How VPNs work with geo-blocked streaming services

Have you ever tried to access a streaming service and run into an error saying, “This service is not available in your location” or “You cannot access this service in your location?”

This is happening because the streaming service is geo-blocked. This means it’s only available in a particular location, and it’s blocking your connection because you aren’t based in that location.

A VPN will allow you to get around these blocks. 

This article will explain how VPNs work with geo-blocked streaming services so you can watch geo-blocked content from anywhere in the world.

What is a geo-blocked streaming service?

Geo-blocking is a technology internet service providers, and platforms use to restrict access to content based on the user’s geographical location. 

For streaming services, specific shows, movies, or even entire content libraries are available only to users in particular countries or regions.

If you aren’t physically located where the streaming service is available. You won’t be able to use or access that streaming service.

Why are streaming services geo-blocked?

Streaming services geo-block their content for many reasons:

  1. Licensing Agreements: One of the primary reasons streaming services geo-block content is due to the licensing agreements they have in place. When streaming services acquire content, they don’t always get global rights. Instead, they buy rights for specific regions or countries. If a streaming service only has the license to show a movie in Canada, they legally can’t make it available to users in, say, Germany.
  2. Local Laws and Regulations: Every country has its own broadcasting regulations and standards. Due to its nature or subject matter, some content might not be suitable or allowed in certain jurisdictions because of cultural sensitivities, regulatory constraints, or censorship rules. Streaming services must comply with these local laws, which might mean restricting certain content from being accessed in specific locations.
  3. Business Strategies: Sometimes, it’s a strategic decision. Streaming platforms might roll out content in stages across different markets based on potential viewership, regional popularity or even to synchronize with local events or holidays. For instance, a series that’s more relatable to European audiences might be released in Europe first before other regions.
How VPNs work with geo-blocked streaming services

How does geo-blocking work?

Every device that connects to the internet is assigned an IP address. This IP address is like a digital home address for your device. It’s used by your device to communicate with the streaming service or services you’re accessing. However, in order for this communication to work, your IP address needs to contain information about your physical location.

When you connect to a streaming service, the platform immediately scans your IP address, and in doing so, it knows where you’re accessing from, be it the US, UK, Australia, or any other country. 

Based on this location information, the platform will serve (or block) content in alignment with its licensing agreements for that particular region/country.

This is why two users from different countries might see different content libraries on the same platform. For instance, a show on Netflix in Canada might be absent from the Netflix library in the UK. 

How to use a VPN with streaming services?

Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) with streaming services can enhance privacy, security, and grant access to content that might be restricted in your region. Here’s how you can effectively use a VPN with streaming platforms:

1. Choosing the Right VPN Service

Not all VPNs are created equal. For streaming, you’ll need a VPN that offers:

  • High-Speed Servers: Streaming content, especially in high definition, requires a fast internet connection. Look for a VPN provider known for its high-speed servers.
  • Wide Server Locations: If you want to access content from different regions, you’ll need a VPN with servers located worldwide. For instance, if you wish to view content available only in the UK, you should connect to a server located there.
  • Compatibility: Ensure the VPN is compatible with the device on which you’re streaming. Most major VPNs support a range of devices including PCs, Macs, smartphones, tablets, and even specific streaming devices like Firestick or Apple TV.
  • No-logs Policy: This ensures that the VPN provider doesn’t store any records of your online activities.

Here are the VPNs we think are the best on the market:

Our Pick πŸ₯‡

ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN Favicon
  • TrustedServer RAM-only servers for extra security
  • Servers in over 100 countries worldwide
  • Specialised Lightway protocol

Buy now for $6.67/month

Highly Recommended πŸ₯ˆ

NordVPN
NordVPN favicon
  • Enhanced Double VPN encryption
  • Proprietary NordLynx protocol
  • CyberSec Ad and threat blocker

Buy now for $3.99/month

Runner Up

PureVPN
PureVPN Favicon
  • Dedicated/optimised video streaming
  • Ozone data protection service
  • Option for a personal dedicated IP address

Buy now for $1.96/month

Robust encryption

Private Internet Access
VPN Logos Small 0000 PIA Logo
  • Install on an unlimited number of devices
  • Independently audited no-logs policy
  • Dedicated IP options

Buy now for $2.03/month

Unlimited connections

Surfshark
Surfshark Favicon
  • NoBorders mode provides services in restrictive regions
  • Supports simultaneous connections on multiple devices
  • Camouflage Mode hides VPN use even from your ISP

Buy now for $2.49/month

2. Setting up the VPN

Once you’ve selected a VPN provider:

  • Installation: Download and install the VPN application for your device from the official website or app store. Avoid third-party downloads to ensure you’re getting the legitimate application.
  • Connect: Launch the VPN application, log in, and select a server in the location where you want to appear. If you’re trying to access content from a specific country, choose a server in that country.

3. Accessing the Streaming Service

  • Clear Cache: Before accessing the streaming platform, clear your browser cache or restart your streaming app. This ensures that the platform doesn’t remember your original location.
  • Navigate to the Streaming Service: Now, with the VPN active, visit the streaming service of your choice. You should be treated as if you’re accessing from the location of the chosen VPN server.
  • Troubleshooting: Some streaming services, like Netflix or Hulu, have measures in place to detect and block VPN usage. If you’re unable to access content while using a VPN, try switching to a different server or contacting your VPN provider for recommendations. Some VPN services offer specific servers optimized for certain streaming platforms.

4. Ensuring a Smooth Streaming Experience

  • Stay Updated: Ensure your VPN application is always updated. VPN providers often release updates to improve speed, security, and compatibility with streaming platforms.
  • Wired Connection: For the best speed, if possible, use a wired Ethernet connection instead of Wi-Fi. This often provides a more stable and faster connection.
  • Check Bandwidth: Make sure no other heavy internet-consuming tasks are running in the background which might slow down your connection.

Remember that while a VPN can grant access to region-restricted content, doing so might go against the terms of service of some streaming platforms. Always familiarize yourself with the terms and ensure you’re using tools like VPNs ethically and responsibly.

How do VPNs allow me to access geo-blocked streaming services?

VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, provide a solution to the geo-blocking measures employed by streaming services by masking your real location. When you use a VPN, your internet connection is rerouted through servers located in different parts of the world. This makes it seem as though you’re accessing the internet from the location of the VPN server rather than your actual location.

For instance, if you’re in Australia and you connect to a VPN server in the US, streaming platforms will interpret your IP address as coming from the US. As a result, you would be served content meant for US audiences, allowing you to bypass the geo-restrictions set for Australian viewers.

However, it’s worth noting that many streaming services are continually enhancing their detection systems to identify and block VPN users. This is because accessing content outside the intended regions can be a breach of their licensing agreements. Some advanced VPNs counteract these measures by regularly updating their protocols and server addresses to remain undetected.

In essence, VPNs create a virtual bridge, making it seem as though you’re in a different country, thereby granting you access to content that might otherwise be off-limits due to geo-restrictions.

How VPNs work with geo-blocked streaming services

Can you use a VPN on a TV?

Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) on a TV isn’t as straightforward as using it on a computer or smartphone, but it’s definitely possible. Doing so allows you to bypass geographic restrictions and access a wider range of streaming content on your television.

Most modern smart TVs don’t come with built-in VPN clients, which means they can’t run VPN apps directly. However, there are several methods to get around this:

1. VPN-Compatible Routers: One of the most effective ways to use a VPN with your TV is by installing it on a router. When a VPN is set up on a router, every device that connects to that router, including your TV, will benefit from the VPN connection. This means your television will connect to the internet using the rerouted IP address provided by the VPN service.

2. Streaming Devices: If you use a streaming device or stick (like Amazon Fire Stick, Roku, or Google Chromecast) to watch content on your TV, some of these devices allow you to install VPN apps. For those that don’t, you can still connect them to a VPN-enabled router for the same effect.

3. Sharing a VPN Connection: Another method is to set up a VPN connection on your PC or laptop and then share that connection with your TV via an Ethernet cable. This essentially uses your computer as a bridge, routing the TV’s internet connection through the VPN.

Which VPNs are the best for streaming services?

We’ve tested and reviewed a number of different VPNs. When testing we put them through a number of criteria:

  1. We test how secure the VPN is: We do this by running it through DNS leak tests. If the VPN has a DNS leak issue, it has an issue with its security, as internet service providers (ISPs) can still potentially see your online data. The best VPNs don’t come across these sorts of issues.
  2. The number of servers: The best VPNs have thousands of servers around the world. The more servers, the better. Lesser VPNs, especially free VPNs, don’t have many servers meaning there’s less opportunity for you to surf the web anonymously.
  3. Speed: We measure the speed of a VPN by doing speed tests for multiple servers worldwide. We then compare this to our base internet speed with a VPN turned off.
  4. Compatibility with streaming services: A critical use case for VPNs is the ability to access geo-blocked streaming services. Unfortunately, these services try and prevent VPNs from accessing their platforms. The best VPNs have measures in place to get around these blocks. When testing a VPN, we try it with several geo-blocked streaming services. The best VPNs will allow you to watch all the leading streaming services worldwide.
  5. Price: Based on our research, the average cost of the top 20 VPNs is $4.33/month. We use this as a comparison when looking for the best-value VPNs.
  6. Devices: VPNs are usually compatible with more than one device simultaneously. Obviously, the more the better.

From our tests we’ve created a list of what we think are the top 5 VPNs available right now:

1. ExpressVPN πŸ₯‡ $6.66/month

The fastest and most reliable streaming VPN of 2023

  • βœ”160+ IP addresses in 94+ countries
  • βœ”5 simultaneous devices
  • βœ”Live chat support
  • βœ”Over 3,000 servers
  • βœ”>80% connection speed
  • βœ”Unlimited bandwidth
ExpressVPN review

ExpressVPN ($6.66/month) is still the best VPN. And importantly, it ALWAYS has servers that are open with major streaming sites such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+, Amazon Prime Video, etc.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

2. NordVPN $3.19/month

An incredibly fast and trustworthy VPN

  • βœ”Over 5,000 servers worldwide
  • βœ”6 simultaneous devices
  • βœ”Reliable customer service
  • βœ”Fast NordLynx protocol
  • βœ”Cybersec ad and tracker blocker
  • βœ”Easy to use interface
NordVPN Best VPN image

NordVPN is the most widely-used VPN in the world. And it’s easy to see why. It’s a polished app that delivers fast connections (more on this later) to a massive network of VPN servers.

It’s the most reliable at unblocking popular streaming services too – US Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, etc. This is because NordVPN hired a full-time technical team (that’s responsible for monitoring its servers’ connections with popular TV streaming services) and has been aggressively investing in its network of IP addresses in key locations.

Read our full NordVPN review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

3. Private Internet Access $2.03/month

An affordable, reliable VPN

  • βœ”35,000 servers worldwide
  • βœ”Unlimited simultaneous devices
  • βœ”24/7 chat support
  • βœ”Servers in over 80 countries
  • βœ”MACE ad blocker included
  • βœ”Supports multiple protocols
Best VPN list - PIA

Private Internet Access is one of the leading no-log VPN services with over 1-million paying customers.

This VPN is one of the best in the industry at beating streaming sites’ VPN bans. It provides reliable connections with US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, MAX, Disney+ Amazon Prime, and many more.

Even better, it allows for an unlimited number of simultaneous devices to be connected to its servers at the same time. So you can share the account with all of your friends.

Read our full Private Internet Access review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

4. Ivacy $1.00/month

A trustworthy and affordable VPN

  • βœ”5700+ servers worldwide
  • βœ”10 simultaneous devices
  • βœ”24/7 customer support
  • βœ”Dedicated IP address option
  • βœ”Available on all major platforms
  • βœ”Great price
Ivacy Best VPN image

If you’re looking for an excellent VPN, with an even better price tag, Ivacy ($1.00/month) is a great option.

While it doesn’t do much more than the other VPNs on this list, the main attraction is the price. This is an affordable VPN that will allow you to stream BBC iPlayer, in HD, from any country in the world on Mac, PC, Android, iOS and FireStick. You’ll also be able to unlock other services like US Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, MAX, Amazon Prime, etc. with ease.

Read our full Ivacy review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

5. CyberGhost $2.19/month

A solid VPN package

  • βœ”Deloitte verified no logs policy
  • βœ”Servers in 91 countries
  • βœ”7 simulatenous devices
  • βœ”Proprietary NoSpy servers
  • βœ”Multiple protocol options
  • βœ”Split tunneling support
CyberGhost Best VPN image

CyberGhost is one of the more established VPNs on the market. It has a well-established, and well-tested global network of servers that perform well.

It also offers NoSpy servers which are specially designed to provide an extra layer of security and privacy for users.

Read our full CyberGhost review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

Is watching streaming services with a VPN legal?

Streaming services often cater to specific regions. For instance, Hulu, MAX, ESPN+, and Fubo cater to the US audience, while BBC iPlayer, ITVX, and All 4 are UK-centric. Similarly, Optus Sport, BINGE, and 7Plus are tailored for Australian viewers. On the other hand, platforms like Netflix operate globally but offer varied content based on your geographical location.

Top-tier VPNs are your ticket to bypassing these regional restrictions. They enable you to enjoy shows and movies from platforms even if you’re outside their intended region, and they give you the power to dive into various content libraries of global services like Netflix.

It’s worth noting that using a VPN in this manner is legal. However, it might go against the terms you agreed upon when subscribing to these streaming platforms. These terms, especially for premium platforms, might contain clauses against VPN usage to override regional content blocks. If caught, the service might restrict or terminate your access.

However, the cream-of-the-crop VPNs employ advanced encryption techniques, ensuring your online activities remain undercover. Such encryption makes it incredibly challenging for streaming platforms to detect, let alone confirm, that you’re using a VPN.

Patch Bowen
Patch Bowen is an accomplished technology journalist with a solid academic foundation, holding a degree from Auckland University. His expertise spans across a range of tech topics, with a notable focus on product reviews, industry trends, and the impact of technology on society. With his work featured on major New Zealand websites like Stuff.co.nz, thebit.nz, and The Press, Patch has established himself as a credible voice in technology media. His articles are known for their detailed analysis and practical insights, particularly in making complex technological concepts understandable for a broad audience. At ReviewsFire, Patch is renowned for his thorough evaluations and clear, informative writing style. He has a knack for identifying and explaining the nuances of the latest gadgets and digital trends, earning him a reputation as a trusted source for tech advice and information.

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