The Ultimate Guide to Watching French TV Online

Are you ready to channel surf à la française ?

Channel surfing, aka le zapping, is a French pastime that can be enjoyed from your sofa.

There are lots of opportunities to watch French TV online… you just need to know which sites to visit!


Watch French TV Online Via Individual Channel Websites

Individual channels in France offer portions of their programs to be streamed online. Get to know the most famous French channels – as well as what they’re known for – so that you can pick out some fun programs to enjoy.


embracing le zapping guide watching french tv online

Canal+ is a private channel that’s home to some of France’s best original programming. The best online programs to check out here are their “news” shows, which take a mocking approach to the nightly news, much in the way that John Stewart or Stephen Colbert do Stateside.

Le Petit Journal involves several bits, including a journalist doing funny interviews of very serious individuals from Anna Wintour to Front National politician Jean-Marie Lepen, while Les Guignols de l’Info conducts the nightly — and weekly — news entirely with marionettes. The latter is worth a look, if only for the fact that the role of nearly every single American (with a few exceptions made for current and former presidents and other well-known faces) is played by a marionette in the likeness of Sylvester Stallone.

Parts of Le Grand Journal, the overarching show that contains these humorous little segments, are also available. While the same lighthearted spirit is part of this series, it’s a touch more serious than either les Guignols or le Petit Journal.


embracing le zapping guide watching french tv online

TV5MONDE is one channel that is actually available via certain cable providers, so you can watch French TV on your TV! But if you don’t have TV5MONDE, you can access this wealth of news from your computer.

Several particularly short video types are available, like the court du jour (short of the day), which offers a 3-minute video on a current event or idea, and flash info, which gives you the inside scoop on the day’s news in a bite-sized format. Both of these options are great if you don’t have time for a very long video but still want to get a bit of your daily news in French!


embracing le zapping guide watching french tv online

Arte is a Franco-German network famous for its artistic and often avant-garde films and shows. Arte has a VOD platform allowing users to digitally borrow films and shows from their collection. Classic French cinema and documentaries are on offer, as are certain TV shows like Xanadu, a show about a family running a sexual empire.

Watch French TV Via Netflix

You can get your hands on quite a few French movies and TV shows on your computer thanks to Netflix! Some of the top choices currently available include:

  • “Les Choristes,” a modern classic that was released in the early 2000’s but definitely has an old-school French cinema feel. This film tells the story of a music professor at an all-boys French boarding school. In case you were wondering, the kids touch him as much as he touches them. Clichés aside, this film has a fantastic original score and great acting.
  • “La Vie d’Adèle,” translated in English as “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” a coming of age story about a girl’s path through love and discovery of her own sexual identity.
  • “Les Femmes du 6e étage,” a film that explores the 1960s building policies of Paris’ Haussmanien classics. The 6th for was reserved for maids’ rooms, many of which were inhabited by Spanish immigrants fleeing Franco’s regime. This film explores what happens when the invisible lines between 5th and 6th floor are crossed.
  • “Les Intouchables” is heart-warming à la française. This film, based on a true story, explores what happens when a wealthy Parisian quadriplegic employs a poor young man from the Parisian suburbs as his personal aide and assistant.

Watch French TV on YouTube

If you’re looking for old school French TV that might no longer be available elsewhere, YouTube is your best bet.

And if you’ve ever asked yourself what Saved By the Bell would have looked like if it were made about France, then you should absolutely be watching “Hélène et les Garçons.” This show explores the lives of university students in Paris: their loves, their music and their friendships. It’s exactly as corny as it sounds, which makes it positively perfect.

If you’re more into cartoons, “Le Petit Monde de Tom Sawyer” is perfect. This animated series explores the life of Mark Twain’s time-honored character. The introduction, especially, is sure to get a few giggles from Americans, as Tom Sawyer is characterized thusly: “Il n’a peur de rien, c’est un américain !” (“He’s not afraid of anything; he’s an American!”) and “Il aime bien l’école, surtout quand elle est loin.” (“He likes school, especially when it’s far away.”) This show isn’t actually French but Japanese, but it turned out to be so popular amongst the French that you’ll find it even more frequently in its dubbed version than in the original.

Watch French Clips (and More) on FluentU

If you’re looking for the versatility of YouTube but with a much more consistent level of quality, turn to FluentU. This language learning program is based around authentic French videos like clips from movies and TV shows, as well as more diverse content like news segments, music videos, vlogs, inspirational talks and more.

FluentU has short clips from TV shows from Asterix and Peppa Pig to National Geographic series and the French Drama “Eva”… to name just a few.

FluentU aims to make native French videos accessible to any level of learner. It does this by organizing its clips by difficulty and topic, and integrating may learning tools into the program.

For example, you can hover over or click on any word as the video plays to pause the action and see an instant definition. You can add any word as a flashcard and see example sentences, clips from other videos where the word is used, audio pronunciation of practically everything and more. You can also take quizzes that adapt to your learning and show you words at intervals calculated to help you remember them based on your current learning level.


There are also post-video quizzes, transcripts, key word lists and more. You can use FluentU on the website or download the iOS / Android app.

Watch French TV on VOD via Eurocinema

embracing le zapping guide watching french tv online

If you want to get a great selection of French films and TV shows online and you’re willing to deviate from Netflix, check out Eurocinema. It’s available to viewers in the USA, Canada and the UK. You’ll find a different selection of films that may not have been otherwise made available to American audiences, and new films are added often, so you’ll always have something new to watch.

The added bonus with Eurocinema is that you’ll often have European choices hailing from countries other than France, so if you’re looking to branch out on FluentU and pick up on yet another European language, Eurocinema could be a good idea for more than one reason!


No more zapping necessary! You have all the tools you need now to sit back, relax and learn French while you watch French TV online.

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