October 8, 2019
After spending a long, tiring day at the office, all anybody wants to do is strip their work clothes off, get into comfy pajamas, grab some yummy food, and sink into the couch, to watch their favorite TV shows or a new movie. If you have cable TV, accessing entertainment isn’t a hassle.
However, cord-cutters like me often have to rely on Video-on-Demand (VoD) services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, and Hulu for entertainment. The problem with going all out digital is – plenty of streaming platforms restrict content, based on location.
For instance, if I’m residing in the UK, I may not be able to access a TV show/movie available in the US. Despite paying the same amount or higher for a subscription, I will be denied the ability to view all that different VoDs have to offer, because of this stupid discrimination…
Why Do VoDs like Netflix Impose Geo-Restrictions?
To be honest, it isn’t the fault of VoDs either. Think of it this way, streaming platforms are content aggregators that have licensing agreements with different production houses. These agreements usually restrict streaming platforms like Netflix to display certain content outside a specific country.
So, it’s not like these online streaming services do it on purpose. They just don’t have any other option, but to impose geographical and content limitations. This is why you find different versions of VoDs online. If you are based in the UK, you will access Netflix UK.
On the other hand, if you reside in Japan, you will be using the Netflix JP version. Other platforms like BBC iPlayer did try expanding their reach to different countries. However, the VoD hit a roadblock when cable providers threatened to drop BBC America from their subscriptions.
BBC was backed into a corner, which ultimately led to them rethinking their decision to introduce an international iPlayer back in 2017. So, the question now remains is; how can one bypass these unfair geo-restrictions imposed by streaming platforms?
Use a VPN to Bypass Geographical and Content Limitations on VoDs
After binge-watchers and cord-cutters around the world realized they were facing geo-restrictions on different titles, they began utilizing VPN services. Typically, a VPN grants users the ability to shift their location by assigning a new IP, protected with military-grade encryption.
So, if let’s say I wanted to watch “Avengers: Infinity War”, which is only available on the US version of Netflix, all I had to do was activate my VPN, connect to a server located in the US, and enjoy access to the complete Netflix library and the movie, without any hassle.
Australians relied on VPNs for the longest time to unblock US-specific content on a myriad of streaming platforms. However, the only problem was that VoDs were quick to pick up on the usage of VPNs to bypass geo-restrictions, eventually resulting in a ban on them.
Don’t Just Sign Up with Any VPN Though!
As mentioned earlier, streaming platforms like Netflix have licensing agreements with different production houses and distributors. Therefore, if I were to access content specific to the US, outside the country, distributors would lose money.
This makes it imperative to find a reliable provider that comes equipped with features like StealthVPN a.k.a. obfuscation to bypass the VPN ban imposed. Typically, obfuscation allows VPNs to cloak their traffic as regular HTTPs traffic, hence allowing for smooth bypassing of geo-restrictions.
At the same time, the VPN should also offer specialty servers for different streaming platforms. This will reduce the hassle that comes with testing a myriad of different servers, before finally connecting to one that successfully unblocks the VoDs.
Based on the factors mentioned above, I have compiled a list on the 5 best VPNs for Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Now, and other platforms to ease the decision-making process:
The BVI-based provider, Surfshark, is a newcomer that has quickly amassed a huge following in the industry of VPNs. It offers access to 800+ servers in 50+ countries worldwide.
Best part of all: most servers manage to unblock VoDs like Netflix and BBC iPlayer UK quite smoothly, and that too in ultra HD quality with unmatched speeds.
Based in Panama, NordVPN has an established reputation in the marketplace of VPNs. It comes equipped with obfuscation and even offers specialty servers for unblocking VoDs.
Almost all servers tested work smoothly on all streaming platforms. Best part of all: you have access to 5,700+ servers in 60+ countries worldwide.
Headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN is another popular VPN service. It stands as an all-rounder, delivering unmatched streaming capabilities.
All servers successfully unblocked Netflix, including other VoDs like BBC iPlayer UK, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more – thanks to the strong AES-256-GCM encryption and leak free connection.
Based in Hong Kong, PureVPN does not come equipped with obfuscation. However, it is the only provider, which manages to unblock even the most popular VoD services via its browser extensions.
Just make sure to clear your browser cache before accessing the streaming sites, or as a simpler solution launch the “private mode” on Mozilla Firefox or “Incognito” on Google Chrome.
Located in Romania, CyberGhost is another popular VPN service. It offers the capability of unblocking almost all streaming platforms. It even delivers specialty servers for each.
Just install the app and enter the VoD name in the search bar, on the top right corner. You will gain access to a list of “working” servers for that very streaming platform.
Wrapping Things Up
Using a VPN to bypass geographical and content limitations on VoDs will not get you in legal hassles. Neither would it result in your subscription getting canceled.
However, bear in mind that most streaming platforms do state that using VPNs go against their “Terms of Service”. So if you are using one, might as well use the safe options listed above!
Hamza is an online privacy/security advocate at BestVPN.co, who loves sharing his expert knowledge regarding the latest trends in user privacy, cyber laws, and digital affairs. Apart from writing blogs/articles relating to anonymity, he takes a keen interest in writing detailed VPN reviews.