Thanks to VPNs, you don’t need to go to Germany in order to get a German IP address. A VPN will do this for you, making it appear that you are in Germany, so you can watch ZDF from the UK, Canada, the USA, France, or Australia. It doesn’t matter where you are, a VPN can unblock ZDF and allow overseas viewers to stream live its live content.
The best VPNs for ZDF
You can read more about how VPNs work later on in this guide. However, first, take a look at the best VPNs for ZDF. A good ZDF VPN needs the following qualities:
- High speeds for uninterrupted video streaming
- A server in Germany
- The ability to evade detection
- Easy to use
Taking these factors into account, we have compiled a list of the best VPNs to allow you to watch ZDF from anywhere.
Here’s our list of the best 6 VPNs for ZDF:
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN is an exceptionally fast VPN that easily unblocks ZDF and similar services from abroad. Users can connect up to six devices simultaneously per account, and access more than 5,000 servers throughout 59 different countries. Of these, around 240 are in Germany.
There are all kinds of security and privacy features built in. First and foremost, NordVPN does not keep any records of your activities, so your privacy is assured. It also uses 256-bit encryption, protection against DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks, and a kill switch to keep your activities secure at all times. There’s even a feature called CyberSec that filters out ads and malware.
You can install an app from NordVPN on Windows, Mac OS X, macOS, Android, and iOS. Browser extensions are available for Chrome and Firefox. The system can be installed manually on routers and the Linux, Blackberry, and Raspberry Pi operating systems.
You can try out the VPN with a 30-day quibble-free money-back guarantee.
BEST VPN FOR ZDF:NordVPN is our first choice. Very fast and a great performer. Connects up to 6 devices simultaneously. Also works well with most popular streaming services and achieves consistently good speeds. Try it with a risk-free 30-day money back guarantee.
- Fastest VPN we’ve tested
- Strong security and privacy credentials
- Excellent unblocking ability
- No-logs policy
- Offers 24/7 live chat
- Desktop app takes some getting used to
Read our full review of NordVPN.
Unblocks ZDFTested Apr 2021
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Surfshark is a quick, low-cost VPN with more than 3,200 servers in 65 countries including Germany. It works well with major streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, so ZDF doesn’t pose much of a challenge. Best of all, this service allows you to secure any number of devices simultaneously.
Security is one of Surfshark’s strongest areas. It keeps you safe from snoopers using effectively uncrackable 256-bit encryption, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, and a kill switch. Further, Surfshark is a zero-logs provider which means it can’t reveal details of your activities under any circumstances. Need help? Customer support is available 24/7 via email and live chat.
Surfshark has apps for Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Manual configuration is required for supported routers.
- Decent speeds for downloading and streaming
- Strong commitment to your security
- One of the best when it comes to unblocking region-locked services
- Connect as many devices as you like
- Keeps no logs
- Some slow speeds
BEST BUDGET VPN: Surfshark is a highly affordable VPN that boasts plenty of attractive features. Strong on security, with decent speeds and no connection limit. What’s more, all plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full Surfshark review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
ExpressVPN is fast enough for uninterrupted video streams. It’s also great at dodging detection and can get around the regional blocking used by many major streaming services including Netflix USA and ZDF in Germany. There are over 3,000 servers in 94 countries to choose from, so you shouldn’t have any issues as far as reliability is concerned.
If you want to stream ZDF from countries that censor the web such as Saudi Arabia or China, rest assured the snooping authorities won’t be able to block your communications or even know what sites you visit thanks to ExpressVPN’s strong security. The system encrypts every packet using the OpenVPN system. This sets up an encryption key that is shared between your computer and the VPN server in Germany. This key distribution is protected by 4096-bit key RSA encryption, while regular data exchanges are protected by AES encryption with a 256-bit key.
The VPN installs itself. Once you have paid for the service, click on the download button for your operating system. ExpressVPN provides apps for Windows, Mac OS X, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux. You can install the VPN on routers and also Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire stick and Kindle Fire tablets. The company also provides browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
The company gives each customer an allowance of five simultaneous connections and new customers benefit from a 30-day no-quibble money-back guarantee.
- Fast speeds for streaming and torrenting
- Great at unblocking German streaming services abroad
- Industry-leading security features
- Pay anonymously with Bitcoin
- Advanced configuration for power-users is a little limited
- A little more expensive than some rivals
STRONG ALL ROUNDER:ExpressVPN is a highly versatile choice. Reliably unblocks ZDF content from Germany and boasts fast enough speeds for buffer-free HD viewing. Total security and privacy. Offers a 30-day money back guarantee.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
CyberGhost is based in Romania. The government there has invested heavily in internet infrastructure and the legal system there blocks all attempts by the EU to impose data retention rules. The service provides excellent speeds, making it ideal for video streaming.
CyberGhost offers very strong security, which makes it a good choice for countries where the government blocks or monitors internet activities, such as Pakistan or China. CyberGhost uses the OpenVPN protocol. The session establishment and key distribution procedures of the VPN are protected by RSA encryption with a 4096-bit key. The established connection is protected by AES encryption with a 256-bit key.
When you sign up for CyberGhost, you make your payment to a separate company. This set up enables CyberGhost to give its customers near-total anonymity. The company doesn’t keep any personal information about its customers. Each customer is identified by an account number and the only information held on file is the account’s expiry date.
The company gives each customer a 45-day no-questions money-back guarantee. Each account is entitled to seven simultaneous connections.
CyberGhost is very stylish and easy to use. The app will run on the Windows, Mac OS X, macOS, Android, and iOS operating systems. You can install the VPN manually on routers and Linux computers.
GREAT VALUE:CyberGhost is a great value choice. Strong on privacy, fast speeds and reliable with ZDF. We found it easy to set up and use. Works well with most streaming sites but not Amazon Prime. 45-day money back guarantee.
- Decent, reliable speeds
- Happily unblocks a host of geo-restricted content
- Solid privacy and security features enabled by default
- Novice-friendly apps
- Not suitable for those that need control of advanced features
- Doesn’t work in China
Read our full CyberGhost review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
IPVanish has an entirely private infrastructure. It manages its system in-house and no services are outsourced. That gives the company more control over its service and ensures the delivery of a quality VPN with very high speeds. This VPN will get you into ZDF from outside Germany and ensure constant service without pauses for buffering.
The company is based in the United States. This could be a problem for confidentiality because US law enforcement agencies are known for using secret court procedures and outright threats to force cooperation from US-based businesses. However, IPVanish does not keep any records of its customers’ activities, so there would be no information for the authorities to seize.
The app for IPVanish is very easy to use and it installs itself. The company provides free apps for Windows, Mac OS X, macOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, and iOS. You can also install IPVanish on routers, but you’ll have to do this manually.
Unlike most VPNs, IPVanish doesn’t impose a connection limit. IPVanish operates more than 1,300 servers spread across 60 countries. That includes dozens of servers in Frankfurt, Germany.
The IPVanish VPN uses RSA encryption to protect session establishment and that has a 2048-bit key. Data is protected by AES with a 256-bit key.
IPVanish gives a 30-day money-back guarantee with a new subscription.
LARGE NETWORK:IPVanish is great for families. Solid with ZDF and generally good at unblocking most geo-restricted content. Recommend for their high standard of privacy. Could do with a live support option. 30-day money back guarantee.
- Strong on privacy and security
- High speeds and decent unblocking ability
- Connect all of your devices at once
- Some servers don’t perform well with Netflix or Hulu
- Doesn’t accept Bitcoin
Read our full review of IPVanish.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
PrivateVPN was founded by privacy activists in Sweden. The company has very strong privacy protection procedures, including account anonymity. Each customer record is identified by a number, but no personal information is stored. Sweden used to have tough data retention laws, but these were previously thrown out by the European Courts of Justice. That ruling allows PrivateVPN to guard the identities and activities of its customers, and it does not keep any activity logs.
PrivateVPN has around 150 servers in 60+ countries, including a few in Germany.
The app for PrivateVPN installs itself after you download the setup program from the website. The app runs on Windows, Mac OS X, macOS, Android, and iOS. You can install the VPN manually on Linux computers and routers. PrivateVPN can also be installed on Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire stick and set-top boxes. The company allows each account to connect six devices simultaneously.
VPN connections are protected by RSA encryption with a 2048-bit key, and data in transit is protected by Blowfish with a 128-bit key or AES with a 256-bit key. Processing all of this encryption doesn’t slow down connections too much and you will still get all the speed you need to stream live video from the ZDF website. The company reports its services don’t do too well in China. If you intend to go to the People’s Republic, you should manually set up a connection to the L2TP VPN system of PrivateVPN.
PrivateVPN offers all new customers a 30-day money-back guarantee on its subscription services.
- Speeds are good enough for high-quality streaming
- Privacy and security are top notch
- Gaining a reputation for unblocking popular streaming sites
- Fairly small network
- Live chat isn’t 24/7
GREAT SPEED:PrivateVPN is a good family choice. Unblocks ZDF. Good privacy and security. Allows up to 6 devices. Could do with more servers and lacks 24/7 support. 30-day money back guarantee.
Read our full review of PrivateVPN
Can I use a free VPN to watch ZDF?
Unfortunately, free VPNs are not very good. The basic operations of a VPN service are relatively easy to set up. However, because of the challenges that VPNs now face in order to deliver their services successfully, it actually takes quite a lot of money to run a VPN service these days.
VPNs are supposed to obscure the real destination of a connection and protect data in transit so that it can’t be read. However, maintaining up-to-date protection measures is expensive and free VPN services cut costs by implementing poor encryption and security, or none at all.
Getting into video streaming sites from abroad is particularly difficult for free VPNs. Streaming services blacklist known VPN servers to ensure their content is only delivered to viewers in the same country. The extra work that goes into bypassing these regional restrictions is too expensive for free VPNs. The VPNs we recommend can get into video sites and all of the services on this list have been tested with ZDF.
Why does ZDF block me?
You can get into the ZDF website from anywhere. However, when you try to stream video from outside Germany, a message informs you that the content is not available in your location. The message reads “Aus rechtlichen Gründen kann dieser Beitrag nur in Deutschland gezeigt werden.” This translates into English as “For legal reasons, this contribution can only be shown in Germany.”
The block on access to videos from abroad is standard in the industry. TV stations have to buy in content from production companies and they only pay for the right to show that entertainment in their home country. So, one movie will be sold many times over, with different broadcasters getting the rights for individual territories. The broadcaster signs a contract that obliges them to limit their display of the content to the territory that they paid for the rights to.
Limiting viewing by the traditional method of transmitting video is relatively simple because the TV station just sets the strength of its transmitters so that the signal won’t reach beyond the country’s borders. However, limiting the reach of broadcasts over the internet is a little more complicated. Video streaming services, including ZDF, check on the location of the computer that requested a video.
Every device that is connected to the internet has a unique identifier called an IP address. This address can be traced to a specific location. So, when you connect to ZDF and press the play button on the video player, the content server first checks the IP address of the device. If that address is traced to a location outside of Germany, the server returns an error message. If the address is within the borders of Germany the ZDF content server sends the stream for the video.
A VPN masks your real IP address so that ZDF and all other websites only see the VPN server’s IP address instead, allowing you to bypass geographic restrictions on content.
How do VPNs work?
A VPN is a type of service that is a called a “proxy,” in which another computer stands in for your computer. That other computer is the VPN server.
When you install a VPN, you are actually just installing the client software and an interface that enables you to set up one side of a VPN connection. That connection establishes a link to the VPN server. The VPN client software takes over your network card and captures all outgoing messages before they leave your computer. The software then packages those messages up in encryption and sends them on to the VPN server. The server decrypts the messages and forwards them on to the destination they were originally heading for. Responses to those messages go to the VPN server first. They are encrypted and sent on to your computer. The VPN client on your computer receives those arriving messages and decrypts them.
The encrypted connection to the VPN server, called a tunnel, protects all of your internet activity from snoopers. Not only does the tunnel protect the contents of data as it travels across the internet, it also obscures metadata like the destination website. Obscuring header data prevents internet services providers from reporting on your activities or selectively blocking or slowing your traffic.
The intervention and forwarding performed by the VPN server mean all of your communications eventually arrive at their destinations with the VPN server’s address on it as the origin and not yours. The benefit of that diversion means websites cannot trace you by your IP address, and so detection systems that use the IP address to block or allow through content will not see your true location. When you use a VPN to connect to a server in Germany, the content server at the ZDF website will see a German IP address and send your computer the data for the video.
Can I watch live TV with ZDF?
The access process for ZDF is very straightforward. You don’t need to set up an account and no payment is involved. Once you connect to a VPN in Germany, all you need to do is go to the ZDF Live TV page and click on the play button imposed on the player panel.
The ZDF site offers a catch-up service that lets you see programming from earlier in the day and the past week. A “boxed set” section of the website includes content from even further back in time. You do not need to log in or identify yourself in order to access any of these features.