Russian TV Channels Guide

Like to zip through some Russian TV channels? Guess what - I love to do it myself! In fact, I've been doing it for years - and actually became pretty good at it. After all, what kind of a man are you if you've never skipped through channels?? :)

So I was thinking - why don't I share my experience? After all, there are plenty of Russian TV channels around, and it's easy to get lost - especially if you're "new in town".

To avoid that, I've prepared my personal little TV guide. Read it -and you'll never get lost again. All the channels, all the shows - and a touch of my invaluable comments on what's going on in Russian TV these days.

Channel type

ORT is a federal channel - I'd say the most "federal" of them all. Wherever you go, whatever TV you have - channel one will always belong to ORT. Also, don't forget that ORT has long ago gone global, its satellite broadcast reaching all Western countries.

Primary focus

I'd say ORT doesn't "specialize" on anything. As a leader of Russian TV channels, it can afford itself to dominate everything, not just some specific niche. In general, ORT is well known for its series, talk and comedy shows and even movies!

Yes, ORT also deals with movie production. Some of the latest ones are "Night Watch", "Admiral" and "The Turkish Gambit" - but there're much more! In fact, ORT was probably the first channel who coined the term "Russian blockbuster" - as it was the first one to gather sufficient resources to create "Hollywood-style" films.

Famous shows

There are plenty of'em. The first is one "KVN". This show isn't probably very similar to those you've seen - it's sort of a comedy competition.

The idea is that several teams from all around Russia meet together to compete who's funnier - and I must say that often they're simply hilarious! I'd say "KVN" is one of the best humor shows around!

Another very famous broadcast is "Lednikovyi Period" ("Ice Age"). Ever seen Russian celebrities figure-skating? Well, then don't miss your chance!

In fact, as weird as it sounds, this show is great. I'm a big fan of it despite the fact I'm not interested in sports in general and figure-skating in particular. Never thought I'd get so involved!

"Bolshaya Raznica" is another one worth mentioning. Two Russian comedians and actors, Ivan Urgant and Alexander Tsekalo, host a show that's basically a one big parody.

The original part is they usually make fun out of well-known Russian TV channels shows - and they do it well! They do choose the movies as well, but it happens quite rarely.

And there are more, much more! All kinds of broadcasts for all types of viewers, well-established and loved by many. To make a long story short - ORT has got plenty of great shows to help you spend your time!

Are the news objective?

Nope, the news aren't objective at all. If you want to learn anything else apart from President's Medvedev latest speeches - look somewhere else, preferably Internet websites. Learning about Russia from ORT news isn't a very good idea!

Is available abroad?

The international version of ORT channel is available abroad in nearly every Western country you can name - plus most of the CIS. Its coverage is truly global, but even if you do find a place where it's not included in the package - don't worry! Just open their website, and here you go - all of the programs are available in streaming media 24/7!

Is it worth watching?

ORT is definitely worth watching. As I said, it's got plenty of good shows, so you won't have problem spending an evening. Just remember that watching too much TV isn't very healthy! :)


Channel type

RTR is a federal channel as well. It may have slightly less coverage than ORT - but you won't see the difference. Let's just say that wherever there's ORT - there's RTR as well - at least in 95% of the cases.

Primary focus

RTR has been an eternal competitor of ORT, but it just doesn't have enough resources to fight it well enough. Therefore, it had to look for a niche - and it found one. It's called "soap-operas and poor comedy".

When you're zipping through Russian TV channels, you'll immediately know you've hit RTR. If you're doing it during the day - 90% chance you'll land on one of the endless Russian series they produce, like "Tatyanin Den'" or "Karmelita".

Heck, they even make up names similar to Latin American soap-operas that conquered the hearts of Soviet housewives in the beginning of Perestroika!

God has mercy on you if you hit RTR in the evening! Some of Russia's poorest and dumbest comedy shows run during that "prime-time", so be sure to switch to another one of Russian TV channels! Don't do that - and you're doomed. Oh, and one more thing - if it's "Krivoe Zerkalo" - run! Run fast, run far and never look back...

As you've probably noticed, I'm not a fan of RTR at all. Can't remember when I saw something decent on that channel - and can't recommend it to you as well.

Sure, there's a chance to find something specific that you'll like, but if you ask me - RTR should be somewhere at the bottom of your priority list!

Famous shows

Oh yeah, plenty of "famous" shows around! Endless series like "Princessa Tsirka","Karmelita", "Derzhi Menia Krepche", horrible "comedy" shows like "Krivoe Zerkalo" and "Anshlag"... I don't even know where to start!

The only decent show I'm aware of is "Tancy so zvezdami" ("Dancing with the stars"). The idea is the same as ORT's "Ice Age" - the only difference is that people dance instead of skating. Nice to watch, as the dancers are really-really good!

RTR also had "Zvezdy Na L'Du" ("Stars on the Ice"), which is the exact copy of "Ice Age". The thing is - it's not really a copy! ORT "copied" the idea of that show from RTR - but made it on a totally different level, which the RTR will never reach. They run this show from time to time, but apparently without much success.

Oh, and one more thing - there's obviously a "war" going on between them. Pay attention how RTR is putting its strongest shows, often very similar, exactly when ORT is hitting the "prime-time".

Sometimes it even gets funny!

Are the news objective?

No. Just like ORT, RTR's news are very government-biased. Don't expect to learn much from them - they've long ago turned into government propaganda...

Is available abroad?

RTR is available abroad - all you need is a satellite television and a decent viewing package. Plus, of course, you can watch many of the shows right from the website. Don't you just love broadband?

Is it worth watching?

Unless there's something specific you like - RTR is not worth watching. Even if you're a fan of series like "The Bold and the Beautiful" - I suggest you stick to the originals, instead of watching the Russian versions. Apart from that, RTR can't offer you much.

Channel type

Just like ORT and RTR, NTV is federal channel as well. May have less coverage than other federal Russian TV channels - at least used to, but is still available pretty much throughout Russia.

Primary focus

In short, NTV focuses on TV crime in all of its forms. First of all, it features endless cops movies and series. Second - NTV is infamous for its shocking documentaries about theft, rape, murder and the most terrible human scum that walks the Earth.

It wasn't always like that. There were times when NTV was a proud, privately-owned, independent channel. Some of Russia's most talented journalists used to work there, including my favorite Victor Shenderovich. Later on, after the rise of President Putin, NTV became too annoying for the government.

As the result, NTV's owner was arrested and forced to sell it, and since then - NTV became the property of the state, which immediately reflected on its quality.

Famous shows

As I said, NTV's shows are usually famous for cruelty. Don't know what kind of people may like them, but those broadcasts has been steadily put during the prime-time for years. On the other hand, NTV is government owned, which means they don't really care about the ratings.

NTV's other, "normal" shows will not be of much interest to you. They are usually of poor quality, made not for viewers but mostly for channel's producers own pleasure.

Endless, boring series, bad acting, same story all the time - it's either about cops or crooks. Seems that creators of such shows refuse to accept the fact there's more to life than criminal investigations.

Don't waste time on NTV - there are other, better Russian TV channels. Now where did I put that remote?

Are the news objective?

Not at all. Seems to me they're even more biased than ORT and RTR - at least I've seen more Vladimir Putin on NTV than on any other Russian TV channels. My advice's the same - don't buy that. NTV is the last of Russian TV channels to look for objective information.

Is available abroad?

NTV is available abroad. In fact, it's got its own satellite TV brand - the "NTV Plus". I believe you won't have problems hooking to it from your country - but why bother?

Unless you're a fan of old Soviet movies that "NTV Plus"'s channel "Nashe Kino" shows around the clock, there's no particular reason to pay for it.

Is it worth watching?



Channel type

STS is local. It's available in Moscow and Moscow region - and that's pretty much it. A pity, because this channel can be quite fun.

Primary focus

STS positions itself as the "main entertainment channel". It's got no news and no politics whatsoever - only movies and shows are allowed. In general, it's well differentiated from other Russian TV channels.

These days, nearly all of STS shows are actually localized versions of American sitcoms, like "Brat'ia po raznomu", who are just a Russian version of "Perfect strangers". However, there are also original Russian series, like "Kadetstvo" and "Ranetki".

STS took part in producting some of the well-known Russian movies, like "Deviataia Rota" and "Obitaemyi Ostrov". One of Russia's well-known movie directors, Fedor Bondarchuk, is tightly connected to STS and even hosts a show there - quite an achievement for a channel that isn't wide-known in Russia!

Famous shows

I can name "Kadetstvo", which was one of my favorite series. Despite I'm no fan of series in general, "Kadetstvo" made me watch nearly every chapter!

In addition, there are jewels like "Papiny dochki" and "Kto v dome hoziain", but don't forget that series aren't everything that the channel has!

STS has also got plenty of shows, like "Horoshie shutki" and "Kino v Detaliah", movies, music and everything else to keep you in the good mood!

Are the news objective?

STS doesn't have a news program. When it has one - I'll be sure to comment! :)

Is available abroad?

STS is available abroad if you have access to "NTV Plus" satellite television. I know that in some countries its channels are fully available, while in other places you can only get a couple of "NTV Plus" Russian TV channels.

It really depends on where you live and the available cable/satellite operators, so if you're serious about getting STS - I suggest you check what packages are available.

Is it worth watching?

Yes. STS is a good entertainment channel, "light" and funny. Great to watch after a busy day, when you're sick and tired of dealing with serious stuff.


Channel type

Just like STS, Ren-TV is a local Moscow channel which, however, is available as a part of "NTV Plus" Russian TV channels package.

Primary focus

Ren-TV specializes on series, great news and excellent analytic programs. Ren-TV is unique, as it's the only well-known TV channel that's very unbiased.

Watching the channel's news, I have a feeling I'm in another country as the journalists criticize the government and speak of painful issues quite freely.

In addition, Ren-TV has got several analytical programs like "Nedelia" with Marianna Maksimovskaia, and "Vecher s Tigranom Keosayanom" - "Evening with Tigran Keosayan".

"Nedelia" ("The Week") is my favorite, and I fell in love with "Vecher..." when I saw him asking the goverment official some "uncomfortable" questions - a thing long forgotten by other Russian TV channels.

Famous shows

Plenty. The most famous one is "Soldaty" - although I think they've been on the air for way too many seasons. "Nedelia" is an excellent analytical show I try to never miss. Marianna Maksimovskaya speaks about the "hottest" issues in Russia - and that why the government tried to shut the show down.

Ren-TV news are excellent, speaking about interesting issues in Moscow and Russia. Don't know how they manage to pull that off, but that's the only one of Russian TV channels that has unbiased, honest news - although they do try to "sweeten the pill" sometimes.

I also like the show called "Voennoe Delo" - everything about modern armies and combat technologies, plus a self-defence lesson in the end. Often gets really interesting and useful!

Are the news objective?

Yes. As objective as they can be. I'd say Ren-TV is THE place to look for objective news among all of Russian TV channels.

Is available abroad?

Yes, as a part of "NTV Plus" satellite television package. Again, you'll have to check with your local operator what's exactly included in "NTV Plus" Russian TV channels he provides.

Is it worth watching?

Absolutely. In my opinion, one of the best Russian TV channels.

I haven't mentioned them all. There are about a dozen small Russian TV channels, but most of them aren't that interesting. A couple of them are worth mentioning, though.

TV 1000 is good if you like horrors. Some of the best mystical and sci-fi series and movies are waiting for you - a pity this channel has very bad reception.

There's also a channel called "TNT", "famous" for its terrible, stupid shows, like "Dom-2". Don't watch it - better erase it from your channel list.


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