Watching German TV in the USA and Canada

When it comes to television in the USA and Germany, I’m not sure which is worse. Germany has copied from US TV (judge shows in German, dubbed crime series, late-night talk) and vice versa (some reality and quiz shows). Daytime TV in either country is a big waste of time. Late night TV in Germany, with its more titillating offerings, can be a shock for Americans. The German commercial channels (RTL, ProSieben) can be more ad-riddled than anything you’ll ever see in the US.

But we former Germany expats can get a bit homesick for German Fernsehen, especially in the realm of news. While we may have once used German TV for help with conquering the language, now we’d like to get a taste of it back in North America.

I once thought that satellite reception would be the solution to this problem, but it turns out that it’s the Internet that actually offers the best way to watch German and other foreign-language TV. Although some cable and satellite systems do offer Deutsche Welle and a few other German programming options, the only way I know to get “real” 24/7 German TV (ARD, ZDF, RTL, Sat.1, etc.) is via the Internet. Dish Network does have a German package, but it is somewhat limited, and I dropped it some time ago in favor of NEXTV. (Web links below.)

Unlike most Internet television offerings, you watch NEXTV on your TV set, not your computer. That makes the experience much more like watching regular TV at home. It does have some minor drawbacks compared to normal over-the-air or cable/sat TV, but they are compensated for by the fact that you are able to watch authentic German TV, complete with its pluses and minuses. If you want to, you can watch such German staples as “Tatort” and “Wetten, dass…” – but my favorite is the evening news from ARD and ZDF. Talk about cultural differences! The contrast between the dry, emotionless news delivery on the German public channels, and the smiling, peppy American news anchor on ABC, CBS, or NBC is one of those basic symbols of the differences between German and US daily culture.

I can barely stand to watch the news on the big three US nightly news shows any more! Not only do the many commercial interruptions bug me no end, but the news content is so… lacking in substance. To be fair, the news in Germany can also be Germany-centric, and news from the US is usually limited to big events, political or tragic (or both). But at least it covers Europe! A person watching only the US news broadcasts might not even know there is such a place as Europe. You have to watch PBS or BBC America to find out anything non-major that happened outside of the United States – or German TV.

I don’t have time to watch a lot of television, German or American, but I do like to watch German TV here in the US from time to time. I have found that Toronto-based NEXTV offers me the best way to do that. I supplement that with the online offerings of the German TV networks. NEXTV does not offer RBB, so I watch the Berlin news using RBB’s online video. But that’s on my computer. If you want to watch TV on a TV set, NEXTV does that. (Note: I do not have any association with NEXTV other than as a subscriber. I don’t even get a discount!)

To learn more about how to get NEXTV or more about some other options, see the links below.

Article about NEXTV: German TV in America

Gina wrote about German TV dubbing: The Voices in the TV

Sarah wrote about German TV: Tatort