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.
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