Netflix has expanded its global coverage over the last few years and nowadays it is possible to access this popular streaming platform in almost every country in the world. While Netflix was originally established in 1997, it was only in 2016 that the service truly reached a worldwide audience when it was launched in 130 countries simultaneously. Prior to that, Netflix was already available in about 60 countries and thanks to the recent global expansion, people in over 190 countries can get access to the service. Although it is possible to set up a subscription in any of the countries supported, there are still some challenges for customers outside United States, particularly those in the locations that were recently added. The main problem is that the selection of content is still quite limited when you compare it to what customers in key markets such as United States, Canada and UK, can access.
In order to get access to a wider selection of movies and TV series, many users have opted for using a VPN service. This technology offers the possibility of bypassing the geographical blocks implemented by Netflix. With a VPN, you can change your IP address to trick services like Netflix into thinking that you are connecting from a different location. No matter where you are, you can connect to a VPN server located in the US and this will make you appear as if you were in that country. This will give you access to the full library of content that Netflix offers. The problem is that Netflix has cracked down on the use of VPNs and other tools that aim to bypass geo-blocking and as a result, it is now more difficult to access content that is not available in your region.
Netflix subscribers in the United States can enjoy thousands of TV shows, movies, documentaries and original productions, but the number of options available is greatly reduced for customers in other countries. This is due to the copyright regulations followed by Hollywood and other media producers, which place restrictions on the availability of their content. To be able to offer a TV show or movie outside the original country where it was created, Netflix must often sign deals and pay large amounts of money to buy the content rights. The deals establish that the movie or TV show can only be shown in a specific location. This is why, Netflix uses geo-blocking to prevent customers overseas from accessing the library that is only aimed at those in the United States. In this article, we will take a closer look at the blocking issues and will go through the VPN options that are still working for Netflix.
Why do you need a VPN for Netflix?
To give you an idea of why using a VPN is such a popular option for Netflix, let’s talk about the differences in the content that can be accessed across the countries supported. At the moment, it is estimated that Netflix US has nearly 6000 TV series and movies available in its catalog. Although it is easy to imagine that Netflix Canada would be the second largest platform for Netflix, the reality is that it only has about 4900 TV shows and movies. In fact, Netflix Canada offers less content than the versions of the service that are available in countries like Jamaica, Panama, Ecuador and Dominican Republic. The locations where Netflix customers can enjoy a wider selection of content are United States, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and Martinique, in that order. Surprisingly, United Kingdom and Australia only get about 35% of the content available in the US version.
While subscribers in the United States get access to more content, the selection available varies from one country to the other, depending on the licensing agreements that Netflix has with the production companies. For instance, certain shows that are available in the US version of Netflix, may not be offered in Australia or the UK, but sometimes the opposite can happen. Classic TV shows like the A-Team, Ally McBeal, Cheers and Frasier are available in the US, but not in Canada. In Australia, you can’t watch Grey’s Anatomy, Breaking Bad or Dexter at the moment, but in the US, you can. In some cases, you can only find a one or two seasons of a show, while generally all the seasons are available in the United States.
Although US subscribers would pay slightly more than those in the UK for example, the difference is small and doesn’t justify the gap in the content available. Users in the UK pay £5.99 per month (roughly $7.34) for the lowest plan available, while in the US the monthly price is $7.99. Considering that according to the current reports, the United Kingdom gets even less than half of the content available in the United States, it is easy to see why many customers would feel that the deal is quite unfair. A VPN offers a good alternative for those who want to enjoy a more versatile viewing experience. Unfortunately, due to pressure from Hollywood studios, Netflix is trying to clamp down on VPN users, but as we will see later on, there is still hope for those who want to defeat blocks in order to access more content.
As previously mentioned, Netflix operates around the world and at this stage, it has been launched in so many places that the list of countries where it is not available is very short. Due to government restrictions, the service is not available in North Korea, Syria, Crimea and China. Although Netflix is still looking for ways to offer its service in China and it may be launched there eventually, at the moment the only option for users in that country (and anywhere else where Netflix is restricted) is to use a VPN to set up an account in a different location.
For those who are able to create an account in their country of residence, the main issue is that the content they can access, is not as varied and extensive as what those in locations like the United States can enjoy. If you are paying for a Netflix subscription, it is frustrating to know that you are not getting the same service as other customers, simply because of your country. That is why many people look for options to overcome the geographical restrictions and using a VPN is the most effective and practical solution. However, Netflix has implemented bans on VPNs to ensure that users who live outside United States, American Samoa and Puerto Rico (some of the places that offer a greater selection of content), cannot bypass the geo-blocks.
Earlier in 2016, after the company expanded its service to additional countries, Netflix announced that they were targeting the use of proxies and VPNs as a measure to prevent access to content that is only meant for a specific region. Launching the service in more than 100 new countries, prompted Netflix to review its agreements to license content for each of them. The studios would only allow their content to be shown in certain locations and each country has a library of eligible video content available for streaming within its territory. In order to be able to offer content in the new countries supported and comply with its agreements with production companies, Netflix has to make sure that its international subscribers can’t access the content that is not allowed in their region.
Since customers outside the United States are looking for solutions to access the Netflix US catalog, the demand for VPN services that are effective for this purpose is set to grow. Netflix aims to make sure that you can only access the service in the country where you currently are, but it admitted that if the same content was available to all customers around the world, the use of VPNs wouldn’t be necessary. Although they have said that they are working to get licenses to provide a wider range of content for their international subscribers, it is unclear when will this become a reality. In the meantime, the decision to block VPNs and proxies is affecting many customers and it is likely that it was taken to avoid issues with the entertainment companies that produce the movies and TV series shown on the platform.
Due to Netflix’s efforts to prevent the use of VPN and proxies, when you try to access Netflix US from a different country using these tools, you may come across an error message letting you know that your attempt to bypass the geo-blocks, has been detected. While in general, customers are asked to disable the unblocking tools and then try to access the service again, there have been some cases in which Netflix has blocked users from its platform. Still, it is doubtful that Netflix can successfully stop customers from using VPNs and it is very unlikely that they manage to block everyone who opts for these tools. Even Netflix has admitted that blocking VPNs on a large scale is a challenging task and blocking all its international users is technically impossible for the company.
Even if Netflix was capable of blocking everyone who attempts to use a VPN to bypass restrictions, the reality is that it would lose a considerable amount of money. It is estimated that even in China, where the service is not officially available, Netflix has millions of subscribers. VPN services and other technologies that allow users to defeat censorship and keep their privacy protected, are already very popular in China. The services that work there are designed to be effective against tough restrictive measures and users are familiar with these solutions. Blocking these subscribers would mean a significant loss for the company, which is why they will probably focus on the most obvious instances of unblocking attempts.
In order to meet the requirements of its agreements, Netflix opted for taking a harsher approach towards the use of technologies that can circumvent geo-blocks. However, a large number of its subscribers use VPNs and preventing them from using the service altogether, would be a foolish move. It is a difficult position to be in, but it seems like Netflix is trying to find the balance between keeping the Hollywood studios happy, and making money, which in the end is the main purpose of the company. To make sure that the studios see that Netflix is taking action, it will target the most obvious users of unblocking services that are easy to detect. This will simply prompt many of these customers to look for better solutions to bypass the restrictions.
Netflix has stated that it has a system in place to prevent the use of proxy servers or “unblockers”, but it has not provided significant information about the methods implemented. Netflix has simply said that the technology that they use will enable them to tackle the use of unblocking tools. However, they have admitted that it will be like a game of cat and mouse, since the solutions to bypass restrictions will also evolve. While in theory, Netflix could lock accounts to one country to make sure that users can only access content from a specific region, this would affect subscribers who travel abroad. Tech experts agree that although Netflix wants to show that it is taking the necessary steps to ensure that content is only accessed in the eligible locations, in the end, the company knows that employing restrictive measures to prevent the use of VPNs, may lead customers to return to piracy.
Bypassing geo-blocks: Why are VPNs more effective than proxies?
Since many people want to watch content that is only available in the US version of Netflix, many VPN providers are continuously working to enhance their technologies and meet the demands of their customers. Netflix will try to prevent the use of smart DNS proxies, VPNs and other services as a way to appease right holders. However, as they have already admitted, the game is on and many providers have accepted the challenge and are offering solutions to defeat the blocks. It should be noted that VPNs are more effective than other options such as smart DNS proxies. The truth is that Netflix can detect proxies since they can’t mask your country-specific IP address. Proxies don’t route your traffic through a secure tunnel and Netflix checks the IP address to make sure that it matches with a selection of addresses that have been whitelisted for the country where the content is licensed.
In general, proxies are not an effective solution to bypass Netflix restrictions and there is a high risk that they are detected and blocked. VPNs on the other hand, are more difficult to block. Netflix may be able to single out and block all the IP addresses in the internet registries of a specific region including ARIN and RIPE, that are assigned to VPN services. However, there are many dynamic and residential IP address that are used by VPN providers, but that can’t be traced back to them. Many of these IP addresses are assigned to different organizations or are on lease from an Internet Service Provider. The VPN services that take privacy seriously and that are aimed at people who live in countries with strict online censorship, avoid being associated with the IP addresses used to bypass restrictions.
Apart from the challenges of identifying the IP addresses that are used by VPN providers, there are other ways in which VPNs can make things more difficult for Netflix. Obfuscating VPN protocols to make them appear as regular traffic is another solution to avoid detection. Commercial VPN providers offer this option, but it is also available with open source OpenVPN and the Tor network. The latter two solutions use openvpn_xorpartch to disguise encrypted traffic, keeping it hidden from those who enforce censorship. OpenVPN and the Tor Project are open solutions that are supported by a varied group of individuals and institutions that aim to offer security and privacy for internet users who live under repressive regimes. The team behind these technologies constantly works to improve them and that often means looking for ways to avoid detection.
The advances implemented in these privacy solutions are also set to benefit VPN providers that cater for customers who want to bypass Netflix’s blocks. Just as Netflix finds a way to block VPN servers, the providers will come up with a solution that will allow their customers to overcome the restrictions. Overall, the blocks implemented by Netflix have not been fully successful and although they have managed to impact some services, many VPN providers won’t give up. In the ongoing “battle” between Netflix and VPN providers, there may be some casualties in the form of servers that stop being effective. One server that works at the moment, may get blocked the next day. However, VPN providers will replace these servers with new ones and will add more IPs to fix the issue. In the end, Netflix will try its best to block the services that can be easily detected, but it won’t block millions of users who access the service using a VPN. It doesn’t have the technical capacity to block them and even if it did, the possible financial loss would be enough to stop them from taking such action.
VPN Services Verified as working with Netflix ( Last tested 30/12/2016 )
ExpressVPN is one of the services that is constantly improving its network to offer effective speeds, and allow you to bypass the blocks imposed by Netflix. With ExpressVPN you can enjoy stable, reliable and fast performance and since they offer a 30-day money back guarantee, you will have enough time to try the service and verify that it works well for you. Since the situation with Netflix is very changeable at this time, ExpressVPN is regularly updating its network of servers to ensure that customers don’t face blocks. Users outside the United States can find servers in that country that will allow them to access Netflix without issues. If a particular server doesn’t work, you can switch to a different one, or contact their 24/7 live chat support. They will be able to recommend a server. ExpressVPN can even help you to access Netflix US on your iOS or Android device.
Compared to other options, VPNArea is a relatively new provider in the industry, but it is known as a reliable solution and has achieved recognition thanks to the high quality of its service. Security is one of the strongest points for VPNArea as the company offers a fantastic selection of features that will keep your data protected. They offer functions like kill switch, DNS leak protection, anti-WebRTC and IPv6 leaks protection. VPNArea has servers in 60 countries including United States, where they have servers specially designed to unblock Netflix. You can also opt for servers in Australia, Canada or United Kingdom, if you prefer other versions of Netflix. VPNArea offers great speeds that will allow you to stream content seamlessly and the customer service is great.
NordVPN is an ideal solution for customers who want to secure their online traffic and keep their privacy protected. They don’t keep any logs whatsoever and offer a high level of encryption. Their network covers over 50 countries and they have servers that are optimized for Netflix. You won’t need to complete any particular set up in order to unblock content from Netflix US. However, since Netflix is trying to catch up with VPN providers, it is advisable to check their support page for updates, or contact their customer service to find out which servers are working. NordVPN offers good speeds for streaming and the service supports advanced security features like Tor over VPN and double VPN.
Although VyprVPN was not working with Netflix for a while, it was able to fix the issues and this service from Golden Frog is currently another good option. You can connect to a server in United States and stream content from Netflix without having to complete any configuration steps. As with other providers, you will need to try different servers as not all of them work. VyprVPN offers a free trial that allows you to test the service for 3 days, so you can check if it is the right solution to access Netflix US.
Unblocking Netflix running the VPN on your router
The VPN services in our list will help you to access the content that Netflix offers in the United States or in any other country of your preference. You can use Chrome, Firefox or other browsers. Since your traffic and your DNS requests are sent through the VPN, Netflix will not be able to find out your actual location. However, when you use the Netflix app on your mobile device, the app disallows the DNS routing that the VPN uses and it sends requests directly to the public DNS server that is closer to you. Because of this, Netflix is able to identify your true location and block you, even if you are connected using a VPN. Thankfully, providers like NordVPN and ExpressVPN have managed to address this issue and both of them are effective with the Netflix app on Android and iOS.
Things can get slightly more complicated if you want to watch content from Netflix US on your smart TV, or using Roku, game consoles, Chromecast and other devices, since they don’t offer native support for VPNs. What you can do is to set up the VPN service on your router or buy a router that is already configured with the VPN of your choice. VPN configuration will also help you if your VPN doesn’t work with the Netflix app on iOS and Android. You will need to set up the VPN on the network router that your device is connected to. The configuration process depends on the firmware that your router is using.
It is possible that the first thing that you need to do is to flash the router to run a firmware like DD-WRT or Tomato, which will enable you to set up a VPN on the device. You can find routers that have been already flashed with firmware that supports VPN, or you can complete the process by yourself. Most VPN providers offer instructions that will allow you to configure the service on your router. However, if you prefer to save some time, the most practical option would be to get a router that is ready to go. ExpressVPN sells pre-configured routers and it also has free router firmware that you can install on compatible router models. Setting up a VPN on a router will allow you to access Netflix US on any device in your network. Once the VPN is running on the router, you will need to set up your firewall to forward DNS queries to the DNS servers that the VPN service uses to defeat Netflix’s blocks. Your VPN provider should offer instructions to complete this process as well.
Further considerations when using a VPN with Netflix – Your right to privacy
While Netflix aims to fulfill its agreements with copyright holders by trying to put an end to the use of VPNs and other unblocking tools, until the same content is offered in every version of the platform, subscribers will continue to rely on these services. A VPN does more than just tricking websites and apps into thinking that you are connecting from a different country. With a VPN, you can also protect your online traffic from prying eyes, which is why many security experts encourage people to consider this technology. It is advisable to use a VPN, even if you are not watching TV series or movies in Netflix. Our privacy can’t be taken for granted and we need to protect it from online surveillance, malicious attacks and other threats.
Banning VPNs is a measure that seeks to placate copyright holders, but it seems like Netflix hasn’t considered the additional implications. When Netflix blocks users as soon as it detects the use of a VPN, it is stopping them from protecting their privacy. This is a major concern, particularly for those who are using public or unsecured WiFi networks to access the platform. Users who are worried about their privacy shouldn’t be forced to disable their VPN protection in order to watch content on Netflix. Subscribers are paying to enjoy great video content online and they shouldn’t have to put their privacy at risk. This is why we believe that it is important that Netflix subscribers find VPN options that allow them to access content, while ensuring that their privacy remains protected.
Will the VPN services in the list work when you travel abroad?
Netflix users who live in the United States may wonder if a VPN service will allow them to access the content they enjoy at home. The short answer is yes, since the VPN options in this list have been selected due to their overall performance. They are the options that are more likely to work when you want to access content from Netflix US. However, it is important to keep in mind that in countries like China, where VPNs are actively targeted and content is blocked by a powerful firewall, some services may not be as effective. However, there are VPNs that are constantly stepping up their game to ensure that they can remain undetected, even in China.
Netflix is a very popular entertainment platform and its global expansion has allowed people across the world to discover and enjoy a variety of content. However, there are still some restrictions that prevent customers from fully enjoying their viewing experience. If you wish to unblock Netflix in your country or access content that is not available in your local version of the platform, a VPN would be the best choice. Just keep in mind that since Netflix is trying to stop subscribers from using VPN, servers and IPs are regularly blocked. The VPNs in our list are currently working, but the situation is not stable. Still, the providers we have included, are likely to continue following up in an efficient manner, adding new servers and adapting to the changes made by Netflix.