Frequently asked questions
Here you will find many answers to the most common questions we get asked. If you can't find what you need here, feel free to give us a call or use our contact form to get in touch.
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Is it legal?
Strictly speaking, Sky is not allowed to sell subscriptions to those outside the UK. In practice, however, Sky is well aware that huge numbers (up to 1 million) of their customers are living in mainland Europe. So long as you don't phone Sky's customer services from Spain, (or order anything from their website - they will know your computer is out of the UK) you are likely to enjoy its programming for many years to come. Under EU legislation, it is legal to watch the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five anywhere these channels can be received.
What do I need?
You need a satellite receiver, either free-to-air (FTA, FTA HD) or Sky digital. FTA boxes will receive only free channels such as the BBC, ITV, Sky News and a number of others such as CNN. All other channels on the Sky system are encoded, and need an active viewing card inside a Sky receiver. Sky has the big advantage of its own Sky Guide, listing programming up to one week ahead. Subscription to Sky channels starts at £19.50 per month up to £61.00 per month for a Subscription including Sky Sports and Sky Movies in HD.
You will also need a satellite dish. For reception of Sky channels only, a 55cm or 60cm dish is suitable, much the same size as in the UK. Note that this size will not receive BBC, ITV or Channel 4. For BBC One and ITV, a 1.2 metre dish will give adequate reception for most of the day. BBC2, News 24, CBeebies and CBBC will only be viewable in the mornings, no later than 1pm, and sometimes disappearing earlier, depending on location. For all BBC channels, all day, a 1.8 metre dish should be installed, if you have the available space. Only a 1.8 m will give some margin against rainfall, the smaller size will suffer if the weather is wet. The only dish that will give uninterrupted reception of all channels day and night is the 2.4 metre dish.
Can you arrange subscriptions?
I live in an apartment block. Do I need permission to put a dish on the roof?
Usually yes. You should ask the president of the “Communidad”, who will usually give permission in writing. You should allow plenty of time to obtain this. If there are too many dishes on the roof already, or if it is dangerous to install one, it is often possible to place a dish on a balcony or terrace. This can be done without fixing anything permanent into the structure of the building.
When I had my box installed in the UK, a phone line was attached. What do I need in Spain?
A phone line is not needed. You should not bring to Spain a Sky box that was installed by Sky in the UK less than one year ago, as you will have agreed a contract to have the line attached for twelve months. If you disconnect the box before this time, Sky will charge you extra. This also applies to the special offers on the Sky website.
What difference is there between 'FreeView' and 'FreeSat'?
FreeSat is a free digital service broadcast from the Astra 2 satellite. It needs a dish mounted on the outside of your house to receive the service, and a digital set-top box or a TV with an integrated satellite receiver.
FreeView is the name of the free domestic digital terrestrial service in the UK, broadcasted from a network of land-based masts, and is received on a normal aerial, as found on most homes. It needs a digital set-top box or an integrated TV. Most modern TVs have digital terrestrial built in. A UK digital TV or FreeView box will work in Spain but will receive Spanish digital services instead of UK ones.
Can I use the satellite dish that is already installed on my house here in Madrid?
If you move into a house in Spain with a satellite dish, it is virtually certain to be pointing to Astra 1 or Hispasat and will not work with the UK satellite service. If you connect a Sky box to an Astra 1 dish, it will show a 'no satellite signal' message. The dish can be moved by us to the right satellite.
Spanish Satellite TV is provided by Digital+, features Canal+ and a number of international entertainment channels such as Discovery, Disney and Cartoon Network. It is broadcast from Astra 1 (19º east) and Hispasat (30º west), and carries only a few channels in English, Sky News and BBC World, though there are optional English soundtracks on some channels.
Is there reception variation by season?
Yes there is. Reception is best from October to March and poorer in the hot months. In addition, the signal is strong in the mornings and very poor at night. There is also a small random strengthening and weakening every few days or weeks. Viewers in the UK do not notice any of this, but those in weak signal areas can experience picture and sound breaking up as the digital signal drops below the threshold needed to produce a clear picture. The longer periodic variations are caused by the satellite drifting in space. It is allowed to move up to 50 km from its central point before jets are fired to return it to the correct position. This is known as 'station keeping'. Seasonal variations are caused by changes in the distance from the earth to the sun, and increased digital noise in the dish system owing to high temperatures in summer. Shorter variations are a result of small changes in the satellite's orbit caused by the fact that the earth is not perfectly spherical.
Twice a year, the Astra satellites pass in front of the sun. This results in loss of signal for up to ten minutes in the mornings, twice a year, in spring and autumn, for a period of about a week.
Can you access BBC iPlayer?
Yes. The BBC runs interactive content alongside its normal broadcast channels. Special events such as Wimbledon and Glastonbury have alternative simultaneous content which normally needs access to a BBC main channel in order to press the red button. If you can't receive the BBC in mainland Europe, but can receive BBC News, you can access the Red Button channels by doing the following on a Sky Digibox:
Select channel 503, BBC News.
On the remote control, Press' text'.
Key in 3001 and press 'Select'.
Can I call Sky from abroad?
Yes you can, using a UK mobile number or Skype. Sky's customer service number 08442 414 141 is inaccessible from outside of the UK. Call instead via Skype or another VOIP provider. If using Skype, buy some calling credit. Have your contract in front of you so that you can read out any details they may ask for without hesitation. You should also be aware that the time is an hour behind what your own clock says, and that the operator may, in typically British style, talk about the weather in the UK.
How come Sky advertises cheap Sky box offers in the UK?
Sky offers a low-price Sky HD box at £50, or free. There are hidden disadvantages in this offer: the Sky box may not be new (reconditioned), and you have to subscribe to a more expensive package for at least one year. You need to connect the box to a UK landline for 12 months minimum and a Sky engineer will have to come to your house to set it up.
What is a Sky PIN?
A PIN is required to view Sky Movies before 9pm, and to use the 'other channels' feature. The PIN is normally the last four digits of your current viewing card or the last four digits of your previous viewing card. The PIN is now required to view 'other channels' if parental control is enabled.
You can change your PIN by logging in to 'My Sky' on Sky.com or by calling Sky.
Should I disconnect my Sky box when I go on holiday?
No. If you switch off the power to your Sky box when you go away on holiday, not only might it lose an important software update, your viewing card may 'sleep' after one month. The card needs to receive 'stay alive' signals from the satellite. Cards which have been put to sleep will re-activate after about 24 hours of the box being re-connected to mains power. There is one exception to this rule (see below).
Should I disconnect my Sky box from the mains supply if there is a thunderstorm nearby?
If lightning strikes the power network in your neighbourhood, it could ruin your Sky box with a power surge. Such damage is usually unrepairable. You can prevent this by installing a surge protector or UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). In addition, install earthing to your satellite dish. A UPS is strongly recommended to prevent power cuts affecting your Sky box. In many parts of Spain, a power cut will result in a message saying 'no satellite signal being received' when the power is restored.
Does Sky Sports broadcast 'La Liga' in HD?
Yes, Spain's 'La Liga' can now been seen in HD on Sky Sports. This season, there are matches 6 to 7 times a week on Sky's four HD channels. The big match of the season, “El Classico”, Real Madrid versus Barcelona, is also screened in 3D.
Have there been recent changes to BBC channels?
The most significant changes to BBC satellite services in many years happened in October 2010 in preparation for the launch of BBC One HD. Some viewers with 1.2 metre dishes will lose BBC 1 on Sky channel 101. The regions are listed below. Use an alternative region from the Sky guide. Freesat viewers should choose an alternative default BBC 1 region using the receiver's menu. Many people in Spain will get a reliable BBC 2 signal for the first time since 2003. In the Madrid area, this means a 1.2 metre dish will pick up BBC2 Northern Ireland and Wales in the evenings. Sky and Freesat boxes will update automatically. Free to air receivers will have to be re-scanned on Astra 2. If you viewed BBC 1 Channel Islands on Sky channel 988 because your BBC 1 region on 101 was weak, you will have to choose another from the Sky guide. BBC Four and CBeebies will get slightly worse in the Madrid region, and both need a 1.8 metre dish.
The following changes have been made:
BBC 1 South East, Yorks, North West move from 10817 V to 10802 H (from 1.2 metre to 1.8 metre dish)
BBC 1 West, East and Channel Islands move to 10773 H (from 1.2 m to 1.8 m dish)
BBC 2 Wales, Northern Ireland move to 10817 and 10788 V (from 1.8m dish to 1.2 m dish)
BBC 1 Wales moves to 10788 V (from 1.8m dish to 1.2 m dish)
BBC Four and CBeebies move from TP45 10773 H to TP47, 10802 H
Does bad weather affect reception?
Yes it does. Rain reduces the weak channels. Unless you have a large dish of 1.8 or 2.4 metres, you will lose BBC & ITV completely in heavy rain or snow. 1.2 metre dishes have little or no rain margin for BBC & ITV in Madrid, meaning signal will be lost as soon as it starts raining. The best way of preventing poor signal ruining your viewing is to install as large a dish as possible. A 1.8 metre dish (six feet) will give very good reception of BBC1 and ITV all day, and BBC 2, Channel 4, BBC Three and BBC Four until late in the evening. Most Sky channels can be seen all day regardless of weather conditions. This means Sky Sports SD & HD, MTV, VH1, Sky Movies SD & HD, Dave and The Discovery Channel SD & HD will always be present. The 2.4 metre dish will enable you full time reception 24 / 7 of all channels and offer the best protection against rain fade.
If there is a large area of rain near to you, in the line of sight to the satellite, signal can be lost, even if it is not raining at your location. The classic example of this is a large thundercloud with heavy rain and hail rising to the south-east.
How to prevent it? There's very little you can do apart from waiting till the weather improves. If you have a 1.2 metre dish, consider upgrading to a 1.8 metre or 2.4 metre dish, as the larger size will be much more resistant to rain (but not completely immune).
Yes, you can subscribe to Sky 3D and it will work on an existing Sky HD box, but needs a 3D television to view the pictures.