It’s been over five years since I first wrote about NEXTV and “Watching German TV in the USA and Canada”. The great thing about Toronto-based NEXTV was that it allowed you to watch virtually the full range of German public and commercial TV channels on your regular TV – no computer needed. NEXTV’s high-quality streaming video could be fed through a Roku device connected to a TV set (via an HDMI cable for HD), making it difficult to tell it wasn’t real television. It was almost like being in Germany.
“Was” – past tense. Suddenly in early November, without any warning, it was all gone. Well, all except a limited offering of channels similar to that also offered by Dish via satellite, although at a lower price. No more ARD, ZDF, RBB, RTL, WDR, and the many other “real” German channels that were available until they simply vanished.
2016 UPDATE: Some of NEXTV’s German channels have returned, but we’re still missing a lot of what was once part of NEXTV’s channel lineup. For the details see my new blog post: German TV Options for North Americans.
I first found out what had happened when I received a desperate email from a man who wanted to know if I knew what had happened, and if I knew of any good alternatives. After checking to see if the channels were indeed gone (they were), I knew there were few if any good alternatives.
An email and a toll-free phone-call exchange with NEXTV in Toronto confirmed the bad news – but also offered a ray of hope. According to a person at NEXTV, talks with the distributor of the German channels had broken down, and they were forced to pull the plug on November 3, 2015. But efforts to restore at least some of the German channels are continuing, and subscribers are encouraged to “stay tuned” at a reduced rate of $9.99 per month. If some of the former German channels return, they’ll automatically be available (and free for a short term).
Okay. As the Germans say, “Daumen drücken.” (Keep your fingers crossed; “press the thumb”) What can you do in the meantime? Here are some possible alternatives…
This satellite TV service is the only American one with German channels, and the only actual television option. (DirecTV has some foreign language channels, but no German.) Dish’s German Package includes these channels: Deutsche Welle (DW), EuroNews German, MyGermanTV, and MyGermanTV+ (Bundesliga soccer), and ProSiebenSat.1Welt. If you’re already a Dish subscriber, the German Package costs $29.99 per month extra. The German channels are not available without a regular Dish subscription.
For only $9.99 a month NEXTV now offers a channel lineup very similar to Dish’s. You won’t get DW or Bundesliga soccer, but you do get EuroNews German (HD), ProSiebenSat.1Welt (SD), German Kino Plus (SD, old movies and TV series), Schlager TV (SD), two German music audio channels, and even some extra channels in English: Al Jazeera English (HD), CHCH Channel (Canada, SD), Fox News (HD), Press TV (SD), and Russia Today News (HD). It’s disappointing that about half the channels are not HD, and it’s not a very big range of channels. For that you’ll need to consider…
German TV Company
This streaming video service is the closest thing to the old NEXTV German programming that is now available. For about the same price that NEXTV used to charge, you get a pretty wide selection of German TV channels (90), plus an option NEXTV does not offer: recording.
Like NEXTV, German TV Company’s service works with your regular TV set. Unlike NEXTV, they do not currently offer a Roku option. To watch on a TV set, you have to buy a special box, the Alfa UX2 Media Player, that costs $119.99. That means that those of us who are using a Roku to watch NEXTV will have to shell out $120 for another device that only works with German TV Company. You can also watch on your computer without a box, but you’ll need the free VLC PLayer installed on your computer.
German TV Company has several plans that range from basic service ($20.83/mo.) to a full package that includes the box and a discounted price for a full year subscription ($349.98). They were offering a Thanksgiving sale [now expired] that got you a “Starter Package” for only $84.98, a discount of $60 off the usual $144.98 cost. The special package includes a 30-day multi-room subscription, two weeks of recording for most channels, immediate online access, the Alfa UX2 Media Player with remote, and a composite video cable (no HD). If you want HD, you have to get your own HDMI cable or buy it from German TV. The optional Wi-Fi adapter for the Alpha UX2 box is another $19.99. Shipping is free in the US.
If and when German TV Company offers the Roku option they claim is “coming soon,” it will be a better option, but for now it is the best alternative to NEXTV. I can’t offer a review of German TV Company’s service because I have not subscribed yet. But the special Thanksgiving offer is tempting. Stay tuned.
Watch for a more detailed article about other German TV viewing options, VPNs and other options for watching geo-blocked TV programming.