3sat was established to broadcast cultural programmes, originally by satellite. The network was founded as a cooperative network by Germany's ZDF, Austria's ORF and Switzerland's SRG SSR (formerly SRG SSR idée suisse). 3sat began broadcasting on 1 December 1984. ZDF leads the cooperative, though decisions are reached through consensus of the cooperative's partners.
In 1990, DFF, television broadcaster of the German Democratic Republic became a cooperative member of 3sat, and a name change to 4sat was considered. Eventually it was decided to keep the original 3sat name. DFF's membership of 3sat was dissolved on 31 December 1991, as DFF itself ceased to exist, in accordance with Germany's Unification Treaty.
On 1 December 1993, ARD joined 3sat as a cooperative member. This followed ARD's creation of its own satellite channel, Eins Plus. 3sat broadcasts programming 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 3sat is available on the European Astra satellites at 19.2° east, on cable television, and in Austria and Germany on digital terrestrial television.
Since 2003, it can be viewed by 40 million households in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and 85.5 million households in Europe.
"DENKmal" (roughly translated as "Think about it" - the name is a pun on the German word for monument), a knowledge quiz, broadcast once a month on a Saturday evening at 7:20pm. The quiz features six puzzles related to biographies.
"scobel", a general knowledge series. Broadcast fortnightly, Thursdays at 9:00pm. (Previously called "Delta")
"FOYER", a theater series. Broadcast fortnightly, Saturdays at 7:20pm. (Cancelled in 2011)
"hitec" ("High Tech"), reports on science and technology, Sundays at 4:00pm.
"Kulturzeit" ("Cultural Time"), weekdays, 7:20pm.
"nano", "The World of Tomorrow," weekdays 6:30pm.
"neues", Computainment, Sundays at 4:30pm. (Cancelled in 2011)
"tips&trends", a consumer series covering homes, automobiles, fashion and sport, Saturdays at 5:30pm.