A guide on getting Spanish television, and options on how to get foreign channels on your TV or your computer via the Internet.
What better way is there to get to know Spain than watching Spanish television? Watching Spanish TV channels will open up a window to Spain, its culture, its language and its way of life. However, as well as watching certain movies and television series in their original version, you can also watch some shows in English, too.
Barcelona and Madrid were the first two Spanish cities to experience television in 1948. It was 8 years later in 1956 that TVE, the first proper channel, initiated regular programming throughout Spain. In 1990 the first private channels began to appear and in the 2000s analogue television started migrating to digital television – analogue TV services were officially discontinued in 2010.
Prior to the switch from analogue to digital, a UK television set would not work in Spain. UK used PAL-1 analogue encoding whereas Spain used PAL-BG so transmission was problematic. However, both countries now use DVB-T digital systems so there is unlikely to be a problem. If you have an old analogue TV set that you want to bring to Spain, you will need a separate TDT receiver box that converts the digital channels. You can buy these in Spanish TV shops or in places such as Carrefour or Alcampo for around €30-40.
You do not need a license to watch Spanish TV.
Popular Spanish TV channels
There are 34 national Spanish TV channels including HD channels. 5 of the channels are public owned by RTVE (La 1, La 2, Clan, 24 Horas, Teledeporte) and the rest are private. In additional to national channels, there are numerous regional TV channels in each of the Autonomous Communities. TV consumption has increased greatly since 2008, linking with the start of the financial crisis, and it has become the primary means of entertainment for many Spaniards.
According to 2017 figures, Telecinco (Tele5) is the most watched Spanish TV channel, with 13.3% of the audience rating. The channel is most known for airing reality TV, soap operas, general entertainment and what is known as ‘garbage TV’ (tele basura). The second most popular channel is Antena 3 (12.3%) which is a private channel launched in 1990. Its programming focuses on news, magazines, cinema, drama and sitcoms. La 1 is the most popular public broadcast channel and the third most viewed Spanish television channel (10.4%). Next in popularity are laSexta (Channel 6) and Cuatro (Channel 4) with 6.7% and 6.1% respectively. Both are privately owned channels that broadcast family entertainment, sport and news. Regional channels are also popular, with 7.6% of the overall audience share.
Terrestrial Digital Television (TDT)
Nowadays, around 98% of the population has access to TDT in Spain. It gives a choice of 34 national channels plus regional channels and has better image quality, better sound, and numerous additional services. It is comparable with free-view TV in the UK.
Satellite TV in Spain offers a limited range of Spanish TV channels due to the fact that a lot of them aren’t free. In order to get all foreign channels, expats usually need to install a satellite dish on ASTRA 2, but once installed there won’t be any additional charges as TDT is free. To get additional channels, such as the UK’s BBC, Channel 4 or Sky TV, you will need a Sky receiver and a card; other than that it’s free but you won’t have access to other foreign packages. The cost varies according to the channel package you select. Europa Network is another satellite TV provider that offers free to air UK channels. The cost is free providing you sign up to their Internet package. Watching via your TV will require a set top box, which costs around €100-150.
If you are getting a satellite dish installed and it is over 1.9 metres in diameter you may require planning permission from the local Town Hall (Ayuntamiento) although this varies between towns and should be checked before proceeding with any installation.
Tip: Watching television in English
Many channels screen English and American television series, as well as movies from around the world. But, as you will notice, they are often dubbed in Spanish. However, viewers have the option to watch movies and series in the original language by changing the language in the television menu. You also have the option to select Spanish subtitles if you want to scratch up on your language skills.
If you miss watching your favourite TV shows there are many ways of watching foreign channels online.
You can subscribe for free to www.tvcatchup.com. Once you register you can enjoy a large panel of live channels online. Nowadays there are a lot of ways of watching shows online, such as TV Player, Now TV, Digital Unite and DIRECTV. You can find a range of options through using a Google search.
There are over 4,000 active public and private radio stations of which around 2,500 are legal radio stations. This includes a broad public national network owned by Radio Nacional de España (National Radio of Spain; RNE), a division of RTVE, Spain’s largest media group. There are also commercial networks broadcasting across Spain, regional stations broadcasting in both Spanish and regional languages, and many foreign-language stations available in a number of European languages.
When it comes to listening to your favourite radio show, the Internet is often the easiest way of doing it. Some useful sites include:
Additionally, if you subscribe to satellite TV you will also probably have access to radio channels.