Most countries in Europe have a public broadcasting system. In Germany, this system is called Öffentlich Rechtlicher Rundfunk and includes TV, radio and other electronic outlets such as apps and media libraries. It is financed through taxes which means that every household in Germany is obliged to pay a fee. The existence and purpose of the public broadcasting system is defined per law. Its main purpose is to guarantee and provide access to independent information to support free opinion building (public service). Another important mission for the public broadcasting system is it's educational mandate. The public broadcasting system consists of many channels for different target groups (i.e. special channels/ websites for adolescents, immigrants, children...)
The six main channels of the public broadcasting system in Germany are: ARD, ZDF, Kinderkanal (KiKA), 3sat, arte and Phoenix.
All German public broadcasting channels in Germany maintain extensive media libraries where content is available, usually after is was broadcasted (some episodes however are available before TV broadcasting). Most shows are not available at all times and often they are only available for a limited period of time, depending on the rights. Please note that some content is not available in the US (Geo-blocking). Some of this content however, can be found on YouTube.
ARD ist the so called "first" channel of the German public broadcasting system. The channel is available via TV and online live stream. ARD is the biggest channel and maintains 9 regional channels. In the ARD media library, all content from ARD as well as the regional sub-channels is available. ARD media library provides a basic search function but there is no expert search available.
The Regional channels each have their own media library as well with slightly different designs and search functions.
ARD's Digital Channels
The ZDF is the so-called second channel. Like ARD, it is available via TV and online-live stream. ZDF content is also available through its extensive media library which also contains content from its digital sub-channels.
ZDF Digital Channels:
ARTE is a German / French public broadcasting cooperation. Is is called Europeans Culture TV channel and content is focused on art, concerts and documentaries. All content is available in German as well as in French. ARTE maintains a media library, however the majority of content is not available from the US (IP address Geo-blocking).
3sat is a TV network operated by the German ZDF, the Austrian Channel ORF and the Swiss channel SRG. Content is available in German.