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
ExpressVPN is one service that continues to defy the Netflix ban. It has the occasional outage, but it has become the go-to service for accessing geographically restricted Netflix content. Another service that still works, albeit less reliably so, is NordVPN.
These services aren’t free, but ExpressVPN offers a 30 money back guarantee. 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.
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
Some users are turning to proxies that can hide your IP, i.e. your location. A proxy isn’t the same thing as a VPN and lacks most of its features. It doesn’t encrypt data so you don’t get any added privacy. What a proxy does do, if it works well, is let you pretend you’re accessing websites from a different country. If all you want is to watch the Netflix US catalog then a proxy should be enough to get by. So far, Netflix has not cracked down on proxies.