I know what you’re thinking — it sounds too good to be true. Well, that’s exactly what I thought when I heard about the OnlineTVRecorder (OTR). But the thought of having access to German TV was just too enticing and I had to check it out. So I made a free account and have been downloading and watching German TV for the past week. There are shows as different as Tatort, Harald Schmidt, Hessenschau, Die Küchenschlacht, Wer wird Millionär, Planet Wissen, logo, Unser Sandmännchen, dubbed episodes of numerous US TV shows like Die Simpsons, Law and Order, and Desperate Housewives, and this week alone German versions of several films like Apollo 13, Die Bourne Identität, and Findet Nemo. And it is indeed all free!
This is how the OTR website works: You search through a German TV program that includes over 60 (!) channels. You can browse by channels, by genre, or search for a specific show. You choose which programs you want to record. Once recorded, you download the shows to your computer. Then you decode the shows with a special program that you download once from the OTR site. And that’s it — then you can view the programs.
All of this available with a free “Beginner” account that has a few limitations: You can only have up to 260 GB of recorded programming in your account at a time (which amounts to more than 500 hours worth of programs!). You can download these programs between midnight and 8 am Central European Standard Time at no cost. And with a Beginner account, you may decode only 15 programs per month.
“Premium” accounts are also available for 50 GWP (Good Will Points) per month, which amounts to a mere 50 cents. And you may actually earn the 50 GWP in your account by clicking on banners within the OTR website and still not pay a cent out of your own pocket. However, Premium status that is earned through banner clicking will allow you 50 decodes per month, whereas Premium status that is paid for with real money will get you 125 decodes per month. If you need more than that, you can pony up another 50 cents and renew your Premium status before the month is up. Premium status also comes with some other perks like unlimited recording space, the ability to download programs in HDTV or MP4 format, the option to block advertising on the site, and several other features.
How is all of this possible for nothing, or next to nothing, you ask? The website is financed through the advertising that appears on the site. Downloads are meant for private, non-commercial viewing. Beginner accounts may be limited to a trial period of 3 months — I found brief mention of this on one page of the site, but many pages contain descriptions that refer to previous membership terms, so it is unclear whether the Beginner status may actually be continued beyond this period. Even if the free account is limited to a 3-month period, 50 cents a month seems like a small price to pay for such broad, flexible access to authentic German TV programming. Compare this to Dish Network’s German satellite TV program that has only 5 channels and costs almost $30/month.
If you’re looking for authentic German language resources, the OnlineTVRecorder is well worth looking at. If you try it, let me know what you think.
See also my update and tips for using the OTR.