Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Watching Sports in Italy- an adventure in geekdom

Have you ever tried to watch a game on TV (you pick the sport) only to find that your access to it is blocked?  By the network, your cable provider?
Picture coming to Italy, armed with a brand new Laptop, a cable package that promises you can see "your shows" on your devices and a love of European football (soccer).  We arrive during some of the most exciting League matches- English Premiere League, Champions League.  
So the first game we try to watch we find that our access is blocked.  We can't see it on Xfinity because we are "not in front of our home TV"; DUH!  So we try Fox Sports, NBC, CBS, ESPN- all blocked content.  
We ask our Italian friend and he says almost all the football games are on packages that have to be bought through one cable provider.  He can't even watch the Champions League matches because he subscribes to the "wrong" cable provider (which he does because it carries Italian Serie A, which is obviously most important to him).
Everywhere we go we hit a brick wall- "Access Denied"  or "Content not available".
I do Google searches, I check Wiki everything, I am SURE there has to be a way to do this!!!
Finally, I phone a friend in the USA.  "G" tells me that we need an US IP address.  As soon as we arrived and logged onto the local WIFI we got a new IP address based in Italy.  This allows blockage of content.  It also was preventing us from doing some basic housekeeping tasks like paying bills (some of our accounts at home would not let us in because they didn't recognize the Italian IP address).  He then explains how to change our IP address so that it appears our computers are still in the US.  A VPN or Virtual Private Network. This allows us access to US websites and also- Voila!!  Sports!  Many people use these to keep work information secure- I certainly have and Robb still does but it never dawned on me that we could get one as individuals and get the same kind of security! 
Now don't go thinking this was the final answer.  The Virtual Private Network we bought allows our computers to appear as though they are in the US, however there were still challenges to actually watching the games.
English Premier League (EPL) games and Champions League (CL) are carried by different networks.  Fox Sports 2 Go is how we access CL, NBC sports live extra has EPL.  When the time comes for NCAA basketball, we will need CBS Live.  Guess what- they ALL charge for the mobile services.  Fox is the highest at $19.99 a month and that is just for soccer!  CBS is $5.99 a month for all sports they carry- the MOST important of which will be the NCAA championship.  NBC has no fee but the screen is full of ads, and there are a lot of commercials we have to suffer through.
Now on to the geek part.  Luckily we have an HD TV here so I can hook up the computer through an adapter that allows us to stream the games onto the TV screen.  Depending on the WIFI signal this works pretty well.  If the signal is struggling (all the time it seems) we have to turn off almost every other WIFI device in the house (2 iPhones, 2 iPads, a netbook and our Apple TV- I told you it was geekdom!).  
What is the final outcome you ask?  We can watch all the soccer we want, and we are cautiously optimistic that we are going to be able to watch the NCAA tournament.  What more could a girl want in life?


  1. The challenges of travel in the post-connected world! Great advice, thanks!

  2. I could never figure out how to watch Oakland A's baseball in NYC - you are champs! And if you can, find a local pub that's showing the game you want to watch and enjoy the "atmosphere". :D