Netflix has blockaded the Virtual Private Network (VPN) industry and left people around the world scrambling for other ways to stream the video they have paid for. Read on to learn how you can get American Netflix on your iPhone or iPad.
After a quick summary of the situation, we’ll see how VPNs let you geo-hop into Netflix USA – and how Netflix tries to stop you. Then we will take a deep dive into ExpressVPN, one of the few VPN companies with the resources to run the blockade. Their apps for iPhone or iPad will let you get your Marvel Universe fix. We’ll wrap things up with a look at the reasons driving Netflix’s anti-VPN campaign and the ways it warps the Netflix experience.
The Great Netflix VPN Blockade
Many people around the world have been using VPN technology to access the US version of Netflix’s video catalog. People use VPNs to secure their internet experience at coffee shops and hotels even when watching movies. It’s also a matter of convenience for Americans working or traveling abroad who want the same streaming experience they get at home. It’s a question of fairness for residents of other countries who pay as much as American subscribers but get less content.
A VPN makes it look like you’re connected to the internet in the United States which leads Netflix to stream from the American catalog. Not anymore.
Netflix imposed a blockade on VPN providers to prevent people outside the United States from accessing its American catalog – even though it also cuts off people using VPNs in the United States. Very few VPN providers have the infrastructure and resources to evade Netflix’s filters.
ExpressVPN, our recommendation for streaming the American Netflix catalog, has a global footprint and the resources that comes with being a pioneer of the VPN industry. Let’s take a look at how VPNs, and ExpressVPN, in particular, can help you get Netflix no matter where you are.
Flixed recommends ExpressVPN if you need to stream American Netflix. The company is large enough and has a strong enough technology to keep up in the battle for access. Unlike many other VPN startups, ExpressVPN has been operating for several and has built a global footprint. In fact, it has more than 2,000 servers running in 94 countries.
Subscribers get access to amazingly strong encryption technology to keep their data secure no matter where they are. For those concerned with privacy, ExpressVPN’s no-logging policy means it keeps no data about your internet activity.
More appealing to people who want to stream Netflix, ExpressVPN has tens of thousands of IP addresses which it changes on a regular basis. That makes it much less obvious to Netflix that streams are coming from a VPN. Of course, there are times when Netflix catches up, but ExpressVPN soon restores its service and sprints ahead.
If you need more convincing, there are many user testimonials on twitter and on the ExpressVPN site.
“Thank you @expressvpn for your help, understanding and incomparable customer service!!” @KhrizyaG
“Awesome Speed with @expressvpn #VPN client setup in my #DDWRT router connected to the Swedish server. Native speed 250 / 100 Mbps.” @SkadligKod
“If you’re like me, you are probably VPN shopping right about now. Check out @expressvpn well worth the money, been stellar so far.” @itsmisterjones
Plans And Pricing
You can get the bi-annual plan for a $10 or go month-to-month at $13. With an annual subscription, ExpressVPN can save you more than 30% off the monthly plan. All three plans provide access to the full suite of ExpressVPN services from secure tunneling and encryption to high-speed internet connections.
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ExpressVPN’s iOS app works on iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch devices running iOS 8.2 or later. When you launch the app for the first time, it conducts a brief tutorial that explains how to set up your VPN connection before presenting the login screen. Just enter the credentials you set up when you subscribed on the ExpressVPN site.
Alternatively, you can subscribe within the ExpressVPN app. Unlike many app developers, ExpressVPN does not charge you for the Apple tax. You pay the same price in-app that you pay when you subscribe directly.
ExpressVPN’s app has received over 9,000 reviews on the App Store. While this is not an entirely large amount, most of the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. As a result, you’ll find the ExpressVPN app has a very high 4.7 star rating on the App Store. A consistent theme throughout the reviews is ExpressVPN’s reliability, the app’s usability, and ExpressVPN’s responsive customer support.
Once in the app, you download and install a configuration profile which integrates ExpressVPN’s service with Apple’s secure browsing system. If the tutorial was too general for you, the support site provides detailed instructions to get the app up-and-running. The technically minded can choose a tunneling protocol. ExpressVPN automatically selects the best VPN protocol for your device and network, but you can change your protocol in the app settings.
Why Does Netflix Block VPNs?
Netflix dropped a bomb on its VPN-using customers in early January of 2016 when it announced that it would block VPN connections to its streaming service.
One of the company’s Vice Presidents, David Fullagar, wrote “Some members use proxies or ‘unblockers’ to access titles available outside their territory…. in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are.”
This was especially surprising because almost exactly a year earlier, Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt had said “claims that we have changed our policy on VPN are false.”
Cutting off paying customers seems like a strange policy, but it gets even stranger because Netflix wants to provide the universal access that its geo-hopping customers are looking for.
Netflix Wants To Be Global
The same January 2016 announcement that ushered in Netflix’s war on VPNs made it clear that Netflix itself was conflicted about the issue. Fullagar’s opening line was “If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn’t be a reason for members to use proxies or “unblockers” to fool our systems….” He concluded with “We look forward to offering all of our content everywhere and to consumers being able to enjoy all of Netflix without using a proxy. That’s the goal we will keep pushing towards.”
Only a week earlier Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings announced to the world that “today you are witnessing the birth of a new global Internet TV network.” With that announcement, Netflix expanded into 130 nations and would soon reach 190 countries. Hastings concluded, “We’re looking forward to bringing great stories from all over the world to people all over the world.”
Unfortunately, his hands are tied.
Follow The Money
The global media industry extracts the most money it can when distributing content. A complicated mesh of licensing agreements determine what content people can see, in which countries, at what times, and through which channels. Companies at every stage in that process have a stake in keeping their little slice of the pie.
Media companies were thrilled with Netflix’s announcement. The CEO of Middle Eastern satellite TV company OSN praised Netflix for “clamping down on illegal access, which is piracy,” and for protecting “the intellectual property rights that we pay handsomely for.”
People who use VPNs may be in violation of the Netflix terms of service, but they are not the pirates that the film industry’s hyperbolic statements make them out to be. That could change, Arizona State University professor Dan Gillmor warned. “The brilliance of Netflix” Gillmor said, “was its carrot approach: making it convenient to pay [for content.]” He added, “Unfortunately, some people may rediscover torrent sites and other ways to infringe copyrights via unauthorized downloads.”
In the process of keeping the media industry happy, Netflix’s actions could encourage the very real piracy that threatens the industry’s future.
What Are You Missing?
The situation will not change soon. While a lot of people rely on VPNs and use them when streaming Netflix, they are a drop in the bucket compared to the company’s subscriber base. In a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Hastings explained that the financial impact was “really inconsequential to us.”
In the meantime, the gaping fissures within the Netflix catalog will keep driving people to use services like ExpressVPN. The fact that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is only available in the US and Canada should not be too surprising. After all, Disney and Lucasfilm (now owned by Disney) pioneered the profit-maximizing approach to film distribution.
A little more digging on search site FlixSearch, however, reveals much stranger patterns in the Netflix content gaps.
From the Maldives through Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, and on into Pakistan. With the exception of China, people living in every single one of India’s neighbors can stream The Flash. But people living in the largest democracy in the world cannot.
Vatican City is one of only two countries in Europe that can watch The Imitation Game. Does that mean the Pope is a Benedict Cumberbatch fan? Who knew?
The Sixth Sense is only available in former British and American possessions in the Pacific… and Antarctica. Maybe Netflix knows something we don’t. Could the Anglo-American invasion be imminent?
If you’re one of those people who need access to American Netflix but are outside the Netflix geo-fence, then ExpressVPN is the perfect option. Its established position in an industry it helped create, combined with its global footprint, give it the resources to keep pace with the Netflix VPN blockade. With a five-day money-back guarantee, there is no risk to giving the ExpressVPN iOS app a try.
What Is A VPN And How Do They Get Blocked?
Think of a virtual private network as your own personal wormhole through the internet. The app running on your iOS device creates a private connection to the VPN company’s servers. From the outside, it looks like you’re at the server’s location – which could be on the other side of the world from where you’re actually sitting. This “geo-hopping” is what makes VPNs so useful for watching Netflix.
Why Would Someone Use A VPN?
VPNs began as a corporate technology that let businesses connect their offices and jet-setting executives into a central IT network. The benefits VPNs provide are just as valuable to individuals as they are to businesses.
Privacy and Security
The main reason people use VPNs is to protect themselves from the dangers of online life. When we connect to wireless hotspots in airports and coffee shops, we are sharing that internet feed with dozens or hundreds of other people. The wrong kind of person with the right tools can use that openness to hack into your device. The VPN’s security keeps that from happening.
Americans who traveling domestically on business, who work at their local café, or who are concerned about internet security use VPNs all the time. The Netflix blockade cuts them off from the streaming service they’ve paid for.
You don’t get the catalog that you subscribed to when you log into Netflix in another country. You get that country’s catalog. The selection – even the language – will be different. Americans working or traveling abroad rely on geo-hopping to get the US-based content they paid for with their Netflix subscription.
Netflix gives people living in other countries a raw deal. Adjusted for exchange rates, everyone around the world pays the same price for a Netflix subscription. That seems fair until you compare the catalogs available in each country.
As South African entrepreneur Steven Cohen pointed out to TechCentral: “Netflix is charging South Africans the same price in US dollars to access 740 titles compared to the US catalogue of 5,960 titles, which is a bit unfair.”
The Netflix blockade cuts Americans out of their accounts and locks foreigners into an unequal relationship.
How Does The Netflix Blockade Work?
Nobody knows for sure since Netflix isn’t telling. But experts have studied the effect of Netflix’s new policies and have developed some theories. In the TechCentral piece Cohen speculated that Netflix uses a technique similar to caller ID.
Unlike the words we use to visit webpages, the routers that handle the internet’s data use numerical internet protocol, or IP, addresses to know where data packets are coming from and where they need to go. If Netflix gets a streaming request from an IP address it knows is a VPN service, it can simply refuse to answer.
How does Netflix know? As tech writer Paul Bischoff explained to CBC News, “Bigger VPN companies can have even thousands of people connected to one IP address, so they’re much easier to spot.” Think about it. When was the last time you streamed a thousand different programs at home?
Netflix’s actions have triggered a quiet arms race between the streaming titan and the VPN industry. Each time Netflix blocks access, the VPN companies respond with new IP addresses and new technologies. Many of the smaller companies gave up and told their customers that they could not support Netflix streaming anymore.
Chris Casper is a former tech industry product manager who escaped from California for New Mexico. Now he writes about science and tech while searching for the perfect green chile sauce.