Totally rewritten 27 Jan 2016:
I have put this information into a separate post as it might be especially useful for the many expats reading this blog. This is not a commercial blog so I get no kickback on any of the links I have provided. I also don’t recommend any of them. Use the information I have provided as a starting point and make your own decisions.
Accessing overseas media material presents two problems when living in Thailand. Firstly countries like the US, Australia and the UK (and probably many others) restrict access to TV channels like the BBC’s iPlayer (UK) and the ABC’s iView (Australia) and even some internet streaming like Pandora music (US). You will get messages like the following, which is really frustrating:
Secondly the Thai government restricts access at this end for some media outlets. Adult entertainment, if that’s your thing, is usually blocked (so I’ve heard!) as well as a variety of news options such as the Daily Mail in the UK for some reason. You will get what will become a very familiar computer screen, which looks like this:
1. Sign up for one of the satellite programming companies – TrueVisions is the main one on offer but it is expensive with the top package running to over 2,000 THB a month. You can find them HERE.
An alternative if you prefer UK based TV services is ThaiExpat TV HERE with a top package at 900 THB a month. I am sure there will be others if you search around.
2. With good broadband widely available in Thailand then the many online streaming options look attractive. Netflix is now available in here as reported in the Bangkok Post below (my thanks to reader Karsten for the heads up on this one). Bangkok Post’s full article can be found HERE.
After years of anticipation, internet streaming-video service Netflix on Thursday launched in Thailand as part of a surprise global expansion that saw the US-based content provider flip the switch on 130 new countries overnight.
“You are witnessing the birth of a global TV network,” CEO Reed Hastings crowed on stage at the US Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas early today Bangkok time.
The news caught almost everyone off guard because Netflix had previously set a goal of being available in most of the world by the end of this year. It looked like the California company had plenty of work ahead it because it ended December in 60 countries, but not Thailand, where viewers with overseas credit cards and bank accounts have had to use virtual private network technology to watch the tens of thousands of television shows and movies available.
Now, Netflix is available in 21 different languages – but not Thai — and streaming in just about every market that it had in its sights, with the notable exception of China.
In Thailand, Netflix is offering a free, no-obligation trial of its service for a month. After that, subscribers can opt and switch between any of three payment plans.
Options start with a standard-definition programming package that can be viewed on only one device at a time for 280 baht a month. The standard package, at 350 baht monthly, offers HD content and simultaneous viewing on two screens. Its 420-baht-per-month plan offers four screens and Ultra-HD content, which requires a 4K television or computer monitor to enjoy.
While opening the doors to Thai viewers, Netflix has not added any new Thai-language content beyond the small selection of films it already had. And while the company on Thursday added support for three new languages, Thai was not among them. Neither the website, app or subtitles are available in Thai.
In his presentation, Mr Hastings said the global rollout is only the first step in very long global effort to add localised content and language support to its service.
“Today’s launch is like having a baby, but the real work is the next 20 years,” Mr Hastings said. “The real work is to become as popular in Vietnam, Thailand and Brazil as we are in the US.”
To do that, Netflix will eventually add Thai-language support and obtain licences for Thai television shows and movies.
Also, while Netflix is now virtually worldwide, not of all its entertainment will be available everywhere. For instance, a prized licensing contract that gives Netflix the rights to Walt Disney films after their theatrical release will be limited to the US and Canada as part of a deal negotiated several years ago. Mr Hastings told reporters Wednesday that Netflix is hoping to expand those rights into other countries.
On the other hand, viewers in Thailand — even those with a pre-existing account established in the US or UK – will get access to content not available to Netflix users in their home countries, such as movies like The Godfather and television shows including Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul and the television reboot of 12 Monkeys.
Another significant difference Thailand viewers may not look forward to is the same type censorship used in cinemas here and employed by Netflix in other markets to adhere to local media laws.
In a question-and-answer session after his presentation, Mr Hastings said Netflix may introduce “clean” versions of films, similar to those shown on airliners, to address Thai and other local countries’ rules on mature content, violence and respecting cultural sensibilities.
Netflix already sanitises content in Japan, pixelating full-frontal nudity seen in its original Marco Polo series and other content. In Thailand, the service could follow cinematic practice by pixelating smoking, drinking and bloody violence, as well as censor nude scenes.
Another alternative and cheaper is iflix HERE. It doesn’t have the range offered by Netflix but might be enough for your needs. At 100 THB or A$4.00 a month it won’t break the bank.
3. Get a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that has connections inside the countries you want to access content. The best ones aren’t free but you will pay less for a full year than for one month with say TrueVisions. I use NordVPN HERE and I find it works well for my needs. There are lots of others with more and more coming online as the world’s governments work harder to “protect” us. A VPN effectively makes it look as if your computer is in the country you are accessing content so nothing is blocked. Connect your laptop to your TV and stream away. A good VPN will also give you a higher level of anonymity when browsing the web, which in these days of an almost total lack of privacy from government agencies, is a bonus in my opinion. The Daily Mail via a VPN:
4. YouTube is a surprisingly good resource for TV programmes. The quality is sometimes pretty average but OK for say a tablet viewing – iPad etc. You will find many channels hidden away that specialise in publishing specific programmes. Just as an example if you are British orientated then this contributor gives you a good selection of Escape to the Country TV programmes HERE. Gordon Ramsay cooking HERE etc. There are even a number of full movies as well – many that one wouldn’t classify as mainstream! but a search might surprise you. YouTube is worth checking out as an option for a bored hour of two.
5. There are several free movies sites available if you have decent broadband. For example Filmon.com HERE is a mix of paid and free and includes heaps of TV channels as well as movies. I don’t use it but include it here as an illustration of one of the options out there if you look. tvlinks.cc HERE is another paid/free mix of movies only in this case. A huge archive of movies all of which are free if they were made before 2008 as well as newly released ones for paid access. The streaming works pretty well and is of good enough quality to play through your big screen TV. I haven’t used the paid version so can’t comment but the free section works just fine.
6. I would never encourage you to do something illegal like download material via bittorrent but I hear that some unscrupulous expats do use the service. If you are interested there is heaps of information available online. Some people I hear have been using it for years and have never had a problem with any aspect of the service. I believe the torrent library HERE is one of the best but hearsay again.
If you come across any other links or ideas that would help us expats in Thailand please leave a comment below. It would be appreciated by us all.
Thanks for reading.
UPDATED 20 April 2015:
Thom asked me via the comments section what TOT (Telecom of Thailand) plan I was using. I have attached the brochure below:
I have the 13 mbps plan and achieve that speed all the time with no dropouts.
TOT advised me today that they were introducing a 20 mbps download, 2 mbps upload plan for 800 THB a month with the first 2 months free. Ask about that one before signing up to anything else as it sounds like a great deal.
Thanks for reading.