What happens when you’re settled in for a movie night, VPN enabled, and you’re met with an error message instead of your desired content?
The increasing complexity of digital rights management and licensing agreements has led streaming services to tighten their measures against VPN usage. As a result, not all VPNs are guaranteed to grant you access to your favourite shows or movies.
This article will explain the common reasons your VPN might not work with streaming services, why your VPN might fail to unlock streaming services, and offer insights into potential solutions and workarounds.
Reasons Your VPN Might Not Work with Streaming Services?
Streaming services employ a variety of sophisticated methods to detect and block VPNs, ensuring that content remains restricted to its intended regions:
IP address blacklisting
Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu use geographical restrictions to control their content distribution, often due to licensing agreements.
As VPNs become more popular and reliable for bypassing these geo-blocks, streaming services responded by identifying and blocking VPN-associated IP addresses. This measure is commonly known as IP address blacklisting.
Every device on the internet has a unique IP address. Although a VPN will mask your IP by routing your traffic through servers in various locations, streaming services can potentially recognise IP addresses linked to VPN servers and blacklist them.
For VPN providers, this poses a challenge. To stay ahead of streaming services, when one IP address is blacklisted, some VPNs will introduce a new unblocked one, but not all can do this. As a result, a VPN’s ability to bypass streaming restrictions can be inconsistent.
Users might encounter access issues if their chosen VPN cannot win this cat-and-mouse battle of closing blacklisted IP addresses and opening new ones.
One issue impeding a VPN’s ability to work effectively with streaming services is “server overload.”
When too many customers use the same VPN server simultaneously, it can become overwhelmed. This reduces connection speeds, increased latency, or even complete disconnections.
Since streaming platforms demand a consistent and relatively high-speed internet connection to provide an uninterrupted viewing experience, an overloaded server can disrupt the smooth playback of content.
Additionally, streaming services use advanced mechanisms to monitor and analyse traffic patterns and block VPNs.
When they observe an abnormally high number of connections from a single IP address, indicative of a popular VPN server, it raises red flags. Such unusual activity can prompt the streaming service to throttle the connection or even block that particular IP address altogether, preventing users on that server from accessing the platform.
Outdated VPN protocols
Outdated protocols can significantly affect a VPN when trying to access streaming services.
At the heart of any VPN service is its protocol to secure and transmit data between your device and the server. These protocols determine how data is packaged, encrypted, and sent across the internet.
Over time, as technology advances and cyber threats become more sophisticated, older VPN protocols that were once considered secure may become vulnerable or less effective.
Streaming services often update their systems to recognise and block traffic from these outdated protocols. They can do this because these protocols are less secure and are commonly associated with VPNs, making them easier to detect.
Mismatched DNS settings
When you use a VPN, you’re essentially hiding where you’re really connecting from by using a different address provided by the VPN.
However, there’s another system, called the Domain Name System (DNS), that turns website names into addresses. For instance, converting “www.reviewsfire.com” into numbers that computers can understand.
For a VPN to work well with streaming services, both your main address and the address from this DNS system should match and show that you’re coming from the same place.
Streaming services can figure out you’re using a VPN if they don’t match. For example, it looks suspicious if your main address says you’re in Germany, but the DNS address says you’re in the US.
Streaming services can spot this mismatch and block you, thinking you’re trying to break their rules with a VPN.
Browser location services
Browser location services allow websites to find out where you are. Websites, like those for weather updates, use this to show you relevant information based on your location.
Streaming services can also use these location services. They check if the location your browser shows matches the location your IP address shows. If you’re using a VPN, your IP address might show you’re in one country, but your browser’s location services might reveal you’re in another.
This mismatch can make the streaming service think you’re using a VPN to get around its location-based restrictions. As a result, the service might block your access.
To avoid this, some people turn off location services in their browsers or use tools that change what location their browser reports. This makes it match the location their VPN shows.
Inadequate speed and bandwidth
A VPN’s main job is to hide your internet activity. To do this, it sends your data through its own servers. This extra step can sometimes slow down your internet connection. Streaming movies or shows can be difficult if your VPN connection is slow. You might experience stops in the video, or the video might play in lower quality.
When a lot of people use the same VPN server at the same time, it can also make things slow. Think of it like a traffic jam. Too many cars (or, in this case, data) trying to go the same way can cause slowdowns.
In short, if your VPN doesn’t provide a fast enough connection, it might not work well with streaming services.
A “VPN leak” occurs when, despite being connected to a VPN, some of your online traffic bypasses this secure tunnel, exposing your real IP address or DNS requests. This can be due to software vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, or other discrepancies in how the VPN operates.
Streaming services actively look for signs of VPN usage to enforce their geo-restrictions and licensing agreements. If your VPN leaks, the streaming platform might detect your actual IP address or DNS requests that reveal your true location, leading to a block or restriction in accessing the content. While you might believe you’re protected and masked by your VPN, a leak is akin to a hole in a disguise, revealing your true identity and making the VPN ineffective for streaming.
App VS Browser-based streaming
App-based and browser-based streaming can have distinct differences in how they interact with VPNs; understanding these differences is crucial when troubleshooting VPN-related issues.
- Different Detection Mechanisms:
- Streaming apps can have integrated mechanisms to detect and block VPN usage, which might differ from the mechanisms used by their browser-based counterparts. For instance, some apps might directly access system-level data to verify the user’s true location.
- Device Permissions:
- Mobile and desktop apps often request and receive more permissions on a device than a browser. This could include access to data about other apps, network configurations, or location services, potentially revealing that a VPN is in use.
- Hardcoded DNS Addresses:
- Some streaming apps might have hardcoded DNS addresses. This means that even if you are connected to a VPN, the app might bypass the VPN’s DNS servers and directly contact the streaming service’s servers, revealing your real location.
- Browser Extensions and Plugins:
- When streaming via a browser, certain extensions or plugins might leak your real IP address or interfere with the VPN connection, impacting its ability to bypass geo-restrictions. This might not be an issue when using a dedicated app.
- Consistency in User Experience:
- Streaming apps are typically designed to offer a consistent user experience across different devices and platforms. This uniformity can mean that once a streaming service devises a method to detect VPNs on its app, it can apply this across all devices. In contrast, browsers might have variability in terms of configurations, versions, and capabilities, leading to a different detection approach.
- Updates and Patching:
- Streaming apps often get updated more frequently with enhanced security features or fixes that might improve VPN detection. On the other hand, browser-based platforms, being more open, might be slower in adapting to such advancements, or they might rely on different sets of security parameters altogether.
- WebRTC Leaks:
- Web browsers can sometimes leak your real IP address due to WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) protocols, even if you’re using a VPN. This type of leak is specific to browsers and wouldn’t affect dedicated streaming apps.