In January 2016, Netflix expanded its availability to 190 countries. Users outside the USA resorted to VPNs to access geographically restricted content. Shortly after expanding its availability, Netflix announced it would start cracking down on VPNs. When Netflix expanded to other countries, users were under the impression they would see most, if not all, of the Netflix catalog. They were mistaken. The content available in other countries was trimmed down so much that even Canadians were upset! VPNs fought back and continue to do so.
Netflix Is Winning
Netflix has mostly been successful in its efforts to block VPNs. Some of the most popular VPNs are unable to keep up with Netflix’s restrictions. Of the many giants to fall, TunnelBear, Tor Guard, and HMA are among the casualties.
It was initially thought that the crackdown would fail. People expected VPNs to fight back (and they did for a while), but Netflix has been diligent against VPNs and proxies alike. So much so that most VPNs have thrown in the towel for the most part. We say for the most part because while the Netflix VPN crackdown is mostly a success, there are outliers that continue to work despite the crackdown.
Some VPNs Still Work
Not all VPN services have admitted defeat in the Netflix battle. There are several high quality VPNs that constantly change their methods and expand their IP ranges to help users retain fast access to location-independent video streams. It’s an ongoing game of cat and mouse, which means as long as Netflix actively blocks VPNs, no service will have 100% reliability. The providers below hit as close as possible and are the best choice to use with Netflix.
ExpressVPN is one of the more popular VPNs that continues to defy the Netflix ban. They accomplish this through a combination of a large server network and a huge range of IP addresses, making it difficult for any company or website to throw a blanket over the entire VPN user base. ExpressVPN also has some of the consistently fastest speeds in the market, which makes it a great choice for HD video streaming. ExpressVPN offers a 30 day money back guarantee and exclusively for our readers they’ll add THREE MONTHS FREE to the yearly plan (with this link), meaning you’ll only pay $6.67 per month. If you’re not sure you want to shell out cash for service before you know how well it will work, the trial period should help you evaluate it.
NordVPN is another top-tier VPN that has strong Netflix reliability. The service is lightning fast with a massive network of over 1,000 nodes in more than 50 countries. This opens up an impressive number of options when choosing your virtual location, and it makes it extremely difficult for Netflix to reliably block the entire range of IPs.
Even those VPNs have Limitations
There are some caveats that come with using one of the few VPNs that can still bypass Netflix’s ban. Most VPNs that still work give you access to US content. This is understandable because US has the largest content catalog. That said, if you’re looking for content from other regions, you don’t have much of a choice. If you’ve just found out how great Korean horror movies are, your best bet is to hope the good ones are available in the US.
Some VPNs have tried to bypass the ban by using networks of IPs that Netflix has not yet banned. This has led to Netflix targeting and blocking IPs it knows are used by popular VPN services. To fight back against Netflix, VPN providers are constantly on the look-out for new IPs and networks. If a new network isn’t set up in time before the current one is banned, there can be Netflix service outages for users that are unfortunate enough to be located in a country where no VPNs have found a workaround.
VPNs typically let you watch Netflix in your browser. To use them on a Smart TV, you must be able to route your VPN through your router: a slightly more complicated process than using a VPN on your desktop. It’s enough to deter some users. Even if you do manage to route your VPN through your router, there’s still a chance your Smart TV still won’t be able to access geographically restricted Netflix content.
Proxies: An Alternative Solution
Proxy services are another method commonly used to hide IP addresses and your physical location. Proxies work by acting as a middle ground between your computer and the internet. When logging on you connect to your local ISP and get an IP address as usual, but instead of sending data straight to the internet, everything passes through the proxy’s network first. Your IP is replaced with an IP from the proxy service, then it goes out to the internet as normal. By switching proxy servers you can change your virtual location and fool websites into thinking you’re from anywhere in the world.
Proxies do their job well, but they don’t offer all the benefits of a full VPN. There’s no encryption with a proxy service, only traffic redirection. You’ll gain a measure of anonymity but your data will still be transmitted in a raw, open format, which doesn’t do anything for your privacy. In fact, depending on which proxy service you’re using, you could even harm your privacy. Your best option for unblocking Netflix and other video streaming services is to stick with a well-respected virtual private network.