Netflix is the most popular video streaming service available today. It’s available in most parts of the world. In fact, the service recently announced expanding to over 130 countries. However, Netflix is not available equally in all of these countries. The Netflix library you can access in the U.S., the largest the service offers, is not available in its entirety in all parts of the world. For example, one of the best known original Netflix shows is House of Cards. It’s available to all who sign up for the service in the U.S. But the show is not available to Netflix users in India. The library even differs between the U.S. and Canada.
This may sound unfair to some, especially those who pay membership fees but only get access to part of Netflix’s library. Read below to find out more about why Netflix accounts change depending on location, and how to bypass these geographical restrictions:
Why Netflix is Different from Country to Country
This phenomenon was explained by CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, at a tech show in 2016. According to him, the reason for different Netflix libraries from country to country is territorial licensing. That’s mainly a copyright issue. The shows you watch on the streaming service are obviously intellectual property of a studio somewhere. So, to commercially profit by streaming the show, Netflix has to buy a license from the show’s producers. There is no universal license that allows Netflix to stream a show everywhere in the world. At least, not yet. So the company buys licenses by territory.
As most shows and movies in the Netflix library are made in the U.S., the streaming service doesn’t have to buy territorial licenses for the U.S. However; it does for other countries. Remember House of Cards mentioned above? The show is produced in the U.S. for Netflix, so it’s naturally available in the U.S. library. But when the show has to be streamed in India or Australia, Netflix has to buy territorial licenses for that.
Buying territorial licenses for all regions of the world can be quite expensive. So a profit-oriented streaming service like Netflix first needs to consider whether the content the company invests in could generate returns. Meaning, the company wants to know whether enough people would stream a show in a region to justify the expense of a territorial license.
As with the case of House of Card, Netflix has determined that plenty of people would stream the show in Australia, so it has purchased a territorial license. But the company has decided that not many Indians would stream the same show, so it has forgone a territorial license in India.
In some cases, other content distributors could own territorial licenses. If you take a single show, there’s only one territorial license available for a single content distributor. These licenses are sold to the higher bidder. If another content distributor paid a higher price for the territorial license to House of Cards in India, then Netflix would not be able to stream the show in the country.
In a nutshell, Netflix has different country libraries because of limitations of territorial licensing. Hastings has said that Netflix is doing its best to get global availability for various shows. But don’t hold your breath; it will probably take some time until the same Netflix library is available to all users across the globe.
Bypassing Netflix Country Restrictions
If you are a Netflix account holder, you may wonder if it’s possible to bypass ridiculous country restrictions. Simply put, yes. Netflix country restrictions can affect users seriously. If you have a Netflix U.S. account, you can enjoy the full library only when you are in the U.S. If you travel to China and try to stream your favorite shows, you will find that some content is not available simply because you have traveled outside the U.S.
The geographical restrictions of Netflix caused by territorial licenses are activated by your physical location. To bypass this issue, you need to trick the service into believing that you are in a different country than the one you are actually in. This can be easily done by using a proxy server or a virtual private network (VPN).
Netflix determines your location by your IP address. When you log onto the internet, your modem issues a unique address that allows other devices on the network to recognize yours. You connect to the internet via a server that is closest to you. The location of this server also gives out the country you are connecting from. A VPN for a Smart DNS proxy server can mask this location so you can appear to connect from a different country.
While a VPN or a Smart DNS can get you access to any show available on the U.S. Netflix library, it could restrict your access to some features. Mainly, Chromecast that transfers Netflix from your phone to the TV screen may not be available when you connect via a VPN or a DNS proxy. There could also be buffering issues when using certain VPN services. These issues, however, are minor compared to getting access to the biggest Netflix library in the world.
Using a VPN to Get Access to Netflix U.S. Library
Let’s say you connect to the internet like driving on a public highway. A VPN in this regard is like a secret tunnel that runs parallel to the highway that will get you where you need to go securely. A VPN, in tech terms, is an encrypted tunnel that connects two computers to a network like the internet. In other words, it allows you to access the internet privately without allowing certain third parties to intercept your connection. It was created to allow corporate workers to connect to the official network securely. These days VPNs allow web users to connect to the internet anonymously without giving away their location.
When you use a VPN, you will get a list of servers to connect from. The server you choose will determine your location. For example, if you have traveled to China but want to get access to the U.S. Netflix library, a VPN would give you access to a U.S.-based server. Once you connect, Netflix will recognize your connection as originating from the U.S., and you will have full access to all content. In other words, a VPN will allow you to mask your location so you can get access to all Netflix content regardless of where you are in the world. Territorial licensing be damned.
You can download VPN software onto your computer, smartphone, tablet, gaming console, smart TV, and an array of other devices. That means you can access Netflix U.S. library even from a handheld device when traveling abroad. There are many VPN services you can choose from depending on your budget and requirements.
Some drawbacks of using a VPN service is that sometimes the servers you connect to could be overwhelmed. That means your connection would be slow and you might experience buffering when streaming shows. But this is not an issue with all VPN services. Also, some VPNs are explicitly banned in countries like China so you would have to choose a service carefully.
Using a Smart DNS to Get Access to Netflix U.S. Library
A Smart DNS is a proxy server that can bypass geographical restrictions on a single website. In comparison, a VPN would hide your real location from all websites you access with the VPN on. This makes Smart DNS services faster than VPNs. However, these services lack the security a VPN would offer.
The way Smart DNS works is that instead of routing your data through your ISPs DNS, the remote proxy routes data through a proxy server in a different country for a particular website like Netflix. This allows you to bypass any country restrictions quickly. Smart DNS connections are not encrypted like VPNs, so the only advantage they offer is allowing you access to region blocked content.
Smart DNS services are an excellent way to access Netflix libraries for any country without downloading hefty software or applications. Unlike with VPNs, Smart DNS do not post speed issues. The services are also a lot cheaper than VPNs, and some Smart DNS proxies can be accessed for free.
If you are conflicted about whether to use a Smart DNS or a VPN to access Netflix, think of it this way: do you just want to access Netflix from anywhere, or do you want to access Netflix securely? If it’s a secure connection you are looking for, then go with VPN. If you want an open and fast connection, choose a Smart DNS proxy.