Good television options for expats in Mexico can be an important connection to the life you left behind and your new life in Mexico. Having access to home country programs can often ease the transition to living in a new country and also help keep you updated on news, sports and politics back home. And the many Mexican programming choices available will help introduce you to the language and culture of your adopted country.
There are three types of television delivery services that you can get in Mexico: Cable, satellite and Internet-based streaming. Most expat communities have a mix of these services offered through a variety of companies.
The top cable companies in Mexico are Izzi Telecom, Megacable, and Totalplay Telecommunications. Each company offers television, Internet and telephone bundles.
Izzi Telecom is based in Mexico City and provides services to 90 cities across Mexico, including Acapulco, Cancún, Mérida and Puerto Vallarta. Its most expensive package is about $850 pesos a month and includes 200 channels – 60 in HD – and access to 30,000 shows and movies on demand. This deal also includes Internet with a broadband speed of 50 Mbps and unlimited calling to over 90 countries. Izzi’s other packages include a $650 peso per month deal with 150 channels and a $520 peso per month deal for 60 channels.
Megacable is another popular cable company and is based in Guadalajara. It serves over 300 areas across Mexico in over 25 different states. Packages vary from $499 pesos per month for 101 channels to $1,000 pesos per month for 268 channels. The downside to this company is that not every single package is offered in every city they service, so only certain areas can upgrade to the higher broadband speeds and the larger channel range. The internet speeds that come with these packages range from 20 Mbps to 100 Mbps.
Cable companies generally do not compete with each other in cities across Mexico, similar to the U.S. Megacable is the only cable option in Guadalajara, for example. Cable offers both Mexican and American television programs. You can find Fox, TBS, CNN, ESPN, National Geographic, Lifetime and many other channels on cable.
Satellite is a popular option for many expats because it generally has a wide range of U.S. programs. One of the downsides of satellite service in Mexico, though, is signal problems during inclement weather. Rain can interrupt satellite service and frequently does during summer thunderstorms.
Two of the major satellite television providers are Dish Mexico and SKY Mexico.
Dish Mexico offers its biggest package for $556 pesos per month, which comes with 94 HD channels, dish installation and access to Dish Mobile on any of your devices. Its cheapest service is $206 pesos per month for 57 channels.
SKY Mexico offers four different packages ranging in price from $509 pesos to $979 pesos per month. The SKYHD Black package provides 114 channels and its basic SKYHD Gold package offers 57 channels. The satellite television option is not available in all areas of Mexico.
With fiber-optic quickly gaining ground in Mexico and much faster connection speeds, many expats are turning to streaming devices that deliver Internet-based programming through a local Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Maria O’Connor, an expat from Puerto Vallarta, prefers using Apple TV or ROKU for her television programs. “Cable and satellite services often lose the signal on cloudy or rainy days,” she said. “I switched from cable to Internet streaming devices five years ago and have never looked back.”
Apple TV and ROKU devices connect to televisions both wirelessly and wired to provide customers with their favorite programs and movies over the Internet.
Apple TV offers 4k resolution and comes with two options, 32GB for US$179 or 64GB for US$199. The device comes with a Siri remote control, power cord and a lightning to USB cable.
ROKU is a well-known streaming device with HDMI connections or wireless streaming sticks. They offer six devices, beginning with the basic Roku Express. You can connect it to the HDMI port on your television and it also has an additional USB port for power. The price for the Roku Express is a one-time payment of US$30. Roku’s Premiere streaming device is essentially the same as the Express, but with 4K HD resolution that can only be used on compatible televisions. Their most expensive device, Roku Ultra, is listed at US$100 and offers customers an ethernet port to provide higher streaming speeds and a voice activated control system with a headphone port for private listening (headphones included). Roku devices can no longer be purchased in Mexico, therefore would have to be bought outside the country or online.
Google Chromecast is another type of streaming device that can be plugged into the HDMI port of any television and is powered by a USB cable, which is included. It gives users the ability to use their smartphones or computers/tablets as their remote control for the device. The Chromecast basic model with 1080p resolution is US$35 and the 4K HD resolution Chromecast Ultra is US$70.
Two other popular streaming devices are the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Slingbox.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick retails for US$40, but offers a 4K version of the device for US$50. It comes with an Alexa voice remote control and access to thousands of channels and millions of websites to stream. Amazon Prime members also gain access to locked features that are exclusive to them.
Slingbox offers four different device options. Its most popular and most accessible version is the Slingbox 500, which retails for US$350 on the company’s official Amazon vendor page. Users can stream their own cable, satellite or DVR feed to any other device worldwide using their Slingbox. The company claims that with Slingbox, expats would not need a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and would have a “no-hassle” streaming experience.
U.S. and Canadian restrictions, though, can be a roadblock to receiving programming from outside of Mexico for many expats. Some get around these restrictions by using a VPN, which allows you to connect with servers in other countries and use an IP address to stream whatever you like, wherever you live.
Tom Lang, an expat from the Lake Chapala-area, uses a VPN to access websites that are not yet licensed to provide content in Mexico.
“I get around that problem most of the time by subscribing to a VPN and using a U.S. city to show my URL address, rather than showing my URL location in Mexico,” Lang said. “That makes it appear like I’m actually in the U.S. rather than in Mexico and then the content often becomes available to me in Mexico. Not always, but often accessible.”
Although VPNs and streaming devices are popular choices for many expats, they can have problems. Keith Paulson-Thorp, an expat from Mérida, said intermittent sound drop-out and access to programming are among some of the problems he faces with his VPN.
“The fact that software that would address these issues is constantly being battled on various legal grounds [means that] what works today might not work tomorrow.”