Satellite TV in China: Everybody’s Doing It, Why Aren’t You?

About a month ago, I was sitting with a good friend of mine talking about the things we miss from back home and he told me that he watched German television every evening for his daily dose of modern German culture. Even though satellite reception in China is nothing new, this still shocked me a bit, so I asked him how he got satellite service in Chengdu.

“Simplest thing in the world. I bought a dish for less than one hundred yuan, and then a box for another 500 yuan and I pay around 500 yuan a year for my service.”

Satellite dishSo for less than 1,000 yuan a year (roughly equivalent to $150 dollars), my friend receives all of the channels he wants, more or less, in his home in a Chengdu suburb. Since that morning with him, I am determined to get my own satellite TV in my home so I can watch Skinemax anytime I want. For cheap.

When I did a bit of research, I realized that, sure, if I were good with electronics, I could scrounge around the back alleys of the local electronics markets and find everything I would need for my own home entertainment system. But there are a number of websites that have already thought of everything and will come and set up your own system, with all of the channels you might need, for just a little bit more than my friend paid.

Satellite TV Beamed to Your Front Door

Then last week I opened my mailbox and found two small advertisements (images below which details their services; sorry, Chinese only) that offer installation services from 1,500 yuan, depending on how many channels I want. That is one advantage of living in Shanghai: in Chengdu you might have to scrounge around a bit for the parts and basically its a DIY operation, but here in the Hai, there are dozens of companies that will do it for you.

Check this place out. Not only do they offer an array of different satellite services (Phillipines-based, Vietnam-based, HK-based) but they have a forum, resource guide and their English is excellent. These guys are pros, and they’ll hook you up in Chengdu as well. Here’s another pretty sophisticated company with an office in Shanghai. They too offer a wide range of services in impeccable English. Not tailored specifically to your needs? No sweat, there is the HBOCN Family Package for those who need Nickolodean along with everything else.

China satellite TV

One of the flyers I received in my mailbox offering satellite services among other things

China satellite TV

Skinemax, baby, that's what I'm after!

Obviously, the main market for these Shanghai based satellite hustlers consists of expats who aren’t trying to watch re-re-runs of Journey to the West, or some dramatic re-enactment of Chinese bravery in the face of Japanese aggression, or yet another period piece with stolid gong fu guys and whiny women. Standard television sucks, in my opinion, but none as hard as Chinese TV.

But all that’s changing. According to studies, the market for satellite TV equipment (dishes and related items) will reach into the billions within two years.

Isn’t This Illegal?

Yeah. And so is prostitution, graft, turning left on a red light and spitting. Owen Fletcher writes about the government’s efforts to curb the gray market in satellite dishes by … introducing regulations … that will force all suppliers to register every dish they sell:

“China’s broadcasting regulator this month revealed rules that appeared aimed at checking the spread of both types of satellite TV. The regulations require companies that install satellite equipment to buy permits under a system that would track all dishes sold in the country. They ban satellite receiving equipment on open markets.”

But (surprise!):

“The new rules may have little effect. The regulator, China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, lacks the power over local government branches to enforce the rules nationwide …”

CCTV in California

According to Peter Brown, writing for the Asia Times, China’s recent launch of their own satellite, Zhongxing-9, represents the government’s efforts to spread their message into the deeper, darker recesses of the Chinese hinterland as well as provide a free alternative to Chinese currently paying for service that includes foreign channels.

China satellites

At the same time, China hopes to beam their TV to millions of households outside of China, stimulating domestic production companies while at the same time continuing to limit foreign penetration into the TV market as best they can. Direct TV in California has already agreed to sell CCTV-4 to the more than 1 million Chinese living in their area.

Truly, I don’t care who watches CCTV, as long as it isn’t me. As soon as I found out that satellite TV was about as illegal as anything else is here in China and that at least 40 million people are already enjoying Southpark as opposed to digging their eyeballs out in front of standard Chinese commercials, I made my decision.

I bet I can get the local cops to watch Weeds with me.

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About Sascha

Sascha Matuszak is a writer and commentator on domestic and international culture and politics. After living in Chengdu on and off for twelve years, he now lives in Minneapolis.

32 Responses to “Satellite TV in China: Everybody’s Doing It, Why Aren’t You?”

  1. No kidding. Thanks for sharing this info.

  2. They took down a whole bunch of these in Tianjin in 2008, not because they were illegal, but because they were in the way of the pointed roof facades that were put on all the apartment buildings near the Olympic venues. Our neighbours just put their displaced dishes on their yangtais or over the stairwell entrance.

    My favourite China satellite dish photo is here: http://chinahopelive.net/wp-content/gallery/2010-08-09-village-hike/024-dscn3482.jpg

  3. There are companies that do this in Chengdu too. The best way to get the hook up is go in to a western bar and ask for the number of the guy who installed their satellite.

  4. Charlie

    Do you know if any of these offer service in HD? 1,000 yuan sounds pretty reasonable.

  5. Thank you @Sascha, for explaining little bit about China satellite world.

    Very appreciate it.

    Alex

  6. i installed it. unfortunately, it didnt work after three months, and i cannot contact them anymore, their phone number became invalid…

  7. What happens if the service suddenly gets cut off? Can you continue with another provider or is your investment wasted?

    • good question. if this were a clearly legal service, you would have options, but right now this is like asking

      “if the $1 pirated copy of Inception I just bought has bad sound, can i return it or did i lose my dollar?”

      your hardware will always be yours, its the actual reception service that you would lose. There is a link above to satellitetvguru.net — i would check them out and see how to set it all up and then all you are really doing is buying the service, then stock up on a few providers, and play them off each other until you have the best, most reliable service.

      Foreign service providers are available to you if you have a satellite and pay the money as well.

  8. I signed up for satellite service and it stopped working a few months later. I might’ve been able to switch it to another company but I never actually did.

    • you should give it a shot, but really you have to be aware that this is an illegal service, which means that if they cut you off, they assume you won’t go and do anything about it. Be sure to check out who it is you are buying from before you get the service. The above links come recommended, but that is no guarantee.

      Another option is to set up the hardware and contact a foreign-based service. China will cheat you of your money, that’s how the culture is here and it will last for another couple generations. Don’t assume it won’t happen

  9. Ray

    Actually, i really like it that i dont have any TV here; i’m not tempted to watch rubbish. i just buy the dvd’s i like (The Wire, Breaking Bad, Curb Your Enthusiasm etc). it’s funny, but i can watch 3 or 4 hours of this stuff and not feel guilty of being a couch potato. if i were watching on TV however, i’d be wracked with guilt!
    PS: one program i do miss is the super low-budget dating show on Sichuan TV. i kinda gor hooked on that one…

    • YEAH I NEVER WATCH TV … BUT SPORTS! MAN I STILL BELIeVE THAT SPORTS CAN’T BE FAKED *SIGH* (oops, sorry caps)

    • Charlie

      Plus, no commercials!

      I don’t think I’ve seen the Sichuan dating show, but that show where people are navigating foam obstacles above water is always on. The best thing that Chinese TV has going for it is that it’s so wacky and bizarre.

  10. We offer satellite tv in chengdu, here’s our website: http://www.satellitetv-china.com

    Feel free to call me for more information: 150-1698-1606

  11. Just to let everyone know, the link to the website.. satellitetvguru.net above should NOT be used…the website has a Trojan loader inside an html frame. While my security system thwarted the malware injection, most peoples computers will not. So if you clicked the link as of this post..your system is most likely infected with a win32 Trojan now.

    Oh…and thanks for the info on Sat-TV

    • Charlie

      Thanks Lain, I removed that link. Visit that site at your own risk.

      • I should have contacted every single one of these providers first before linking and I apologize for not having done that. The services seem to be scams in some respects (shutting off after a short period) and dirty scams like the one Lain caught.

        We’ll do a follow up on this soon, with Chengdu specific information and post it ASAP.

  12. Brendan

    Just to add to this, if anyone is considering buying a satellite system, avoid the LAN based packages that rely on your internet connection for service. They are unstable as hell, freeze regularly for long periods, and are prone to having the access codes blocked, therefore rendering the service useless. Not such a big deal if you don’t mind losing your service until a guy turns up to reprogram new codes, otherwise a real pain in the ****!

    I’m not into the Sports channels myself, so I have to say I haven’t missed having satellite since my system expired late last year. I can find decent Blu-Rays or even rips for cheap/nothing, and enjoy not having the babble of TV in my home. But if News & Sports are your thing, satellite is definitely the way to go. Chinese TV is a whole new kind of torture to me. How many ‘Scheming Business’, ‘Ancient Times’, ‘Revolution/War’, ‘No Talent’ shows can a nation watch!? Apparently the answer is ‘Infinite’.

    • Charlie

      Chinese TV is truly another kind of torture. I feel like we’re moving past the tv era anyway with the internet offering all the news we need and movies and television shows all being easily accessible through other means like you say.

  13. http://www.dishhdtvchina.com/

    gets a “thumbs up” from me :o)

  14. This post is old I know… but can someone tell me in which website can I find the service?
    I live in Taiyuan, Shanxi and as far as I know there are no companies doing it here 🙁

    • Charlie

      Hi Pamela,

      That might be difficult to find since these sort of things are usually regional. You could look for local advertisements, ask the nearest Chinese tech person, or search on Baidu for this. You would probably want to search for something like “卫星电视 太原”. I did this and found this post with some information, although it is from 2010. Satellite dishes are kind of a thing of the past now with high speed internet becoming increasingly available across China.

  15. Hi,
    we live in Liaoning province, city of Fushun, and would like to install a sat. dish that can receive specifically Dutch television. Most sat. broadcasting in Europe is by Astra dishes but do you have products that we can install in Fushun that receive Dutch television please?

  16. We offer satellite tv in chengdu, here’s our website: http://www.satellitetv-china.com

    Feel free to call me for more information: 150-1698-1606

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