How to Use Netflix with a VPN


Once a mail-order movie rental business, Netflix has become the primary source for streaming television and films around the world. Other services have entered the game, but Netflix continues to reign supreme amongst digital media platforms.

What may not be so popular about the streaming provider is its tendency to geographically restrict content. Some content is available to individuals in certain countries while others may not be allowed to access it.

Geo-blocking is on the rise due to recent regulatory laws being passed in the EU and elsewhere. Other streaming providers like Hulu and Amazon have caught on to this idea and join Netflix as regional restrictors of access. Netflix has led the way in this tactic and has become very savvy at keeping its content restricted. Beyond geo-blocking, the streaming giant has devised a strategy to block the common workaround of using a virtual private network (VPN) service.

A VPN was once the ultimate tool in avoiding the geo-blocking practices of streaming media services, game developers, and governments. The VPN made it appear that the connection was coming from a location that was permissible according to the restriction guidelines. Sadly, for those using a VPN to access Netflix, the company has become quite adept at detecting this method of avoiding the blocks.

Why does Netflix want to provide varied content in different countries?

Netflix agrees that it would prefer the opportunity to show everything to everyone, but even the most powerful streaming provider in the world has little say in the matter. Currently, there are about 200 different Netflix libraries available worldwide. The simple reason for this is copyright laws. These laws impact the media that Netflix has not produced. Companies that own the overall rights to it dictate the distribution of this media.

Netflix libraries contain many TV shows and movies that are also available on other streaming networks, live television networks, and on DVD or Blue Ray. When extrapolated globally, the distributors of this content must balance who gets to show it and where. This is how a movie is available on Netflix in the EU but is being shown on television in the United States.

Viewers in the United States seem to suffer the least from this practice while some nations have very limited choices. This leads Netflix subscribers to want to find a way to see more of the content available to others in different countries.

The basics of VPNs and Netflix

Companies that use geo-blocking to restrict content make it as seamless as possible. Log in to Netflix, for example, and you go directly to what you think is the home screen for the service. In the background, Netflix has determined your location using your IP address and sent you to the appropriate site for the country you are in.

Many subscribers believe content lists are based on their home country or the nation they signed up in, but this is not true. Geo-restrictions are related to your current location. Signup location only impacts the price you pay each month.

If the blocks are based on IP address identifiers, then the simple solution is a VPN. Anyone who has heard of geo-blocking or VPNs before would know this is a viable way to avoid being left out. The VPN can make it appear that you are in the EU and allow you to view the content available to someone there. Easy!

Netflix and the war on VPNs

Until the start of 2016, it was as simple as downloading a decent VPN and changing your login country. Suddenly, the companies allowing Netflix to hold their content caught on to the loss of revenue from people using VPNs to get around the geo-blockade. These companies demanded Netflix come up with a solution or lose the rights to the media altogether.

Someone successfully using a VPN one day woke up to error messages requiring the IP masking tool to be disabled before logging in. Netflix had taken extreme measures to protect itself by creating a formidable VPN detection system.

As frustrating as it was for Netflix subscribers hoping to finish a series only available in another country, reasonable viewers understood the necessity of the step. If Netflix wasn’t able to protect the content, it could be left without much to stream at all.

Some were turned off by the VPN restrictions, however, as it was seen as an attack on privacy rights. Many use a VPN to encrypt their data and protect their privacy by masking the IP address they are connecting from. The ability to connect to Netflix had to be weighed against the concern for data security.

Options for watching Netflix with a VPN

There is still hope for those who would prefer to use a VPN to watch Netflix. Whether to avoid the prying eyes of a hacker or the watchful geo-blocking system, many people still need a VPN in place.

Finding a VPN that can access Netflix might be tricky as a trial and error approach is the only way to do so. The detection tools are constantly being updated and upgraded, meaning what works today may not work tomorrow.

Many VPN service providers have found a way to fool the detection tools used by Netflix. Having access to one of these is a best-case scenario for someone wanting to stream restricted content. Again, the success may not last or may be suspended until the VPN can find a way around detection.

This can be frustrating and exhausting, contrary to the essence of the relaxing leisure time Netflix should help to facilitate. There are other ways to use a virtual private network to enhance your ability to access blocked content.

Private IP addresses and home VPN

A popular upsell by VPN services is the opportunity to have a private IP address assigned. Most IP addresses used by VPNs are shared with other users, enabling the provider to service more customers at a time. One way a detection tool works is by listing all IP addresses associated with VPNs around the world.

Purchasing a private IP address may allow viewers to avoid this list altogether, and stream from anywhere they would like. This is a relatively new thought and like other options, it may only work until the system figures out the address and adds it to the banned list.

If you are looking to use a VPN to watch content available in your home country while traveling, there is another unique idea to try. Set up your own VPN on your home network. You will be connecting through your legitimate home IP address and be less likely to be seen as a VPN imposter.

The downside with using a home-based VPN is that typical upload speeds for home networks are slower and may negatively impact your viewing experience.

There are no guarantees

Using a VPN to avoid the geo-restrictive practices of Netflix is a hit or miss proposition. What works one day may fail the next. Persistence and patience are key ingredients to successfully using a VPN to watch Netflix content from other regions.