Can you use an HDTV from the US in another country?

Sort of. Today’s televisions are much more global than televisions of previous generations. Still, while you may be able to plug it in and turn it on, there’s a possibility that there won’t be any content.

But why?

There are a lot of reasons you might want to bring a US-made TV into another country. Maybe you’re moving there. Maybe you’re sending someone a gift and you got a great deal here in the states. Or, maybe it’s not another country at all.

See, the biggest reason why you would do this isn’t to go to another country. It’s because another country comes to you, sort of. We have a lot of customers with yachts that use 220 volt power common in Europe. When you get on one of these, it’s like stepping onto another country. For the less well-heeled, cruise ships are often the same. While you’re not likely to bring your TV with you when you’re on a cruise, you might want to install a US-made TV if your yacht is docked in a US port.

It’s partially about different technologies

Before the digital transition in the US, it was almost impossible to use an American television in most of the world. It wasn’t just the shape of the plug, it was that most countries outside of North America used a completely different broadcasting system. Sadly, that part is still true. While standard definition TVs used the NTSC, PAL or SECAM systems, today’s HDTVs use ATSC or DVB for their tuning. DVB is a set of open standards that work within many countries for digital TV transmission either from land-based towers or from satellites. The US uses ATSC, which was developed to strict American guidelines and contains Dolby Digital sound, which is patented. In fact, much of the broadcast technology is patented and therefore unavailable to some parts of the world but specifically Dolby Digital is rarely used outside the US due to strict licensing requirements.

Still, this isn’t 1975, right? There’s more to TV than just broadcast. You might want to use a streaming box or some other media player. You’d still need to be concerned about power. In the US, we use 120 volt alternating current at 60 hertz. Much of the rest of the country uses 220 or 240 volt current at 50 hertz. If your TV isn’t set up to use that higher amount of current, it will break instantly when you plug it in.

How it could work

So, let’s say you took your television overseas. You looked in the owners’ manual and found that you were able to set it to use the 50Hz electricity used in many nations, and set it (as necessary) to use 240 volts rather than the customary 120 of the good old U S of A. Let’s say you were incredibly fortunate that you even had an appropriate power cord.

When you powered on your TV, you might find that you could connect a DVD or Blu-ray Disc player that was already onboard. You even got both sound and picture. (Remember, many yachts still aren’t set up for internet service. If you want yours to be, call us at 888-233-7563.) Then, you’d try putting in your disc and … nothing. Both DVDs and Blu-ray Discs are “region coded.” Discs designed for North America simply won’t play in overseas equipment unless it is specially designed. There, just as here, most players aren’t specially designed to do that.

That said, you could connect the TV to an external tuner if there was one available, possibly to a satellite or cable box, and it would work just fine in many cases. Really though, it’s a bit of a gamble and the better thing to do is leave your TV in your living room and use something that’s available at your overseas destination.

More advice from the experts

If you’re looking to upgrade your yacht the right way, you’ll want experts on your side. Call the folks at Signal Connect. They’ve done more home theater and marine electronics installations than practically anyone in the world. It all starts with a call to 888-233-7563, or by filling out the form below.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.