Who isn’t a little addicted to television?
We get it. It’s okay.
We understand the weird anxiety that bubbles up when you finish a series in its entirety and the satisfying joy of finally coming home to your favorite streaming web series for a night-long binge session.
Still, this may seem more like a waste of time than anything else.
But what if we told you that binge-watching television could be entertaining and educational?
We’re not even talking about sitting through TED Talks or educational television shows, though there are moods and times for that, too.
Believe it or not, there are actually a ton of Russian television apps out there. To save you the hassle of downloading and testing them out yourself, we put together a list of the five ultimate Russian television apps available in the Google Play store.
Feeling a bit on the fence about whether or not Russian TV apps are actually a worthwhile way to learn Russian? Let’s look at the benefits.
How Can Russian TV Apps Help Me Improve My Russian Language Skills?
- Watching Russian television via an app in your spare time can help you improve your listening skills. We’re constantly absorbing information about language when we watch television shows. By watching Russian television, you can definitely improve your ability to listen to and comprehend the Russian language. Plus, television apps make it easy to fit that listening practice in when you’re on the go.
- Some of these apps feature either Russian, Romanized or English subtitles to help you improve your reading skills. It’s not all about listening skills when it comes to watching Russian television shows to improve your linguistic abilities. Subtitles, be they in English or Russian, are great for either practicing your Cyrillic reading or associating spoken Russian with its English translation. Not all of the apps we’re covering feature subtitles, but a few do!
- Watching a mix of scripted and unscripted Russian television (a drama series vs. a news channel for example) can help you get a grasp on different Russian accents and speaking speeds. Learning a language is definitely not just about studying grammar and memorizing vocabulary words. Every language has its own group of dialects, accents, slang words and other unique nuances. By watching Russian entertainment, you can get a feel for these nuances and improve your overall fluency.
The 5 Best, Most Immersive Russian TV Apps for Android
This free little app contains live Russian-language television channels and FM radio stations. Every aspect of the app’s navigation is in English, making it ideal for beginner learners who are still getting used to the Russian alphabet. The subtitle situation is hit or miss depending on the channel you watch, so all levels of learners can definitely work on their listening and comprehension skills with this app.
Russian TV Live includes:
- 24-hour streaming of different Russian channels.
- Dozens of Russian-language radio stations from countries like Estonia, Latvia, Armenia, etc.
- A “favorites” option to keep your favorite channels and stations in one space.
- Exclusive Russian sports and news channel broadcasts.
This app is also noticeably fast and well-coded, so you can expect a very user-friendly experience. They claim that their videos are high definition, and while a lot of their content isn’t “true” HD, the quality is much better than other live-streaming applications. You won’t have to deal with unwatchably grainy and pixelated television with this app.
We suggest checking out:
- Bridge TV — A fantastic channel that specializes in Russian music videos and various television shows.
- РЕН ТВ — One of the biggest private federal television channels in Russia, specializing in news broadcasts and television series.
While FluentU doesn’t host television exactly, the Android app does boast some pretty handy video clips, including television clips and commercials, designed to help you learn how to comprehend, read and listen in Russian. FluentU takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
Here’s how it works. Once you purchase the subscription of your choice and get started on a pretty attractive risk- and cost-free trial period for two weeks, you can access hundreds of video clips. All of these clips are authentic videos from YouTube, so you can get a feel for what Russian conversation is actually like. Choose a video according to your preferred difficulty level and watch away!
FluentU’s Russian program includes (between its different plans):
- Currently around 500 videos (and we’re constantly adding to that number).
- Interactive captions with definitions, images and example sentences.
- Access to all of FluentU’s other languages at no extra change.
- Customized quizzes for videos and vocab lists.
- Multimedia flashcards that sync with the videos and quizzes.
- Downloadable PDF transcripts of all videos.
- And more!
If you encounter an unfamiliar word, just click the Cyrillic or English word in the subtitles to get a more in-depth definition complete with audio and text resources. It may not be television like you know it, but it’s great for handpicked Russian videos and learning tools! What’s more, it’s a way of actively absorbing information from entertainment that ultimately makes your binge-watching more beneficial and ensures that you’re actually teaching yourself Russian.
Another great app in the Google Play store is the Kartina TV app. This app is essentially the Android-optimized version of the popular Russian television super channel. The navigation contains a mix of Russian and English, so we’d suggest intermediate and advanced learners try this app out. Like with Russian TV Live, the subtitles aren’t set in stone for every channel you watch.
- Over 150 different Russian-language channels.
- Hundreds of on-demand films, some of which are free to watch.
- Program archiving so you can watch what you want when you want.
The only real drawback to this app is the resolution. Much of the content available is mid-to-low resolution, which can be a dealbreaker for some, but works just as well if your main intention is to learn Russian. While this app is free to download, Kartina TV requires a paid membership to unlock all of its content. However, pricing is fairly reasonable and you can try a month-to-month plan to see if you like the content available.
We suggest checking out:
- RTR-Planeta — A state-owned international Russian broadcast channel for news. This channel has received criticism and bans due to the propaganda it has shown, but it’s still worth watching to understand Russian culture.
- MTV — Yes, Kartina TV features a Russian version of MTV. Sometimes watching something you’re already familiar with in a new language can help make comprehension a bit easier!
Лайм HD TV is a free Russian-language television streaming app that’s actually high definition. No empty promises, no fuzzy videos that are one giant pixel. You really do get great quality Russian footage with this app.
Лайм HD TV includes:
- 140 free television channels, from news to sports to variety shows.
- Quick startup and a user-friendly interface.
- A “favorites” function.
- Voice search.
- Excellent audio and video quality.
One important thing to consider about Лайм HD TV is that while there’s a ton of great free content available, many of the channels (especially channels that play modern movies) cost a fee to view. Still, there’s a ton of great high-quality content to check out with this app. Just be aware that the entire app is in Cyrillic, so intermediate and advanced learners will probably get the most out of it.
We suggest checking out:
- OTP — A Russian public television channel with content similar to PBS.
- CTC Media — A Russian independent broadcasting company popular for its hilarious sitcoms and children’s shows.
Do you love comedy? Do you want to know what Russian people consider funny? Then Комедии is the television app for you!
- Dozens of Russian and Soviet comedy series.
- Historical comedies that are both educational and endearing.
- Unusual and rare films.
Since this app’s navigation is entirely in Russian, beginners may struggle to find what they want to watch. Also, be aware that almost all of the content available in the app is sourced from YouTube and it may take you directly to YouTube to view the content. Still, this app is a great directory for finding royalty-free Russian television and films online.
We suggest checking out:
- “Особенности национальной охоты” (Peculiarities of the National Hunt) — A Finnish expat in Russia is whisked away on misadventures with the locals.
- “День выборов” (Election Day) — A group of successful Russian radio hosts, a fake priest and a theater director must help promote a political candidate in an unfamiliar part of Russia.
As you can see, there are a few stellar Russian TV apps out there for Android devices.
It’s safe to say that you’ll definitely find at least one of the apps on our list useful for brushing up on your Russian listening and reading skills!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Russian with real-world videos.