If you’re looking for German-language content, ARD and its live stream counterpart ARD Mediathek have a lot to offer. You can view news, TV shows, and movies, as well as access sporting events including the UEFA European Cup.
Unfortunately, if you’re outside of Germany, some ARD or ARD Mediathek content may not be accessible. When trying to watch, you might be confronted with an error that reads:
“Diese Sendung steht Ihnen aus rechtlichen Gründen leider nicht zur Verfügung.” This roughly translates to: “Unfortunately, this program is not available to you for legal reasons”
Thankfully, there’s a simple solution, and that’s to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). The best VPNs encrypts all traffic going to and from your device and tunnel it through an intermediary server in a location of your choosing. It masks your real IP address and provides you with a new one from the country of your choice, for example, Germany, making it appear you’re in that location. This enables you to access ARD from the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Thailand, or anywhere else in the world. It also means you can unblock other popular German TV channels and sites such as Netflix Germany, 7TV, ZDF Mediathek, Deutsche Well (DW), Welt (N24), Zattoo, and MySpass.
The best VPNs for ARD
When it comes to choosing a VPN, many providers appear to offer a similar service, but they definitely aren’t all of the same caliber. When streaming content, you need a fast and reliable VPN service with ample choice of servers in your chosen location. You also want a provider that prioritizes your security and privacy and offers knowledgeable customer support. There’s plenty of detail on each of the providers in this post, but if you need to skip ahead, here is a summary list of the best VPNs for ARD:
- NordVPN: Our top choice. Vast network of servers with over 240 in Germany. Unblocks most German content seamlessly. Great user-friendly apps. Comes with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
TIP In our testing we found that the cheapest NordVPN plan (Standard) works perfectly for ARD.
- Surfshark: The best budget VPN for ARD. Allows an unlimited number of connections. Strong security and impressive speeds.
- ExpressVPN Superfast servers in Germany stream ARD in high quality to just about anywhere. Also unblocks most other popular streaming sites. Highly secure.
- CyberGhost Great value and impressive streaming speeds during testing. Apps are easy to set up and use.
- IPVanish Fast enough to stream ARD from abroad in high quality, plus strong security and a no-logs policy.
- PrivateVPN Smaller yet growing network gaining a reputation for unblocking popular content at good speeds.
- Hotspot Shield: A quick and reliable VPN that easily unblocks ARD abroad. Strong on security. Offers 24/7 support over live chat.
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As such, we’ve compiled a list of the best VPNs for ARD based on the following criteria:
- Operates servers in Germany
- Can unblock popular streaming sites
- Performs well in speed tests
- Provides a reliable connection
- Uses strong encryption
- Keeps no logs
- Offers reliable and knowledgeable customer support
Here is our list of the best VPNs for ARD:
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN operates a vast network of over 5,400 servers spanning more than 60 countries. Over 240 of these servers are located in Germany so you’ll certainly be able to access your ARD content without issue. NordVPN can unblock plenty of other content including that from Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Amazon Prime Video.
NordVPN doesn’t disappoint on the security and privacy front with 256-bit encryption, perfect forward secrecy, the OpenVPN or IKEv2 protocol by default (depending on the app), DNS leak protection, and a built-in kill switch. It recently added a password manager and WireGuard support. NordVPN maintains no traffic or connection logs (a fact that is regularly verified by independent auditors) so you never have to worry about information being handed over to third parties.
Up to six devices can be simultaneously connected, a step up from the industry standard of five. Apps are available for Windows, Linux, MacOS, iOS, and Android. NordVPN can also be configured manually on some routers.
- Vast server network operating 240+ servers in Germany, easily unblocks ARD
- Speeds are fast enough for HD streaming
- Apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Linux and Android
- Doesn’t skimp on security or privacy features
- Support staff are helpful and knowledgeable
- Desktop app is a bit clunky compared to other providers, could do with some modernizing
BEST VPN FOR ARD:NordVPN is our #1 choice. Works reliably with ARD and most popular streaming sites. Very fast speeds. Connects up to 6 devices simultaneously. Top notch privacy and security. Offers a risk-free 30-day money back guarantee.
See our full review of NordVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Surfshark is our top budget option for ARD. It boasts consistently high speeds, more than 3,200 servers in 65 countries, and works with all kinds of streaming platforms including Netflix and 7TV. This provider stands out from the crowd by allowing users to secure every device they own simultaneously.
This service includes 256-bit encryption, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, and a kill switch. There’s also automatic ad-blocking and malware-scanning, and thanks to a recent update, Surfshark will even check to see if your password has been found in any data dumps online. This provider does not keep any logs at all. 24/7 support is available over live chat and email.
Surfshark apps are available for iOS, Android, MacOS, Linux, and Windows. It must be manually configured for use with supported routers.
- Decent speeds for downloading and streaming
- Excellent unblocking ability
- Offers plenty of security features
- Keeps no logs
- Allows unlimited devices
- Customer support could be improved
WATCH ARD ANYWHERE:Surfshark is a low-cost provider capable of unblocking ARD from anywhere in the world. Doesn’t skimp on security or privacy features either. Has no connection limit and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of Surfshark.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
ExpressVPN is a stellar provider with all-round top-notch performance. With four server locations in Germany, you’ll have no issues finding a suitable server for your needs. All are optimized for speed and ExpressVPN is known for its ability to unblock popular streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and more.
If you have any trouble with setup or accessing the content you want, support is just a click away. On top of its vast knowledge base, ExpressVPN offers 24/7 live chat so you can always be in touch with a knowledgeable representative.
This VPN provider sees security as a top priority and packs some strong features. 256-bit AES encryption with perfect forward secrecy comes standard. ExpressVPN uses the OpenVPN protocol by default, but has other options too, including its new Lightway protocol. DNS leak protection and a built-in kill switch will make the connection even more private. Only very minimal connections logs are kept and don’t include user IP addresses.
A plan allows for five simultaneous connections and apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. ExpressVPN even has an app for routers which was recently updated to provide faster, more reliable performance.
- Operates superfast streaming servers in Darmstadt, Frankfurt & Nuremberg
- Fast enough to play HD video without buffering
- Guaranteed security with military-grade encryption
- 24-hour live chat support, 7 days a week
- Power-users may find the advanced options limited
GREAT FOR STREAMING:ExpressVPN is a great choice. A super fast and reliable choice which unblocks ARD in any country as well as most other major streaming services. Best-in-class security and privacy with 256-bit AES encryption, keep no browser logs, kill switch and leak protection. All plans include 30-day money back guarantee.
Check out our in-depth ExpressVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
CyberGhost has an ever-growing network of servers, a large portion of which is based in Europe. This includes more than 900 German servers, so you won’t be short of options. CyberGhost pegs some great speeds and a reliable connection, and you’ll find friendly and knowledgeable customer support.
Aside from growing its network, this VPN provider is also focusing on enabling users to access plenty of streaming sites including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. If you enter ‘streaming mode,’ you’ll see ARD is one of the options, along with other popular German channels 7TV and ZDF Mediathek. Select anything from this list and you’ll automatically be connected to the appropriate server.
Privacy-conscious users will be happy about CyberGhost’s no-logging policy. It stores minimal connection logs but no IP addresses, so nothing can be tied to an individual user. On the security side, you have 256-bit AES encryption and perfect forward secrecy. DNS and IPv6 leak protection and a kill switch add an extra layer of protection. There’s even a new privacy feature that’ll let you know if your email address has been leaked online.
CyberGhost plans allow you to connect up to seven devices at the same time, which is ample for most users. Desktop clients are available for Linux, Windows, and MacOS and mobile apps can be downloaded for iOS and Android. CyberGhost supports configuration with some routers.
- Budget provider that operates over 900 servers in Germany
- Testing revealed impressive speeds for streaming
- Solid privacy and security features enabled by default
- Apps are easy to install and use
- Power-users may lament lack of advanced configuration options
BEGINNER FRIENDLY:CyberGhost is great for beginners. Easy to use. Good server representation in Germany makes it ideal for ARD. Stores no logs and streams HD video reliably. Can struggle with some other popular streaming sites. 45-day money back guarantee.
Read our in-depth CyberGhost review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
IPVanish is another favorite VPN provider with a large network and extremely fast speeds. It can reliably unblock various streaming sites and with, 60 German servers, ARD poses no threat. It recently upgraded its network to provide even faster speeds, and best of all, this service lets you connect all of your devices at once.
This VPN uses strong 256-bit encryption along with perfect forward secrecy. DNS leak protection and a built-in kill switch come built-in. The kill switch will automatically kill the internet connection if the VPN connection is lost to ensure none of your information is leaked. No logs are maintained whatsoever.
IPVanish apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. It can be configured with Linux and certain routers.
- Operates 60 servers in Germany, unblocks ARD from almost anywhere
- Keeps no logs whatsoever
- Provides a secure, encrypted connection
- Doesn’t offer any browser extensions
- Look elsewhere if you need to use apps in China
NO DEVICE LIMIT:IPVanish has a large network of servers. Generally solid for ARD. High standard of privacy and security. Works well with Netflix and ARD. 30-day money back guarantee.
See our full IPVanish review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
PrivateVPN is by far the smallest VPN provider on this list, but it recently increased its network size by 25% (from 150 to 200+ servers in 63 countries). However, it offers all-round great performance. PrivateVPN is renown for its ability to unblock a ton of geo-restricted sites, including ARD, Hulu, Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime Video. In fact, there probably isn’t much it can’t unblock. Plus it has some of the fastest speeds we’ve seen in our extensive testing.
Security comes in the form of 128-bit or 256-bit encryption depending on which protocol you choose. The built-in DNS leak protection and kill switch ensure your information stays safely inside the encrypted tunnel. PrivateVPN doesn’t keep any logs of your browsing activity or the VPN connection itself.
This is another VPN service that goes just above the industry standard on connections, offering six at a time. Apps can be downloaded for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. PrivateVPN can be configured with some routers.
- Operates 2 speedy servers in Germany, no issues unblocking ARD
- Also unblocks almost all geo-restricted streaming content that we’ve tested
- Swedish based provider with a strict no-logs policy and good privacy credentials
- Above average streaming speeds in testing
- Support staff are good, but only operate during European business hours
- Few servers to chose from
GREAT SPEED:PrivateVPN is a good family choice. Boasts very high speeds and unblocks ARD with ease. Good for browsing and torrenting. Could do with having 24/7 support. 30-day money back guarantee.
Check out our full review of PrivateVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
Editor’s Note: Hotspot Shield is owned by Pango, Comparitech’s parent company.
Hotspot Shield has more than 1,800 servers in 80 countries around the world, including Germany. Its speeds are more than fast enough for live streaming, and as well as unblocking ARD, it works with platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. Users can connect up to five devices at any one time.
There’s plenty of security features built-in, including 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and protection against IPv6 and DNS leaks. Crucially, this provider refuses to log any details that could identify you. Recent updates have brought several new features, including support for IKEv2 connections and a split tunneling option that lets you choose which sites can bypass the VPN. 24/7 support is available over live chat.
Hotspot Shield has apps for MacOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. Alternatively, you can manually install it on supported home routers.
- Fast enough for lag-free 4K streaming
- Excellent unblocking potential
- Strong security and privacy protections
- Some past privacy concerns
- Users can’t sign up anonymously
EXTREMELY VERSATILE:Hotspot Shield blends speed, security, and unblocking ability to create a service that’s perfect for day-to-day use. What’s more, it offers a generous 45-day money-back guarantee.
Read our complete Hotspot Shield review.
How to stream ARD from abroad
Unblocking geo-restricted content is really quite simple.
Here’s how to unblock ARD from anywhere:
- Choose a provider (we recommend NordVPN). Next, purchase a plan and make note of your credentials.
- Download and install the VPN on your device.
- Launch the application and enter your login details.
- Choose a server in your chosen location and wait for the connection to be confirmed. To watch ARD, you’ll want to select a server in Germany so you get a German IP address.
- Access the ARD or ARD Mediathek website or download the ARD Mediathek app to your mobile device.
- Select your content and enjoy. You should now be able to watch any content you want without seeing an error.
Streaming ARD online: FAQs
Can I use a free VPN with ARD?
If you’ve been doing a little research on the various VPN providers, no doubt some mention of free services has popped up. Of course, these seem like very attractive options. After all, who doesn’t love getting something for free> Unfortunately, as with many low-cost or no-cost options, quality takes a nosedive when it comes to any free VPN for ARD.
First, you have user experience issues. Free VPN services don’t give you a lot of options when it comes to server location, so the chances of being able to connect to German server are slim. Even if it is an option, you may find yourself waiting in a queue to connect. This is because free VPNs have far too many users for their limited networks. What’s more, even once a connection is established, you may have to endure slow, unreliable speed that’s definitely not conducive to streaming or anything else.
As if that’s not enough to put you off, free VPNs have been known to engage in some very shady business tactics. After all, they have to make money somehow. Security and privacy become low priorities for these VPN providers and many have no qualms about tracking user activity, selling information to third parties, carrying malware, and even stealing user bandwidth.
You can avoid all of this by signing up for a reputable VPN provider for a few bucks a month, and have peace of mind knowing you’re in good hands.
Can I use a DNS proxy to watch ARD?
As with free VPN providers, a DNS proxy seems like a great deal. However, once you scratch the surface, you may want to rethink. One of the main reasons for using a VPN is the encryption factor, which keeps your information away from prying eyes. This encryption is missing in most DNS proxies, so your data remains exposed to third parties.
Security aside, DNS proxies typically won’t measure up when it comes to masking your IP address and unblocking geo-restricted content. They are easily detected by streaming sites that are cracking down on proxy usage such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer, rendering the proxy useless.
Plus, like a free VPN service, you typically won’t have a very large server selection to choose from. One exception to this is ExpressVPN’s proxy, Media Streamer. This gives you full access to all servers and can be used with or without the VPN. It’s included in every ExpressVPN plan.
Do I need a VPN to access ARD?
Some users may find they’re in luck and can access some ARD videos without the use of a VPN. However, we recommend that all internet users connect via a VPN service, regardless of whether or not they need it to access content.
Unblocking geo-restricted content is more of a perk to using a VPN. The main reason they’re important is that they encrypt your traffic and help you stay safe and secure online. This means that no one can see your internet traffic, including your internet service provider (ISP), network administrator, government agencies, or hackers.
VPNs are important for general privacy but also for security. Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated in their attacks and a VPN can add an extra layer of defense. This is especially important if you frequent public wifi hotspots where hackers lie in wait for unsuspecting victims.
Do I need to set up an account to watch ARD?
Many streaming services require you to have an account or subscription. This can cause issues as payment information is often used to check the real location of the user. Thankfully, you don’t need to pay to use any of ARD’s streaming services or set up any kind of account at all. You can even watch live streams without providing any credentials whatsoever.
Accessing the main section of the site should be no issue, and you can view some videos and streams from outside Germany without the use of a VPN. However, certain content on the main ARD site is blocked. And if you go into the ARD Mediathek section, where you’ll find live streams of more than a dozen channels, you’ll discover much of that content is geo-restricted, too.
Without a German IP address, trying to access certain ARD content may result in an error: “Dieses Video kann leider nicht abgespielt werden. Wichtig: Inhalte mit Geoblocking können nur von Deutschland aus abgerufen werden. Wir bitten um Ihr Verständnis.”
This roughly translates to: “Sorry, this video can not be played. Important: Content with geoblocking can only be accessed from Germany. We ask for your understanding.”
Not to worry. Simply follow the steps outlined above and the content will become available.
What can you watch on ARD and ARD Mediathek?
The following list reveals just some of the content you can watch on ARD and ARD Mediathek:
- All You Need
- Donna Leon
- Gut zu wissen
- extra 3
Is it illegal to stream ARD outside Germany with a VPN?
Streaming ARD outside Germany isn’t illegal, but it’s like having a high-stakes game of hide-and-seek – you need to be careful not to get caught. However, watching ARD outside of the country is possible thanks to VPNs. Connecting to a server in Germany will give you access to popular shows and movies that usually require an expensive subscription service if you’re outside the country. So while it may not be illegal, streaming ARD outside Germany could be against the provider’s terms. You’ll want to ensure you read up on their policies before trying it.