The PAL system is used in Amsterdam and throughout Europe for standard definition television transmissions and DVD playback. As a consequence, televisions and DVD players from North America and Japan (which use the NTSC system) will probably not work in Amsterdam, unless they are “multisystem” (ie, they are compatible with both PAL and NTSC). This also applies to cable and satellite television as well as ordinary network television.
Note that this does not apply to high definition television and Blu-ray discs, which do not use the PAL or NTSC systems. There still may be some incompatibilties with European broadcast standards, although this should not be a problem for cable and satellite television systems.
There are eight public television channels plus 22 other channels available for free in almost every home via a cable connection. Your home will already have this connection, if not then contact KPN.
There are three semi-state stations, Nederland 1, 2 and 3.
- Nederland 1 shows popular TV shows, news and some documentaries.
- Nederland 2 shows sports, lighter entertainment shows and current affairs.
- Nederland 3 shows films, comedy, soap operas and drama.
These three broadcast mostly in Dutch but show some English language films, and most municipalities or regions have a more local station: In Amsterdam’s case this is AT5, showing local news and information.
UPC and Tele2 can provide additional channels and services such as a set top box (typically this is a digital receiver the provider will send to you for self-installation) that can record programs and also pause or replay the television program you are currently watching. This can also be provided as a package along with internet and phone. Prices start from €17.00 per month.
These TV providers also offer on demand options, where you can choose to watch a film either from the free monthly renewed options or by paying a small amount.
Almost all cable services will offer the following Dutch stations:
- RTL (Radio Television Luxembourg) 4 – soap operas, popular entertainment, news
- RTL 5 – shows popular American shows and some Dutch versions of popular shows such as America’s Next Top Model
- RTL 7 – Big sports events and some popular shows (Mostly Dutch)
- RTL 8 – Mostly targeting older women this station shows talk shows and soaps mainly
- NET 5 – Reality shows, talk shows, soaps, and some movies (movies often in English)
- SBS 6 – Reality shows, documentaries, sports (Anyone interested in learning Dutch through television should look out for Peter de Vries, you will have an instant ‘in’ with most middle aged Dutch people if you can demonstrate a knowledge of this famous sleuth – think Unsolved Mysteries in Dutch).
- Veronica – Mostly English, popular American shows from today and yesteryear
- TMF Nederlands – Music, music, and stories about music
- Het Gesprek – Mixed English and Dutch this station shows current affairs shows, usually in interview form
And the following international stations:
- Comedy Central – Almost all English, exclusively comedy
- Discovery Channel – Nature, climate, human geography documentaries in English
- CNN – European version of the popular news channel in English
- BBC 1 – News, documentaries, current affairs, dramas
- BBC 2 – documentaries, current affairs, various series
- TV5 (French) – News, documentaries, movies, dramas in French
- Animal Planet – wildlife documentaries in English
- National Geographic – magazine station presenting human interest, wildlife, and international affairs documentaries in English
- Jetix – off shoot of Fox Kids, Kids shows dubbed or subtitle in Dutch
- MTV – formerly a music video station, now it mainly airs reality TV shows in English
- Nickelodeon – cartoons and kids’ entertainment dubbed or subtitled in Dutch
- Eurosport – sports news and events (language varies)
- ZDF (German) – Popular German TV shows and some English language classics dubbed into German.
SKY provide an even larger range of channels than UPC or Tele2, however this involves installation of a satellite dish which may not be possible in some areas. Basic packages start at about €24.50 per month and go all the way up to €63 per month with the option of paying for additional channels. Canal Digitaal (http://www.canaldigitaal.nl) are the biggest provider. They recommend installing your dish yourself but if in doubt make contact with them. Note: If you are renting you will need the landlord’s permission before installing a dish.
As well as using the PAL system, all of Europe is in DVD Region 2. This means that DVDs purchased in other regions: US, Canada and Japan (Region 1), most of South East Asia (Region 3), Australia, New Zealand and Central and South America (Region 4), Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Africa, Central and South Asia, Mongolia and North Korea (Region 5), and China (Region 6) may not be playable in a European DVD player. Also, DVD players purchased in those regions may not play Region 2 DVD discs.
Similar (but not identical) restrictions apply to Blu-ray discs.