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What’s on the Box

Maybe it’s because the Brits produce some of the best TV in the world or perhaps it’s just down to the dull climate or perhaps the fact that watching television is a national pastime in the UK. Television provides us with news, entertainment and information; it also helps us to unwind at the end of a long day, babysits the children and provides background entertainment. Such is the power of the goggle box that life without it seems hard to imagine and for many people looking to move to Bulgaria checking out what’s on the box is a top priority.

The Bulgarian TV Market

The key players in the Bulgarian television market are the three terrestrial broadcasters with national terrestrial licences: bTV, BNT and Nova TV. Rupert Murdoch owned bTV has the largest audience share of the three. BNT, is the equivalent of the UK’s BBC, it is owned by the state and has two channels: Kanal 1, and the satellite channel TV Bulgaria. Kanal 1 has been losing audience share to its commercial competitors. Nova TV is owned by Antenna Bulgaria and has seen significant increases in its market share.  Bulgarian channels tend to show programmes in Bulgarian; some are dubbed and it is possible to hear the original language in the background. Every Saturday and Sunday evening, bTV show films in English with Bulgarian subtitles. If you manage to master the language then you can enjoy programmes like Big Brother, Pop Idol, Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Survivor.

UK Channels

Of course picking up the lingo by watching TV is a great idea, but not as enjoyable as relaxing in front of your favourite British soaps. It is possible to get TV from the UK but you will need a large satellite dish (in the region of 2.2 m) to pick up the signals. TV channels from the UK and the Republic of Ireland are transmitted via the Astra satellites and Bulgaria does not lie in a favourable position to pick these up. Therefore the correct choice of satellite dish is critical. Satellite dish stores around Bulgaria stock a range of sizes, and it is important to get a good model with a warrantee in order to pick up a decent reception. Bear in mind, however, that the signal will not be as good as you may have had in the UK due to Bulgaria being in a ‘fringe reception’ area, meaning channels can sometimes fail or be fuzzy.

You can legally subscribe to Sky TV via their European partner Insat International ( Insat can provide all of the sky channels as well as luxuries like Sky HD High Definition. They provide you with European Sky Viewing cards and the Sky digiboxes. They also supply Sky's new Freesat viewing card, which decrypts Channel 4 and Five. All of the BBC and ITV channels are free-to-air and don’t require a viewing card. You can watch these if your dish can receive the Astra 2D signal.  Additionally you will get 140 TV channels, 80 radio stations and 13 interactive services. The cost for Freesat is £49.99 and includes free delivery to Bulgaria. There are other ways to get UK TV channels. The internet provides endless offers of online TV with sites like UK Nova ( UKNova was originally created to enable people to share British television programmes. Initially the site focussed on soap operas, but quickly grew to cover a range of television and radio entertainment. The main goal now is to enable people to see programmes they would not otherwise be able to watch, perhaps because they live abroad or have missed something they wanted to watch when it was broadcast live.

The UKNova website does not itself ‘share’ any copyrighted material with anyone else. It simply allows people who wish to share programming to link up with one another, using the BitTorrent protocol.  They also ensure that they do not harm potential revenue streams for broadcasters and programme makers and for this reason, no television or radio programme that is available for purchase worldwide from retailers, on CD, DVD or video, is shared on the site. Best of all, UKNova is free to use. If you want more real-time viewing from the comfort of your laptop, then a search of the internet will reveal a host of companies offering a variety of packages, but beware as some cannot legally supply UK channels outside of the UK.

Bulgarian Satellite and Cable TV

There are numerous independent cable and satellite operators in Bulgaria who offer a variety of packages and include not only Bulgarian channels but plenty of others exclusively in English. Before setting up your Bulgarian TV connection, there is an important thing to consider. PAL, or Phase Alternating Line is a colour encoding system used in broadcasting television systems in large parts of the world. Other common analog television systems are SECAM and NTSC. Bulgaria does have the PAL system, but SECAM is also common, whereas the UK is strictly PAL. Some modern televisions are equipped to deal with both systems, but if your television is not compatible to the system you may get a fuzzy, unclear picture. As televisions are inexpensive in Bulgaria anyway, it’s worth leaving your TV set behind when you move, and buy another one on your arrival from a company like Technomarket or Technopolis. This also means you won’t need to change any plugs either!

Bulsat is the main satellite operator in Bulgaria, and is installed with an external dish linked to your television. It offers a variety of packages starting at 12 lv. with the most expensive package costing 22 lv. per month. ITV Partners is another company working in the field of the IT, telecommunication services, development and broadcasting of radio and TV programmes and Internet services. It is the official distributor of Eutelsat services in Bulgaria and offers 250 unencrypted TV programmes and over 300 unencrypted radio stations.

The English language channels available through Bulgarian satellite include AXN (Crime, thriller and sci-fi – usually American), TV 1000 (a selection of films and film reviews), Discovery Channels, Animal Planet, National Geographic, Boomerang, Jetix (kids cartoon channels) MTV, CNN and a host of fringe channels. Cable is available in every Bulgarian town now and almost all villages have a central cable hook-up, so all you have to do is track down the cable representative to organise installation. The installation, which involves simply running a cable from a hooked-up pylon into your house to the telly, costs around 40 lv. although some companies like Bulsat offer regular discounted promotions on this fee.


It is not possible to just buy a digibox from a Bulgarian store and plug it in to get all of your desired UK TV channels. However, following in the footsteps of the UK, Bulgaria is set to migrate their broadcasting system to DVB-T, or Digital Video Broadcasting - Terrestrial in 2012. At the moment such broadcasts are currently only available in Sofia. This will pave the way for numerous types of digi-boxes and viewing opportunities to be present in Bulgaria, as in the UK.

Happy goggle boxing!