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 2018 FIFA World 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:
“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.”
Thankfully, there’s a simple solution, and that’s to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN encrypts all traffic going to and from your device and tunnels 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 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:
- ExpressVPN Our #1 choice. Superfast servers in Germany stream ARD in high quality to just about anywhere. Also unblocks most other popular streaming sites. Apps are secure and easy to use. 30-day money back guarantee included.
- NordVPN Vast network of servers with over 250 in Germany. Unblocks most German content seamlessly. Great user-friendly apps.
- CyberGhost Great value and impressive streaming speeds during testing. Apps are easy to set up and use.
- PrivateVPN Smaller yet growing network gaining a reputation for unblocking popular content at good speeds.
- IPVanish Fast enough to stream ARD from abroad in high quality, plus strong security and a no-logs policy.
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
ExpressVPN tops our list of the best VPNs for ARD as 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. DNS leak protection and a built-in kill switch will make the connection even more private. For users looking for extra anonymity, ExpressVPN has its own .onion site for use with the Tor browser. Only very minimal connections logs are kept and don’t include user IP addresses.
A plan allows for three simultaneous connections and apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. ExpressVPN can be manually configured on some routers.
- Operates superfast streaming servers in Darmstadt, Frankfurt & Nuremberg
- Fast enough to play HD video without buffering
- Guaranteed security with military-grade encryption
- User-friendly apps for major mobile and desktop platforms
- 24-hour live chat support, 7 days a week
- Power-users may find the advanced options limited
BEST VPN FOR ARD:ExpressVPN is our #1 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. Try it risk-free with the 30-day money back guarantee.
Check out our in-depth ExpressVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN operates a vast network of over 5,200 servers spanning more than 60 countries. Over 255 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.
Amongst its large server offering, are many servers optimized for a specific function such as P2P, anti-DDoS, and double VPN. If you need any pointers, a 24/7 live chat agent is always ready to help.
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. If you’re an Android user and tend to connect to public hotspots on-the-go, you’ll love the new automatic wifi protection feature. NordVPN maintains no traffic or connection logs, 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, MacOS, iOS, and Android. NordVPN can also be configured manually on Linux and some routers.
- Vast server network operating 255 servers in Germany, easily unblocks ARD
- Speeds are fast enough for HD streaming
- Apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Linux and Android
- Budget provider that 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 BUDGET VPN:NordVPN is a good value choice. A great value option which works reliably with ARD and most popular streaming sites. Connects up to 6 devices simultaneously. Top notch privacy and security. 30-day money back guarantee.
See our full review of NordVPN.
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 600 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. Plus there’s automatic wifi protection for users on-the-go. This recognizes familiar networks (those you’ve connected to before) so is very handy if you tend to frequent the same locations regularly.
CyberGhost plans allow you to connect up to five devices at the same time, which is ample for most users. Desktop clients are available for Windows and MacOS and mobile apps can be downloaded for iOS and Android. CyberGhost supports configuration with Linux and some routers.
- Budget provider that operates over 600 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
BUDGET CHOICE:CyberGhost is great for beginners. Easy to use. Good server representation in Germany makes them 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
PrivateVPN is by far the smallest VPN provider on this list, and it’s the youngest, too. However, it is already a force to be reckoned with within the industry and offers all-round great performance. With three German servers to choose from, you’ll be able to stream ARD content. But PrivateVPN is renown for its ability to unblock a ton of other geo-restricted sites, including 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 won’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, iOS, and Android. PrivateVPN can be configured with Linux and some routers.
- Operates 2 speedy servers in Frankfurt and 1 in Nurmenberg, 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
- A new network with fewer servers to chose from
GREAT SPEED:PrivateVPN is a good family choice. Unblocks ARD. Good for browsing and torrenting. Could do with having more servers and lacks 24/7 support. 30-day money back guarantee.
Check out our full review of PrivateVPN.
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 57 German servers will mean that ARD will pose no issue.
This VPN service provider 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 has recently upped its number of simultaneous connections to ten per subscription, which blows most of the competition out of the water. While an individual might not need this many, it’s great for families, roommates, and even small businesses. IPVanish apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. It can be configured with Linux and certain routers.
- Operates 57 servers in Frankfurt, unblocks ARD from almost anywhere
- Keeps no logs whatsoever
- Provides a secure, encrypted connection
- Claims 24/7 support, but technical tickets can often take one or two days to resolve
- Doesn’t offer any browser extensions
- Look elsewhere if you need to use apps in China
UP TO 10 DEVICES:IPVanish has a large network of servers. Generally solid for ARD. High standard of privacy and security, but look elsewhere if you also want to unblock Netflix. No live support. 7-day money back guarantee.
See our full IPVanish review.
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.
I’ve signed up for a VPN. What’s next?
Once you’ve chosen your provider, the next steps are straightforward.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Trauung mit Hindernissen
- In Flammen
- Woher kommt der Hype?
- Planet Wissen
What’s more, you can view every 2018 FIFA World Cup game with German commentary for free.