Public Television

Germany has two national public networks. Almost without exception, programs are shown in German, or with German dubbing.

  1. ARD (Arbeitgemeinshaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland) Antenna: channel 7; cable: channel 10.
  2. ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) Antenna: channel 33; cable: channel 8.

To get connected to the public network, simply insert your aerial cable into the aerial/cable socket provided in your home. By not signing up for the cable, you will have limited access to both national public networks plus an assortment of budget commercial channels. This is perfectly legal, however remember that you will need to pay the television tax as outlined in the ‘Other Taxes‘ section of this guide.

Commercial channels are much more sensationalist, and include more American and other English-language fare, but again dubbed in German. These stations include:

Cable TV

Cable hook-up points are common in apartments, in fact you would be hard pressed to find an apartment that isn’t wired for it. Cable is simple to install, you will require only a digital receiver and a subscription agreement.

Your building will have a pool-use contract, this means that you will be required to take out cable with the cable company responsible for your building. You will need to ask your landlord, agent or even a neighbour to find out which company to contact. Connection is relatively painless; all you will need to do is call the company for your building to set up your account. This can all be handled over the phone. Then you simply need to connect the digital receiver between your TV set and the cable socket. Your subscription will cost approximately €14.99 – €49.99 depending on your package.

The range of programs available is extensive, offering both native German programs and a good range of English programs (between 10 to 20). If you have the opportunity, shop around to find the right package to suit your needs. (See below for a list of providers and their websites).

Cable television is can also be bundled an integrated high-speed Internet connection, which is usually less expensive.


An alternative to cable is satellite television, however getting your landlord to approve the installation of a dish on the side of the apartment building may be challenging. If you live in a house, this shouldn’t so much be a problem.

You will need to purchase a satellite dish and set-top box for your television, as well as a special chip card from your provider to decode the content. Once you are set up, the number of channels you can receive is endless including extensive English speaking programs. Signing up with Astra will provide you with the full range of British Channels.

Satellite and Cable Providers

Name Website Type Bundle
Arena Satellite No
Astra Satellite No
Kabel BW Cable Yes
Kabel Deutschland Cable Yes
Premiere Cable No
Primaccom Cable Yes
Telecolumbus Cable Yes
Deutsche Telekom Cable Yes

A tax on each television in your home is paid each quarter (see Other Taxes) and payable to GEZ (Gebühreneinzugszentrale) ( when the bill arrives. Trucks can come by and scan the building for usage, or people can come to the door and ask to see your home, but you don’t have to let them in. Neighbours can also be keen to inform on foreigners. Otherwise, it is simply assumed that you have a television and the burden of proof falls on you to show you do not own a television; ownership is also traced back to cable usage.