Television Stations, Satellite and Cable in Brazil

Getting to grips with TV standards, how to subscribe to cable and what's available to the TV viewer in Brazil...

The transmission standard in Brazil is PAL-M. There are three main television/video standards in use throughout the world.

  • NTSC: used in the USA, Canada, Japan and some other countries
  • PAL: used in most of Western Europe, Australasia and South Africa
  • SECAM: used in France and Eastern Europe

The three systems are not compatible with each other. In Brazil, it is not possible to watch television on a NTSC or SECAM appliance, or to use DVD or video players which are configured for these systems. Multi-standard TVs, DVDs and video equipment are compatible with PAL (or NTSC) camcorders, DVD players and game consoles. The PAL-M system is unique to Brazil and is almost identical to North American NTSC signals. An upgraded version of Japan’s ISDB-T system is also used in Brazil (H.264 AVC video compression and HE-AAC audio compression). Hardware is therefore interchangeable with only minor software changes to modify encoding signals.

Brazilian Television

Television first arrived in Brazil in the 1950s. Cable arrived in 1995, digital TV in 2007 and cell-phone TV at about the same time. There is also a range of programming available on the Internet.

Due to the high illiteracy rate in Brazil, television programming has historically been used as a medium for political message. Novellas (soap operas) are extremely popular, and often contain subtle political messages written into the plots. Soap operas are so popular, in fact, that televised football game kickoffs may be scheduled around them.

There is no TV license payable in Brazil, but cable and satellite television are both by subscription. As almost all TV in Brazil is commercial, there are frequent and lengthy breaks for commercials and sponsorship, as well as voice-over commercials within programs (for example, for beer during football games).

Networks and Channels

There are five major networks: Band, RedeTV, Globo, Rede Record, and SBT. Brazil TV is a national state-run channel and TV Cultura a São Paulo state-run channel. MTV Brazil is another very popular national channel, and TV Camera and Senado report on the Chamber of the Republic and Federal Senate respectively. There are a large number of regional channels. With satellite and cable there is a vast choice of channels available. Many religious channels have emerged in recent years and TV evangelism is now common in many regions of Brazil.

The majority of Brazilian television is in Portuguese, with programs in other languages dubbed and not subtitled. Films in cinemas almost always show imported films subtitled and not dubbed.

Many major daily newspapers, such as Folha de São Paulo and Estadao, show daily listings for all major channels and have weekend supplements, which have listings for the week ahead.

How to Get Cable TV

Satellite television is not widely available in Brazil, however, most developed urban areas will have access to cable. Many imported programs on cable offer a choice of viewing languages. Cable channels include Italian, French and German channels, among others. For a complete list of programs available, see the cable service provider's website. The provider(s) available will differ from area to area. Major service providers in Brazil include:

Many subscribers opt to receive their telephone, cable and Internet from one provider. Subscriptions can be made by telephone. Some shopping centers also have stores where a person can subscribe to cable television, Internet and telephone. The following information will be required:

  • A passport or Foreigner's Identification Number (RNE)
  • A CPF number (Cadastro de Pessoa Fîsical), the individual taxpayer's number
  • A Brazilian bank account with a direct debit facility (a CPF is required to obtain a bank account)

The cable provider will then send an engineer to the person's address (usually within five days) to install the equipment and establish a monthly direct debit from the subscriber's bank account.