German Television in North America

German Television in North America

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German Fernsehen in the U.S. - a Brief History

NEW! The German Kino Plus movie channel is now a part of the DISH German Package!

Before we look at the current German-language TV programming via Dish Network, let's review its somewhat turbulent history…

The history of German television in the U.S. has been a bumpy road. In the "good ol' days" you needed to be living east of the Mississippi and have a huge satellite TV dish in order to receive any German-language TV in the U.S. at all. But then came the digital satellite TV revolution, and I wrote about the debut of privately-owned ChannelD ("D" for Deutschland) in September 2001. Not long after that the German public television networks ARD, ZDF, and Deutsche Welle began beaming their GERMAN TV service to viewers in North and South America, also via satellite. Their slogan: "Watch what Germany watches!" ("Sehen, was Deutschland sieht!") Each sat TV service charged a modest monthly subscription fee and required the purchase or rental of a dish and digital receiver.

Although the two German television broadcasters used two different satellites and two different digital TV systems, it was an embarassment of riches for German-hungry TV viewers in America. But it wasn't long before dark shadows began to loom over the German TV landscape in the U.S. About a year after its debut Bremen-based ChannelD went bankrupt and closed down in late 2002. GERMAN TV was more successful, but it was also having trouble getting enough subscribers, and its efforts to get onto major cable TV systems across the U.S. were spotty at best. But GERMAN TV's programming was pretty good. Even if we really couldn't watch anything close to what Germany was really watching, we did get the genuine nightly news from ARD and ZDF, plus some popular German TV series, some movies, and other entertainment programming.

Then, in early 2005, came an important breakthrough. GERMAN TV moved to the Dish Network. Now average people who didn't want a separate dish and receiver just for German could simply add GERMAN TV to their Dish subscription. True, you needed a larger SuperDish antenna, but compared to the pre-Dish situation, it was a major improvement. And it got even better when the German private TV broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 Welt was added to Dish's German package in February 2005. For about $20 a month you could get both German channels. (Recently, Dish added a third German channel: EuroNews. The current package fee is $16.99/month or $186.89 annually. Separately: $14.99 for ProSieben, $9.99 for DW-TV. Prices subject to change.)

But all good things must come to an end. On December 31, 2005 came the "Garaus" (end) for GERMAN TV. The German government was no longer willing to subsidize the ARD/ZDF/DW service. At the start of 2006 GERMAN TV was replaced with the much more modest offerings of DW-TV. The Deutsche Welle TV service broadcasts mostly news and cultural programming on the old GERMAN TV channel, alternating each hour between German and English. (More below.)

The current situation can be summed up this way: DW-TV provides mostly news, and is also good for people in your home who do not understand German. There is some soccer, but mostly highlights and summaries. The new ARD/ZDF talk shows (as of May 2007) are a great improvement. ProSiebenSat.1 Welt is primarily entertainment and sports. It offers movies in German, detective series, comedy, quiz shows, etc. The news (from N24) is limited. Soccer fans will also enjoy Pro7. The new EuroNews channel is what the name says: European news in several languages, including German. (But read about the EuroNews catch on the next page.) A SuperDish antenna (an oval dish larger than the standard round dish) is required for reception of the German and other foreign-language channels. On the next page you'll find a more detailed overview of the three channels in the Dish Network German Package.

NEXT > Programming Comparisons

Programming Comparisons

The former GERMAN TV channel on Dish Network is now the DW-TV channel. Although Deutsche Welle broadcasts worldwide in many languages (radio and TV), the version in the USA is in German and English only. Unlike GERMAN TV, which had all its programming in German, DW-TV alternates between English and German. For one hour the news and other broadcasts are in German. In the next hour the programming is in English, and so on. DW-TV focuses primarily on news, weather, and cultural information. The news broadcast "Journal" provides the news sports, and weather from Berlin, alternately in German and English. The news (worldwide and from Germany/Europe) is primarily aimed at viewers outside of Germany, unlike the nightly news from ARD or ZDF. Non-news shows pop up occasionally, including "euromaxx" (fashion, art, cinema, music, other trends), "Pop Export" (music "made in Germany"), and a few others. Earlier DW-TV hinted at possibly providing some ARD or ZDF (German public TV networks) entertainment programs in the future, and in May 2007 they did indeed add several German talk shows from ARD and ZDF.


ProSiebenSat.1 Welt (Pro7)
Pro7 began broadcasting its U.S. programming in February 2005. The German commercial television network ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG was part of the Kirch Media empire until Leo Kirch went bankrupt in 2002. The network was put up for sale, but as of early 2006, the final fate of Pro7 and all its divisions was still up in the air. For American viewers the ProSiebenSat.1 Welt channel is part of Dish Network's German package. Its programming is a mix of shows from Germany's Pro7, kabel eins, N24, and Sat.1 channels. Although it can be purchased separately, the Pro7 channel makes a good complement to news-oriented DW-TV by offering viewers more entertainment and sports. All-German Pro7 has a schedule that includes talk shows, detective series, comedy shows, movies, soap operas, and quiz shows. Pro7 also features some documentary/exposé reporting and N24 news, but its emphasis is on entertainment programing that can range from inane low-brow to quality high-brow levels. Although it would be interesting for American viewers, the German versions of "The Simpsons," "Will & Grace" or "Desperate Housewives" seen in Germany are not available on the U.S. Pro7 channel. ProSieben has plans to also be available in Canada.

WEB > ProSiebenSat.1 Welt

NEW! As of May 2007 the German Kino Plus movie channel is now a part of the DISH German Package! More…

In December 2006 Dish Network added the EuroNews network to its German channel line-up. EuroNews in German is now available as part of the German package (and some other language packages). However, there is a catch to getting this new channel. Although I have a SuperDish and currently receive the German-language package, a Dish representative told me that I would need a new satellite dish in order to receive the EuroNews channel, even though it is part of the package I already have! Because the EuroNews channels come from a different satellite, I would have to pay $99.00 to install a new dish in order to receive EuroNews in German. This is not at all clear from their Web site, and I think it's ridiculous for Dish to supposedly add a channel to my package that I can't get without shelling out almost a hundred dollars. If you're lucky enough to live in the right spot with a dish pointed to the right satellite, you may be able to get EuroNews in German without major extra cost.

WEB > EuroNews
WEB > Dish Network German Package

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