ARD is Germany’s biggest public service broadcaster. In fact, it is the second-biggest in the world. Little wonder then that it is seen as something of a German institution and is a part of everyday viewing for almost everyone in Germany. But in today’s global society, many Germans find themselves based abroad. And if they try to watch any ARD channel overseas they will find themselves disappointed. This is because ARD is only available inside Germany. And to ensure that no-one outside the country can stream their channels live or watch their on-demand content, they use geo-restriction technology to block access to their streaming service.
This has left countless expat Germans frustrated and disappointed that they cannot watch their favorite shows, catch the news from back home, or watch German language coverage of the world’s biggest sporting and entertainment events. But there is a solution to this problem and it is called a VPN. By using a VPN, it is possible for Germans overseas to stream ARD no matter where in the world they are. And it is remarkably simple and cheap to do it too. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about how to stream ARD outside Germany as well as recommend the best VPN providers for the job.
How to watch ARD outside Germany
If you try and stream ARD content from outside Germany, you will receive an error message telling you that their service is not available overseas. This is ARD’s geo-blocking technology in action. It works by taking a look at the IP Address linked to your internet connection. This little bit of code, which all of your internet data is tagged with, includes details of precisely where in the world you are. If you are located outside Germany it is therefore pretty simple for ARD to find out and refuse you access to their service.
But if you are connected to a VPN, it is possible to fool the ARD site into thinking you are in Germany even when you are not. You can do this by connecting to a VPN server located in Germany. All of your internet data is then passed through this server before it visits the ARD website. When it passes through this server, the IP Address of the server is tagged to your data instead of your own one. Because this server is located in Germany, ARD, therefore, thinks you are there too and so allows you access to their online streaming service. It is a really simple process:
- Sign up for a VPN.
- Download their app onto the device you want to stream ARD on.
- Log-in and connect to a server based in Germany.
- Visit the ARD website and start streaming.
The only real difficult thing is deciding which of the many VPN providers on the market to use:
Best VPNs to watch ARD outside Germany
Choosing the best VPN to stream ARD outside Germany can seem like a daunting prospect. There are dozens of VPNs on the market and all seem to think they are the best around. But the reality is that some are much better bets for online streaming than others. So, how to choose the best one?
That is where we come in. We have tested all of the biggest VPNs providers to which does the best job of streaming ARD outside Germany. In the process of testing, we identified a number of core criteria which we found all of the best VPNs offered. They were:
- Fast Connection Speeds – Some VPNs can really slow up your internet speeds, but this makes streaming almost impossible. But the very best VPN providers offer super-fast connections which are ideal for online streaming.
- No bandwidth restrictions – Online streaming is very data intensive, but some VPNs limit the amount of data you can use. That’s no good for ARD streamers, so you need to choose a provider with no bandwidth restrictions whatsoever.
- Size of server network –the more international servers a VPN offers, the easier it will be to access ARD from anywhere in the world.
- Encryption strength and security–VPNs are an online security and privacy tool and the best providers will always offer strong encryption to keep user data safe when streaming ARD content overseas.
- Effectiveness of privacy policies – Because ARD don’t want you to stream their content from overseas, it is important to ensure your data is kept private while doing it. The best VPNs keep no user logs meaning there is no record kept anywhere of what website you are visiting online.
Based on these criteria, we have identified three top providers which we feel are perfect for streaming ARD from overseas. Each of offers subscribers secure encryption, reliable privacy protections, and super-fast connection speeds. All of them are ideal for streaming ARD from outside Germany, but each has slightly different qualities. So, here are our recommended VPN providers:
ExpressVPN is a big name in the VPN world and with good reason. It is quite simply one of the best all-round VPNs on the market and is a great bet for streaming ARD outside Germany. As the use of the term ‘express’ suggests, ExpressVPN specializes in lightning fast connections which makes it ideal for streaming media content online. It combines these speeds with security and privacy protections which are as good as any other provider on the market. ExpressVPN offers 256-bit encryption as standard on all connections and also offer an IP address checker and DNS leak protection. As they are based in the British Virgin Islands, they are also able to offer some of the most robust privacy protections around too including a guaranteed no-logging policy.
ExpressVPN can offer not just quality but quantity too. Their server network is one of the biggest around too with in excess of 1,500 servers available for all subscribers in 94 different countries, including plenty in Germany. They have absolutely no data usage or bandwidth limitations and you can access their service through one of their great range of user-friendly apps which can be downloaded onto just about every device. The only small downside to ExpressVPN is that it is priced a little higher than some of its competitors. But, they say you get what you pay for, and with ExpressVPN you are definitely getting the best.
Read our full ExpressVPN review here.
NordVPN comes in much cheaper than ExpressVPN, especially thanks to their new three-year subscription deal. But it still delivers a great all-round service which is perfect for streaming ARD outside Germany. There was a time when NordVPN had a reputation for slow connection speeds. But not anymore. Recent infrastructure investments mean they now offer one of the most modern and fast server networks around.
It is a big network too, with 1779 servers available across 61 countries globally. Again, Germany is well catered for. NordVPN also matches the best with its security provisions are excellent too as 256-bit encryption is offered on OpenVPN connections as standard. They also boast a variety of additional security features such as a kill switch, shared IP Addresses, double VPN servers (which reroutes your internet data via two servers for extra protection) and Onion over VPN servers (which pushes your traffic through the TOR Network and a VPN for additional security). There are no data restrictions for NordVPN customers either, which all adds up to making NordVPN another excellent choice for anyone wanting to stream ARD outside Germany.
Read our full NordVPN review here.
CyberGhost is the final recommendation for streaming ARD outside Germany, and it is an especially good choice for anyone who is new or nervous about VPNs. CyberGhost has a great range of well-designed, user-friendly apps which are available on almost every device and need no configuration or technical knowledge whatsoever. To stream ARD overseas, all you need to do is click on “Unblock Streaming” and then choose a server in Germany. CyberGhost will do the rest for you and once connected, you can visit the ARD website and stream whatever content you like.
CyberGhost is really easy to use, but that doesn’t mean it compromises on the quality of its service. CyberGhost still offers robust security and privacy protections including 256-bit encryption across all connections and a trustworthy no logging policy. Their server network is also a big one, with 1,300 servers available in almost 60 countries, including several in Germany. CyberGhost does everything the other two recommended VPN providers can, and it keeps things really simple and easy too. A great choice.
Read our full CyberGhost review here.
What is ARD?
ARD is the necessary acronym for ‘Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland’ which means Consortium of public broadcasters in Germany. It is a joint organization created by Germany’s various regional public broadcasters in 1950 to establish a joint television network. Today, ARD is the second biggest public broadcaster in the world with an annual budget of almost €7 billion. It is funded primarily from the German TV license which costs each household €17.50 per month.
ARD’s national public television network is commonly known as Das Erste (The First) and it has been broadcasting continuously since 1954. The consortium also runs two digital TV channels and contributes to a number of other channels alongside other public and commercial broadcasters. ARD also operates seven regional television networks 54 regional and local radio stations across the country, and also Deutsche Welle, the international German language channel.
What can I watch on ARD?
ARD’s principal channel is Das Erste which is available on free-to-air TV across Germany. As with most other public service channels, Das Erste is focused on informing and educating the German population rather than being driven by ratings alone and this is reflected in the broad range of content it offers. It offers a wide range of factual and discussion programmes and a highly regarded news and current affairs output. It also offers a range of children’s shows, and original German-language dramas, comedies, and soaps. For a long time, it has provided coverage of the Bundesliga soccer league in German as well as covering various other sporting, cultural, and music events.
ARD also operates One, a digital channel aimed at viewers between the ages of 30 and 49. It main broadcasts entertainment-based content with a focus on movies, drama series, documentaries, reports, magazines, and pop and rock music programmes. Most of these are repeated from other ARD channels and include both original German and overseas content (which has been dubbed). One also carries some additional coverage of sporting events being covered on Das Erste. ARD also operates tagesschau24, a channel mostly dedicated to news but also featuring some culture, sports and science programmes. And alongside ZDF and others, ARD is also involved in the operation of a number of other channels in Germany including KI.KA (a children’s channel), Arte (culture and arts shows), 3sat (advert free cultural content), and Phoenix (documentaries, news, and discussion shows).
What devices can I use to stream ARD content?
ARD is a free-to-air television channel that can be found on terrestrial TV in Germany as well as almost all satellite and cable TV packages too. ARD channels and content can also be streamed live and on-demand through their website at www.ardmediathek.de. Here you can watch live streams from all of their channels as well as catch-up with your favorite shows through their content library. Their online streaming service should work with all major web browsers.
In addition, you can also download ARD or Das Erste apps onto almost any mobile device too. They offer recently an updated iOS app for both iPhones and iPads which looks great and is easy to use. And there is also an impressive Android app available too, which is compatible with just about every Android device. You can also download and access ARD content through most Smart TVs too. Unfortunately, no matter which device you choose to use to stream ARD channels, you will find the content is blocked when you try to access it from outside the country. This is where a VPN comes in. All of the VPNs we have recommended offer dedicated apps for every major mobile device. Once your VPN is connected to a German server, you will find that you can access the various ARD apps no matter where you are.
ARD is Germany’s first and biggest public service broadcaster and offers a huge range of German language content. It’s main channel, Das Erste, is a national institution broadcasting many much-loved shows as well as a range of current affairs, sporting, and cultural content. For the many German’s who live overseas, ARD’s TV channels are much-missed. But now you don’t have to miss out on your favorite shows. As we have explained in this article, you can still watch ARD’s various channels from outside Germany despite their attempts to use geo-restriction technology to stop you. Just sign up with one of the three VPNs we have recommended and then connect to a German server and you can watch ARD programmes no matter where in the world you are.
Are you a German expat who grew up watching ARD content on Das Erste or its other channels? How do you find their coverage and the online streaming service they offer? Are you impressed with their online apps? Do you miss their shows now you are outside the country? Have you tried watching ARD outside Germany using a VPN? Which VPN provider did you use? Was it one of the ones we recommend? How did you find their service? We always like to hear the comments and opinions of all our readers, so why not share them with us using the comment box below?