– BBC Worldwide is also using licence in Luxembourg for its domestic channels BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four, CBBC and CBeebies for distribution in The Netherlands and Belgium cable services.
This has also had the effect that some UK TV channels will be removed from Irish Sky subscriptions as those UK channels no longer have a license to operate in EU countries.
Which VPN / Smart DNS services to use
If you want to continue watching your UK streamed content from the likes of SkyGo, ITV Hub, then you will need to use a VPN or Smart DNS service.
Use a VPN / SDNS service that requires payment. Studies have found that free VPNS are not very secure, and earn their money by selling data they have collected from you.
A Smart DNS service acts much like a VPN, but tends to be cheaper, faster, easier to install, and more reliable than a VPN.
Smartdnsproxy are very reliable and have good support.
The also offer a free 2 week trial, so you can test their services before you subscribe.
More on Smart DNS services HERE
One of the most popular VPN services there is, with good customer service and good relaibility.
Easy to install and use VPN app, and also offer a DNS service also.
Of course the broadcasters will always try and block the use of VPNS / SDNS services, as it their right to try and control where their content is watched.
Using a VPN / SDNS service may not be ideal.
Yes they can get blocked.
Yes they may work on one device and not another device
Yes you may need to run it at router level and not on the device
Yes they can slow down your data transfer speeds, so if you are already on a slow internet connection it may cause buffering issues.
But also consider various IPTV offerings, or just watch the local versions of Netflix and Prime…
If you want sport, check out the Spanish DAZN service, which ahs the rights to all Premier league matches for Spain.
This issue was always going to arise. We knew that it would. Just like mobile phone data roaming would be an issue post Brexit. The same principle applies, that if the broadcasters wanted to continue to offer their UK content in Europe they could , but they are no under no obligation to do so. The same applies for mobile data roaming, the providers are now under no obligation to provide this service for UK mobiles in Spain, but could decide to do so should they wish.
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