Cycling (and other stuff) on satellite TV in NZ

10 06 2011

If you’re interested in European professional cycling like the Tour and the Giro or the Tour of California or the Tour Down Under then you’d might be interested to know that it’s a reasonably easy and inexpensive exercise to tune in to the Tasmanian beam of Australia’s SBS. They have an hour long weekly cycling show on Sunday’s at 7pm NZ time. Have a look at Cycling Central to see what’s on.

SBS also has enough food shows, Japanese game shows, subtitled foreign language films and docos on 2 channels that it also makes it worth it if sports cycling doesn’t float your boat. They’re also pretty big on soccer, which they curiously call football.

I’ve just gone through the process of getting satellite TV installed with 2 dishes.

The SBS channels are on the Optus D1 satellite. That’s the same satellite as Freeview and Sky. You may need a 90cm dish, as the 65cm dish may not be quite good enough. SBS’s Tasmanian signal has vertical polarity, whilst Freeview and Sky have horizontal polarity. So if you have an existing satellite dish you may be able to reuse it, and get a different LNB (the funny thing on the front of the dish). LNB’s aren’t expensive (about $30) and you can get a dual one to get both polarities and tune in Freeview and SBS1 and SBS2. (SBS1 is also there in HD). On the same dish you can also get another LNB (or two) and tune in Optus D2. (I went with only a vertical polarity on D2 as the horizontal would only give me 1 extra non-religious channel in English – Myanmar International). On the second (1.2m) dish I can tune in to Intelsat 5 which gives me Australia Network and BBC World News.

The 4 signals from the LNB and the existing UHF are inputs into a multiplexer and then the signals get mixed and can be sent out to 4 or 8 rooms or whatever. Then you get a set top box or a PVR and plug it into your TV. If you have a Freeview receiver you may be able to use it for satellite TV as well. There is a thing called MHEG-5 which puts an episode guide for Freeview and limits your receiver to only those channels. Don’t get one of them. If you need one get a cheap one from Dish TV or Topfield. They are only a bit above $100.

So for only a few months that a Sky subscription would cost you can set yourself up with free to air satellite TV. I ended up getting all the Freeview channels plus 7 English language non-religious channels SBS1, SBS2, Australia Network, BBC World News, NHK World TV, Russia Today and Press TV. Then there are channels in Dutch, Hungarian, Romanian, Serbian, Thai, and Arabic plus 15 religious ones that you don’t have to watch.

I’m unlikely to watch much of the sports cycling with all that lycra, but Australia Network does carry Australian Rules Football, and with all this Rugby World Cup carry on in NZ, I think I’ll watch some real football.




2 responses

26 03 2012
Joan and Jake Manson

This is very interesting. My husband is a keen cyclist with the Wanganui Road cycling club. We are getting Freeview through a UHF aerial but get sky though a satellite dish. Can we pick up these cyclig channels with UHF? If so- how?

26 03 2012

SBS-1 and 2 are on the Optus D1 satellite. So your Freeview on UHF won’t help.
On the Optus D1 satellite and viewable from NZ there is Sky and Freeview Sat, and the Tasmanian SBS signals.

There are some technical complications for you though:
If you have a small Sky dish such as 60cm then it won’t get enough signal for the SBS channels. You need a 90cm dish for SBS.
Your LNB (the thing at the front of your dish) will be single polarity. It will currently be picking up the horizontal polarities which are Freeview Sat and Sky. SBS is on the vertical polarity. You could send a tone up to your LNB (probably) which switches its polarity but that means you won’t pick up your Sky channels at the same time.
You only have a Sky set top box. These are pretty limited. I don’t think you’ll get to tune in things Sky don’t approve of. The Freeview-UHF set top box (if you don’t use a TV with an inbuilt receiver can’t be used for satellite signals).

So to keep what you have and add SBS you’d need to do this (it’s not the only way, but its probably the best):
Replace the LNB with a dual polarity LNB and then there’d be two coaxes coming from the dish.
Put both coaxes into a preferably powered 5×4 multiswitch. (It can take up to 4 polarities plus it can take a UHF signal (which can be diplexed out with a $10 diplexer at the lounge room end and sent to your Freeview-HD box or inbuilt Freeview TV))
From the outputs of the multiswitch, send two to your lounge room. Plug your sky box into one. Then get yourself a DVB-S receiver (something like at the low end – you can get cheaper on TradeMe, but this one is reasonable quality – no HDMI out though). Avoid a freeview only satellite receiver with MHEG-5 as it will be hard or impossible to tune non Freeview channels.

You’d have SBS1 and SBS2 and all the Freeview sat channels through that set top box.
You’d also be able to send the other outputs to other rooms.

Saying all that, I predict with the Analogue switch off in Australia we’re going to lose the SBS channels in NZ in 2013 as Tasmania will be served by the VAST network. So you might only get one or two Tours in.

If you’re doubling up the LNB polarity and using a multiswitch then you may as well get a second LNB mounted on the same dish and get some extra channels as well. In English there is Russia Today, NHK World, Myanmar International and Press TV + a dozen or so religious channels. Then there is a whole lot of foreign language channels.

Here are the channel lists (they’re a bit hard to read):

I know that sounds really complicated, but the end result should only be a few hundred dollars. Rough costs: are 1 dish, if you need one, $130. 2 LNBs = 2x$60. Multiswitches about $100, and the receiver under $150. Plus cabling and install.

We love SBS. We set it up for my in-laws and they love it too. If you are the type of person who likes the programming on TVN7 then you’ll love SBS 1 and 2, and not just for the cycling coverage. I’m going to miss it when it is gone (or I’ll move to Australia).

I’ve gone a bit crazy since then and now tune in 5 sats and have a large mesh dish I bought on trademe and have about 150 channels in all. I still watch SBS a lot though.

Hope that helps,

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