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VRT NU (BE)

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Is a free live TV streaming site like VRT Nu worth your time and energy? Chances are you already have at least a Netflix and Hulu subscription (or know somebody who has been nice enough to share their password with you). Maybe you even pay for the other big TV network in Belgium, VTM. Could a public cable company really have that good of a free live TV streaming service?

Well, that will be up to you to decide, ultimately. All I can say is this: seldom do I come across a free live TV streaming site with this much going for it. If you want a dependable site that lets you stream live TV for free (as well as on-demand), offers an impeccable mobile experience, and comes with an enormous library of content (old, new, Belgian, and international), VRT Nu might be just the streaming site that you have been looking for.

History

VRT is the current successor to 3 prior Flemish Belgian national media companies. Prior to VRT, you had the Nationaal Instituut voor de Radio-omroep (1931 – 1960), Belgische Radio- en Televisieomroep (1960 – 1991), and Belgische Radio- en Televisieomroep Nederlandstalige Uitzendingen (1991 – 1998). Finally, the VRT rename came along On January 1, 1998.

The name, however, wasn’t all that changed on this date. The company’s structure and legal status also changed entirely. It went from being a semi-governmental entity (a parastatale) to a publicly owned corporation.

Since VRT is the successor to the NIR and INR, both the public corporation and its French Belgian counterparts now share Belgian membership within the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – the association of public media broadcasters throughout Europe and Mediterranean rim who are responsible for, along with many other things, the world-famous annual Eurovision Song Contest.

The creation of VTM marked the end of VRT’s long-held monopoly, resulting in the commercial TV company VTM taking about half of VRT’s viewership. This has forced VRT to greatly improve the quality of their programming, as an effort to fight back for audience. One way that VRT has attempted this has been to outsource external production companies, such as Woestijnvis, who are responsible for hits like The Mole and Man Bites Dog.

Another way in which VRT has worked to compete with VTM has been in the founding and growing of its online streaming services. Today, each of VRT’s channels has their own free streaming site. Then, of course, there is VRT Nu, which combines all VRT programming for one of the best free live TV streaming experiences available on the web today.

Design

Personally, I am a huge fan of VRT Nu’s site design. This is the perfect example of an old company proving that they can still compete with the young guns. This is one of the best free live TV streaming sites, in terms of design, that I have seen in quite some time. It is cutting edge, modern, professional, user-friendly, intuitive, and immersive – all qualities that I look for in a great streaming site build.

Once you land on the home page, VRT Nu may not look like much. It starts off, more or less, with your typical, run of the mill TV streaming site layout, a la Netflix or Hulu. You will find a large banner at the top of the page featuring a new or popular TV series, movie, or episode. Below that is a smattering of what’s popular, some more suggested titles to check out, and a great arrangement of catalogs separated by interest and category – from culture, children’s entertainment, sports, news clips, and more. Each of these sections, too, offers a nice pacing, alternating between side-scrolling horizontal menus and galleries of thumbnails.

Although there is nothing necessarily new or inventive happening here, I will say this, VRT Nu makes great use of space, providing a user experience that never gets stagnant or stale – no matter where on the site you happen to be.

The free live TV section of the site, though, is where VRT Nu really begins to shine. Click on the “Watch Live” tab in the site menu bar to be transported to a fully dynamic and responsive TV guide allowing for quick and easy access to all of VRT’s live streams by channel. Each currently live program comes up as an option (clearly and neatly separated from one another), each with an extra-large thumbnail of the program. You can also look to the right for a glimpse of what is airing next. This is the kind of free live TV streaming experience that you dream of (that not enough free live TV streaming sites, in my opinion, come close to offering).

Or, if you are looking for a more detailed TV guide, well, you can always enter the TV Guide section of the site. This one is all text, and asserts itself in a smart and dynamic format. Split into 3 main sections (Een, Canvas, and Ketnet), scroll through every hour of programming in an intuitive and immersive manner. Easily toggle to tomorrow or the day after, too, for a look at what’s happening later this week.

Honestly, I don’t know if I have ever come across a TV guide that is as much fun to use as this one is. And that’s really saying something, isn’t it? I mean, it’s a TV guide we’re talking about here, after all, not a drone or something.

I hate to linger for so long on VRT Nu’s site design, but there is one more flourish that I think deserves mentioning, mostly because it is a very useful element of design that I think many other free live TV streaming sites (and premium ones alike) are all too often missing. And that is a section dedicated just to browsing categories. This functions much like a tags system, which makes for incredibly smooth and intuitive browsing; it also makes it much easier to find new programs based on your interests. Whether you prefer movies, human interest pieces, culture and the arts, humor, philosophy, classic shows, or anything else, VRT Nu saves you plenty of time by offering a superior browsing mechanism.

Content and Features

As far as content is concerned, VRT Nu provides any and every TV show that can be viewed on any of VRT’s currently airing channels. This means that users will be able to stream (both live and on-demand) their favorite shows from Een, Canvas, and Ketnet. Not only can you watch original and syndicated series for free on VRT Nu, but you can also stream movies that aired on these channels recently, too.

Whether you prefer to watch live TV for free, or you like to play catchup, the choice is yours on this TV streaming site. Enjoy hundreds of hours of premium TV streaming, completely free of charge (so long as you live in Belgium).

Mobile and Desktop Experience

Not only does VRT NU offer one of the best free live TV streaming experiences on your desktop or laptop computer … it also has one of the highest-rated mobile apps for streaming live TV. On the Apple App Store, for instance, the VRT Nu app has an average user rating of 4.8 (out of 5). Users love the equally smooth and user-friendly interface of the mobile app just as much as they love that of the desktop site.

Unfortunately, Android users are a bit out of luck. There is not a native VRT Nu app available for Android. However, there are several APKs available online if you are willing to seek them out. It may be a little extra work to find, download, and transfer the APK to your phone … but if the Android APK app is half as good as the native iOS one, I would say that it is definitely worth the trouble.

If you don’t own an iOS device, however, and you don’t have the knowhow nor the interest in messing with downloading the Android workaround app, fear not … the mobile site is fully optimized for mobile devices. Although it may not be quite as convenient as being able to utilize the immersive and extremely responsive app, accessing VRT Nu’s mobile site will certainly get the job done. In fact, you may not even notice that you’re not using an app at all!

Likes & Hates:
Great selection of on-demand and free live TV streaming
Excellent site and app design
Free live TV streaming in HD
No native Android app (only iOS and APK)
Only available in Belgium