What’s on the Fernsehen? From the most popular global dramas to local sports and comedies, find out with our guide to TV and radio in Austria.
If you’re settling into expat life in Austria, the thought of turning on the television or radio might not cross your mind. However, don’t be afraid to dive straight into the world of Austrian media. Not only will you be able to pick up some much-needed German, but you’ll also be able to better understand your new adopted home.
But before you pick up the remote, it’s important to know your options and requirements when it comes to TV and radio in Austria. This is especially true if you’re considering buying a TV package or looking for international programs from home. To give you a better idea, our guide to Austrian TV and radio includes information on the following:
- Watching TV in Austria
- Cable and satellite TV in Austria
- Austrian TV channels
- Streaming services in Austria
- Listening to Austrian radio
- Useful resources
Watching TV in Austria
Expats arriving in Austria might be surprised to find a more subdued TV marketplace than in other European countries. Until relatively recently, state-owned channels dominated TV in Austria. While there are now a number of commercial broadcasters in the marketplace, you might not find the same breadth of TV choice you’re used to. However, this is improving all the time, so don’t let that stop you from switching on your TV.
There are a number of ways to watch TV in Austria. The country has a relatively accessible terrestrial TV platform, transmitting programming digitally (via DVB). However, these days the vast majority of homes in Austria access their TV via satellite and cable connections. This is typically bundled together with other home telecoms services, such as landline phone and internet connections. Some of the main home telecoms providers in Austria include:
- 3 (Drei)
Generally speaking, these providers offer the widest range of television channels, often making them the best option for expats moving to Austria. For more information on local home telecoms, read our Guide to setting up internet, home phone, and TV in Austria.
How to get a TV license in Austria
While some of the most-watched Austrian TV channels are technically free-to-air, you’ll need to pay a broadcasting fee (Rundfunkabgabe), or TV license in order to access them. This is a legal requirement if you wish to watch TV in Austria, with the government using the receipts to fund the country’s public broadcasters. This includes both TV and radio stations, as well as online media libraries and catch-up services.
The price of the Austrian broadcasting fee varies depending on usage and region. You can either choose to pay for TV and radio or simply just radio. The radio option is substantially cheaper, but you won’t be able to legally watch TV – or even have a TV in your home – without paying for the TV and radio option. Prices are set at a regional level, meaning costs can vary between states. However, the cost is typically around €25 per month for TV and radio, and around €7 per month for radio only.
Broadcasting fees are operated by GIS, a subsidiary of the Austrian public broadcaster, ORF. You will need to register when moving into your new home and set up payments. You’ll then be able to find out details of how to pay. Payment is typically collected every two months, however, exceptions to the charge do apply; although these are limited. Failure to pay will result in a visit from a GIS official and, should you still not register, a hefty fine. Therefore, it is best to register early and avoid any complications or charges further down the line.
Cable and satellite TV in Austria
With cable and satellite being the most popular options for watching TV in Austria, expats will have plenty of choices when it comes to getting connected. Typically, satellite connections offer more programming options; particularly international channels and shows. This can also be a good option in more rural or mountainous areas. However, be aware that installing satellite receiving equipment can be expensive.
Generally speaking, cable connections are more common in Austria, with many locals receiving their TV programs as part of their home telecoms package. This is alongside landline phone and internet connections. Signing up with a single provider for all your home telecoms connections can be a great way to save money as many offer discounts. The biggest Austrian telecoms providers include:
- 3 (Drei)
The price of your TV subscription will largely depend on the channel package you choose and other aspects of your contract, including internet download speed. Generally speaking, most providers offer a basic channel package that includes all the biggest Austrian channels and a handful of others. Typically, these will predominantly be German-language channels. Be aware that most non-German programming is dubbed. More expensive packages will likely include more foreign and English-speaking programming; therefore, it’s a good idea to shop around and find the best option for you.
For a better choice of English-speaking or other foreign language channels, you may wish to consider a service like Sky. Sky Austria is available both directly and through your internet provider. Various packages are available, including drama, movies, and international live sports channels. Other subscription services, such as Disney+ and Netflix, can also be included in these TV package deals.
Austrian TV channels
Ready to explore Austrian TV? Switch on the television and you’ll find plenty of channels to choose from, particularly if you receive your channels through cable or satellite. Channels are typically categorized as either free-to-air or pay-TV programming. Therefore, the availability of these channels will depend on what you pay. However, remember that the vast majority of programming is German or dubbed into German.
Free-to-air TV channels in Austria
Austria’s free-to-air channels are available through all cable and satellite TV providers in the country, as well as the terrestrial platform. The majority of the most popular free-to-air channels are operated by just a handful of companies, as follows:
- ORF – Standing for Österreichischer Rundfunk, Austria’s public broadcaster operates a number of national and regional TV channels, including the country’s most-watched channel, ORF2
- ZDF – The German public broadcaster has a handful of channels available south of the border
- RTL – The Luxembourg-based commercial broadcaster has a range of free-to-air programming, including RTL and Vox, two of the country’s most popular channels
- ProSiebenSat1. Media – a German commercial broadcaster with channels including ProSieben, Kabel Eins, and the popular ATV channel
For more information on these German channels, read our complete Guide to German TV and radio.
Pay-TV channels in Austria
Alongside these free-to-air channels, you also have plenty of pay-TV channels to choose from in Austria. These are available through cable and satellite platforms, as part of TV subscription packages. The majority of these channels are run by the following broadcasters, among others:
- Sky – Sky Austria offers various channels, including English-speaking channels dedicated to international dramas, the latest Hollywood releases, and the biggest sporting competitions
- RTL – the commercial broadcaster’s pay-TV channels include RTL Crime and RTL Passion
- Disney – US broadcasting giant offering children’s channels on German pay-TV, including Disney Cinemagic and Disney Junior
- MTV – this popular US network has a range of channels aimed at the youth market, including MTV Germany
If you want to get any of these pay-TV channels in your new Austrian home, it’s important to do your research beforehand. This will ensure that you’re signing up for the right channels for you and your family.
Streaming services in Austria
These days, some of the most popular movies and TV series can only be found on streaming services. Thankfully for expats moving to Austria, many of the most popular streaming platforms are available throughout the country. These include:
- Netflix – the US streaming giant is one of the global heavy-hitters and available throughout Austria. Monthly membership gives you access to its library of original programs and movies, as well as popular shows from around the world.
- Disney+ – the latest addition to the international streaming market offers a whole host of movies and TV shows from Disney’s back-catalog. This includes The Simpsons and Star Wars. Global availability is currently limited to certain countries, but Austria is one of them.
- Amazon Prime Video – this membership-based service is available in over 200 countries and territories. Many shows are in English, but subtitles are available in other languages – including German if you want to practice your language skills.
Getting a VPN in Austria
Across the world, an increasing number of expats are using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to ensure their privacy and security online. As well as helping you browse with more anonymity, these VPNs can also help unblock online content. This allows you to access your favorite sites from home and elsewhere, including some streaming platforms. VPNs available in Austria include:
Listening to Austrian radio
Do you prefer listening to your entertainment, instead of watching it? Thankfully, Austria has a well-developed radio network, with many national and regional stations for you to tune into. Radio stations are divided between public and commercial broadcasters.
Austrian radio stations are available both digitally and through analog services. Stations can also be accessed through radios, smartphones, and some digital TV services. The largest public broadcaster is ORF, which operates national and regional radio stations. The biggest of these is Österreich 1 and Hitradio Ö3, alongside a range of local stations. You can search online to discover your local ORF stations.
Commercial radio stations are available at both regional and local levels in Austria. These stations cater to a wider range of listening tastes, from news and debate to classic rock and all-day sports news and discussion. If you’re looking for English-speaking radio, your best bet is to head online and listen digitally. Stations including those from the BBC are available online, and you’ll be able to pick up news and current affairs from around the world.
- GIS – everything you need to know about broadcasting fees in Austria