Want to keep up with current affairs? Trying to watch your favorite shows from back home? Find out how with our guide to TV and radio in the Netherlands.
If you’re an expat living in the Netherlands, you’ll be pleased to know that access to the best local and international television is right at your fingertips. Are you a sports fanatic who never misses a game? Or maybe you’re a wildlife enthusiast who lives for documentaries? Or perhaps you’re a shopaholic with the urge to splurge?
Whoever you are, you can access all your favorite TV shows and channels with ease. If you prefer listening, the Netherlands also has a wide range of regional, national, and international radio stations. This guide provides all the information you need about TV and radio in the Netherlands and how to access it. It includes the following sections:
- Watching TV in the Netherlands
- National TV channels in the Netherlands
- Regional TV channels in the Netherlands
- English-language TV channels in the Netherlands
- International TV channels in the Netherlands
- Satellite and cable TV in the Netherlands
- Streaming services in the Netherlands
- Radio stations in the Netherlands
- English-language radio stations in the Netherlands
- Online English-language stations in the Netherlands
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Watching TV in the Netherlands
Fortunately, there is no license fee to watch television in the Netherlands. However, public TV channels are limited. This means that many households opt for cable. They also tend to buy packages that include Internet and phone services. This can offer more variety and be more cost-effective.
The Netherlands switched to an all-digital broadcasting system in 2006. As a result, all new TV sets now sold in the Netherlands are digital and conform to HD standards. Some are also compatible with 3D movies. Nowadays, people watch television through cable, terrestrial, and satellite services.
National TV channels in the Netherlands
The television broadcasting system in the Netherlands is divided between public and commercial. The government funds three nationwide channels. These are available to watch through all TV operators in the Netherlands. There are also a number of commercial networks that are privately owned.
Dutch public television operates three national channels, which are all in Dutch. These are:
As a rule, these channels can only make a fixed maximum revenue from commercials, and these can only appear in between shows.
There are several nationwide channels in the Netherlands that are operated by commercial broadcasters. The RTL Group operates the following four channels, which are all in Dutch. These are RTL 4, 5, 7, and 8.
Meanwhile, SBS Broadcasting offers three national channels, which are also in Dutch:
- NET 5
- SBS 6
These channels routinely program US films, detective programs, sitcoms, and Dutch reality shows. Unlike the three public service broadcasting channels, the commercial channels insert advertisements during the programs. Advertising breaks can be lengthy and rough around the edges, as the boundaries between programs and commercial breaks are fuzzy.
The commercial channels also don’t waste time on opening and closing credits. Therefore, you can expect one program to be breathlessly followed by the opening scene of the next. This means that movie buffs who want to see the entire closing credits will be disappointed.
While most programs broadcast on commercial TV are in Dutch, some have English subtitles or are broadcast in English with Dutch subtitles. This is particularly true when it comes to youth and music programs.
Regional TV channels in the Netherlands
Most regions and provinces in the Netherlands have their own television channel which is funded by the government. There are currently 14 regional public television stations, which broadcast programs in Dutch. These are as follows:
- AT5 (Greater Amsterdam)
- L1 Televisie (Limburg)
- NH (North-Holland)
- Omroep Brabant TV (North Brabant)
- Omroep Flevoland (Flevoland)
- Omroep Zeeland (Zeeland)
- Omrop Fryslân (Friesland), in West Frisian
- RTV Drenthe (Drenthe)
- RTV Noord (Groningen)
- RTV Oost (Overijssel)
- RTV Rijnmond (Rotterdam)
- RTV Utrecht (Utrecht)
- TV Gelderland (Gelderland)
- TV West (South Holland)
English-language TV channels in the Netherlands
A number of commercial channels in the Netherlands, such as NET 5, SBS 6, and Veronica, broadcast programs in English or with English subtitles. However, this is somewhat limited so most expats access English-language television via satellite and cable TV.
Most standard cable TV packages include BBC1, BBC2, BBC World, Discovery Channel, Channel, CNBC, CNN, and National Geographic. These are provided alongside public and commercial Dutch channels, including NPO 1, NPO 2, and NPO 3, and RTL 4, 5, 7, and 8.
Several commercial channels in the Netherlands also broadcast localized versions of their programs with English subtitles. These include:
- Animal Planet: Dutch version but mostly subtitled
- Discovery Channel: Dutch version but mostly with English subtitles
- Eurosport International: with Dutch commentary
- MTV Netherlands: original Dutch programs with English subtitles
- National Geographic Channel: Dutch version but mostly subtitled
- Nickelodeon: Dutch version includes a mix of original Dutch content and international programs with dubbing or subtitles
As a general rule, all imported programs appear in their original language with Dutch subtitles. The same applies to news interviews with responses in a foreign language. Programs for small children, however, are usually dubbed as children aren’t able to read subtitles.
International TV channels in the Netherlands
People living in the Netherlands can access international television through satellite and cable TV. Depending on your preferences, you can add various foreign TV channels to your contract. These might cover a range of topics and interests such as sports, wildlife, movies, shopping, and so on.
Satellite and cable TV in the Netherlands
Cable TV is cheap and accessed by more than 90% of the population in the Netherlands. Most Dutch households receive their TV through their internet provider, as part of a package deal. Therefore, the main providers of TV packages in the Netherlands are:
If you’re unsure of what TV package is right for you, comparison sites can help you see your options.
Most standard cable TV packages include the following channels:
- BBC1, BBC2, BBC World
- Discovery Channel
- National Geographic
Standard packages also include the Dutch channels NPO 1, NPO 2, and NPO 3, and RTL 4, 5, 7, and 8. They also come with Veronica and Net 5 (which broadcast Hollywood films and US drama series), as well as popular children’s channels which are usually dubbed.
You can add extra channels to your package for an additional cost. These might include movies, sports, or other interests. Another benefit of cable TV is the added features. Some of these allow you to record, rewind, pause, watch TV online. You can also gain access to a wide range of international channels.
Streaming services in the Netherlands
There are several streamlining services available in the Netherlands. The most popular ones for expats include:
- 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 and much, much more.
- Netflix – this video streaming giant is one of the global heavy hitters. With a monthly membership fee, you can enjoy unlimited access to its library of movies and TV shows. It is available in over 190 countries worldwide, however, the selection varies based on your location.
- Ziggo GO – Ziggo launched its online service in 2012. Users can watch live TV and on-demand video content from a PC, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Since HBO closed in the Netherlands in 2016, all HBO content is now available on this streaming service.
- hayu is an on-demand subscription service that specializes in all the biggest and best reality TV shows. Watch all the latest episodes right after they air in the US, or get access to the boxsets of all your favorite reality shows.
- Amazon Prime Video – this membership-based service is available in over 200 countries and territories. Your movie and show options may change based on your location. Most shows are in English, but subtitles are available in other languages.
Getting a VPN in the Netherlands
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 the Netherlands include:
Radio stations in the Netherlands
As with television, there are both public and commercial radio stations in the Netherlands. These transmit music, news, and chat programs in Dutch.
There are five national radio stations in the Netherlands, which are 3FM, Radio 1, 2, 4, and 5. Public radio is provided jointly by several broadcasting organizations that operate within the framework of the Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (NPO). The NOS provides news bulletins on all the stations.
There are numerous commercial and regional stations in the Netherlands which feature local news, music, and chat shows.
The most popular commercial stations include:
- Noordzee FM
- Radio 538
- Sky Radio
Many provincial and regions in the Netherlands have their own radio stations and radio frequencies vary between the provinces.
English-language radio stations in the Netherlands
It is possible to access English form radio in the Netherlands. Listeners in some parts of the Netherlands can pick up the following stations:
- BBC World Service (648MW)
- BBC Radio 5 Live (909MW, 693MW)
- Radio Netherlands
- Talk Sport (1053MW, 1089MW)
- Voice of America
Online English-language stations in the Netherlands
You can also tune into many international radio stations online by streaming them live via Real Player or Windows Media player. These include the following: