ARD and ZDF launch a joint streaming network 

28th March 2023
The shared network will bring together the streaming libraries of both Germany’s public broadcasters.
Der Schwarm promotion image.
The ZDF series highlight based on the bestseller by Frank Schätzing. The series was a coproduction between multiple European public service broadcasters. Copyright: ZDF/Staudinger + Franke

ARD and ZDF are expanding their media libraries into a common streaming network. 

This agreement is the product of a year and a half’s work between ZDF and ARD working together, and is due to launch in the next few weeks. ZDF told PMA, “Above all, the streaming network is just a cost efficient means to enhance user experience without setting up an entire new infrastructure while not interfering with each broadcasters’ distinctive branding.”  ZDF described it as, “the greatest possible networking that does not undermine journalistic competition.” 

The network will first only feature recommendations in documentary and culture genres. Once first experiences have been assessed the network will look to expand to all other genres. Following this will be the provision of a joint search across both media libraries and a one-time login for both media libraries.  

“In the future, all content will always be played where the user is, regardless of whether it is on ARD or ZDF,” said ZDF. “If you’re looking for the crime scene on ZDF, you’ve come to the right place on ARD. If you are looking for today’s show on ARD, you will be directly linked to the right place in the ZDF media library.”  

ARD will contribute roughly 100,000 items of content to the network while ZDF will contribute about 35,000. However, this is not about merging ARD and ZDF but rather combining their strengths with both sides having agreed on rules to offer each other’s content in a balanced way.  

PODCAST: How has streaming changed public service media?

In this collaboration ARD and ZDF maintain their PSM values like ensuring accessibility is at the heart of their offerings. “The concept of the joint streaming network is both user-oriented and cost-efficient. To achieve this, we are bringing together the best of our worlds. For example, ZDF has developed basic algorithms for a public service personalisation and recommendation system. These will also be used by ARD in the future.” 

ZDF has already been rising to the challenge posed by other giant streaming services like Netflix through production collaborations. Recently their hit show Der Schwarm became ZDFmediathek’s best streaming start ever when it received over 18 million views online. The production was a joint collaboration between ZDF and other European public broadcasters, such as ORF in Austria and SRF in Switzerland. 

ZDF hopes for such future collaborations to continue even with this joint streaming service. ZDF said they were aiming to include other German public service content from Arte, Phoenix and 3sat, while also reaching out to other European public broadcasters. ORF and SRG have already been contacted about it. Partnerships like these could be part of the solution to keep PSM competitive with the streaming services such as Netflix, whilst helping PSM retain their audiences going forward. “Our goal is a largely unrestricted cosmos of public law content, to which we want to invite other partners,” ZDF said. 

In addition, collaborations like these are also advantageous to PSM. They provide these networks with a vast collection of content whilst preserving PSM values of disseminating diverse content. Additionally, a greater array of content makes PSM more appealing to the different interests of the public, which therefore keeps the public at the centre of all PSM innovations. 

“Our goal is a largely unrestricted cosmos of public law content, to which we want to invite other partners,” – ZDF.

Over to you...

Does your public media organisation have an innovation that you’d like to share?

Let us know by emailing us at