If you live in the United States, you might not know that Netflix and other video streaming service limit access to users in other countries. If you live in another country, you’re probably aware that your access to online content is limited. Netflix offers a wide selection of programming to its customers in the U.S. and a far more limited selection elsewhere. In China, Netflix is not legally available at all.
Americans who travel outside the country also find that they encounter problems when they try to access their Netflix account. You may have had the experience of having your account blocked while traveling. Fortunately, there is a viable solution to this problem. Let’s take a look at why Netflix blocks its content and what you can do to circumvent this.
Why Netflix Blocks Access to Content
Netflix is a business and wants to please as many customers as possible, regardless of where they live. Copyright law, however, is extremely complex. You already know that Netflix offers a wide variety of content, including movies, TV shows and specials. Each of these properties has its own distinct copyrights. Movie studios want to make as much as possible from each movie or show that they produce. In many cases, the demand for a certain show or movie differs from country to country.
For this reason, the studios charge services such as Netflix, along with other companies that offer streaming content, different prices depending on what country they’re being shown in. Streaming services are therefore not global services. They offer separate accounts to residents of different countries. In general, the most extensive video library is offered in the United States. Residents of other countries have access to a far more limited selection.
For this reason, access to U.S. Netflix is extremely desirable. This has implications both for residents of other countries and for Americans who are traveling. People who live outside the U.S. may be able to access their own country’s Netflix. However, this may not let them see the movies and shows that they prefer.
Americans traveling abroad, meanwhile, won’t be able to access any version of Netflix since they’ve signed up for a U.S. account. As soon as Netflix detects, based on your IP address, that you’re no longer at home, you won’t be able to access your account. You will get some time of error message explaining that the service is not valid in this country. The fact that you’re still loyally paying your monthly dues is of no consequence in this case.
Using a VPN to Access Netflix
A VPN is a virtual private network, a service that hides your IP address and masks your true location. VPNs are used for a wide variety of purposes, from protecting privacy to pulling online scams. One of the most popular uses of VPNs, however, is to access services such as Netflix in locations where the service is blocked.
For quite a while, it was a simple matter for residents of blocked countries or people traveling to such countries to use a VPN and access streaming services. In January, 2016, however, Netflix decided to ban VPNs. They did this not to punish their non-U.S. customers but to avoid a conflict with the studios. To condone the use of VPNs would effectively be endorsing people accessing content illegally. However, until recently Netflix managed to stay on the fence about this issue. Now, however, it’s much more difficult to access Netflix from blocked countries.
Subscribers who use VPNs are now likely to get a new error message on their screen, one that says “Streaming Error: You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy.” For people who are paying for the VPN service in addition to their Netflix subscription, this is a frustrating development.
Some VPNs Still Work
Technology is constantly evolving. In some cases, this expresses itself as a battle between opposing forces. In the case of VPNs, there’s now an ongoing conflict between VPNs and companies such as Netflix who are trying to block them. Some VPNs are staying ahead of the curve and giving people the ability to access Netflix wherever they are.
When you use a VPN, the IP routers in your device’s settings are redirected. This is how your actual location is cloaked. As VPNs are blocked, many are working hard to come up with alternative routers that will still work. Some have been more successful than others. Even for the ones that do work, however, it’s common to experience temporary delays in service until newer routers are put into place. One VPN that has been quite successful in providing its customers reliable access to Netflix is NordVPN.
How to Sign up For and Use a VPN
It’s quite simple to sign up for and use a VPN. You don’t have to understand all of the technology behind it. The service will give you a set of instructions to follow and the whole process only takes a few minutes. Here’s a summary of what you have to do.
- Sign up with NordVPN. They offer several plans, starting at $3 per month.
- Follow the instructions to set up the service on your device. You can download apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome, Android and more.
- Choose the United States as your location.
- Gain instant access to Netflix and a wide variety of other streaming services, games and apps that are blocked in your current location. You’ll even have access to a greater selection of YouTube videos.
With more than ten years of experience, NordVPN is a leading VPN provider. NordVPN gives you military-grade protection online, and you can access all your favorite sites without restriction.
The Future of Netflix and VPNs
The future of Netflix and other streaming services around the world remains unclear. On the one hand, these companies depend on a growing global audience to sustain their growth. This is why Netflix in the past did not take aggressive actions to block VPNs. On the other hand, there is pressure from the studios and other content creators to enforce copyright laws. Perhaps, in the future, some deal will be arranged that will allow streaming services to provide equal coverage globally. For now, however, it’s a dilemma.
The fact remains that innovative VPN services such as NordVPN have managed to stay one step ahead of Netflix and provide global access to people who are willing to pay for the service. This does mean paying more for the privilege of accessing extra content, which many people around the world understandably resent. However, for the time being it’s at least possible for almost everyone to enjoy the movies, shows and other content they want to access no matter where they are.