How to Watch American Netflix Shows in the UK

June 25/2016

When U.S.-based Netflix became available internationally, it transformed the way that many people watched television around the world. Britons were particularly thrilled when they could watch their shows anytime, anywhere, as promised. Netflix is available on laptops, smartphones, and tablets for viewing pleasure.

Netflix Rises in Popularity in the UK

The UK is one of the lucky countries to have Netflix available. Almost as soon as the service launched, hundreds of thousands of Brits flocked to the streaming service. Favorite English shows like EastEnders, Doctor Who, and The Office UK could now be watched online any time a customer wished.  

Also, Netflix gave Britons unprecedented access to hit American series such as The Sopranos, Law and Order, ER, and Scandal. Brits didn’t have to wait a year or two for an American show to be shown on British television. As Netflix uploaded shows as they aired in the U.S., Brits didn’t have to wait around for time zone changes either to catch the latest plot twist in Scandal. 

Thanks to such convenience and access, Netflix became a massive hit in the UK. The relationship Britons had with the much loved streaming service should have strengthened as the years went by. Instead, it seriously soured when newspaper investigations revealed that Netflix may be shortchanging its British fans.

Are the Americans Ripping Brits Off?

It was the famous British tabloid The Sun that first broke the story. According to the paper’s investigation, Netflix was charging the same amount in monthly fees from its British subscribers as it did from their American subscribers. However, there was a massive difference between the two groups. Americans got to watch more shows without having to pay more.

The Sun revealed that American subscribers had access to some 5,600 shows for £7.05 per month. On the other hand, British subscribers paid roughly the same amount, £7.49, but only got access to 3,000 shows. Popular American shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Supernatural, and the comedy Parks and Recreation were unavailable to British subscribers, while American subscribers had no problem accessing the content. The worst part was that some British television shows were also missing from Netflix roundups. Ripper Street, the beloved UK series, was mysteriously missing for British Netflix subscribers.

Outrage ensued. Netflix released a statement claiming that licensing laws and discrepancies between copyright laws between the two countries were the cause of the lack of content on the British side. However, Netflix has never openly admitted this fact to British subscribers. The company never disclosed to their British subscribers that they would only have access to a limited amount of content, regardless of paying the same subscription fee. This failure on the part of Netflix has left many British subscribers feeling as if the American company had ripped them off.

Why Can’t Brits Access All Content Available on Netflix?

Netflix can identify a user’s location using their IP address. For example, when you log into your Netflix account from Manchester, the website records your IP addresses and identifies it as an IP generated from a server in the UK. The Netflix library is programmed to discriminate based on a user’s geographical location. Now, when Netflix knows that you are from the UK, it won’t give you access to a show like Supernatural. But, if Netflix identifies your address as originating from New York, for example, it automatically makes all content visible to the subscriber.

This type of content blocking based on location is called geo-blocking, or geo-fencing. Geo-blocking is a common practice for streaming services. BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and many other sites limit access to users outside their home turf. The companies also always blame international copyright laws as the reason. Geo-blocking is one of the ironic realities of the internet, a network originally intended to surpass national boundaries.

Can Brits Bypass a Geo-Block?

As explained above, websites like Netflix are programmed to identify your IP address as originating from a certain location. The geo-block is initiated only if it is possible for the site to locate you. Geo-locks function simply, so working around them is also simple. You simply have to trick Netflix into thinking that your IP address originates from the U.S., and all content will be available to you automatically.

The best way to bypass a geo-block in this manner is by using a virtual private network. You may have already heard about these VPNs. Most users, especially ones located in censorship-heavy countries like China, use VPNs to bypass censorship filters, geo-blocks and avoid government surveillance. VPNs essentially create virtual tunnels into the public network that is known as the internet. These tunnels are highly encrypted, so no person or device can know what data is being transmitted. This level of secrecy allowed by VPNs can help you mask your real IP address, and choose a fake one originating from a different country.

Using a VPN to Bypass Netflix Geo-Blocking

When you subscribe to a VPN service, you get access to a number of servers located in many different countries. You can choose any server you like to bypass a geo-block. UK Netflix subscribers can therefore easily connect to the internet using a VPN server located in the U.S. When you do so, you are basically becoming a virtual American citizen. The Netflix website will think that you are actually located in the U.S., and will make all content available to you. You can log in using your subscription bought in England without an issue. Netflix accounts themselves are not segregated by nationality.

Accessing Netflix using a VPN is as easy as that. You do not require any technical expertise, beyond basic computer skills, to access Netflix using a VPN. Most VPN software is available for handheld devices like smartphones as well. So you can watch Netflix from basically anywhere, even when commuting to work in the morning. VPNs are also extremely useful to access Netflix if it’s blocked by an organization, like your employer. VPNs will get you through censorship filters just as ably as they do with geo-blocks. When your employer or school blocks access to Netflix on their private network, Netflix is essentially being censored. By faking your real IP address, you can easily get past these restrictions as well.

Isn’t Netflix Blocking VPNs too?

Indeed, VPNs for Netflix have become so popular, the company is now actively taking steps to block VPNs as well. If you are one of the early adapters of VPN, you may find that your trusty VPN is no longer working with Netflix. You may get an error message stating that Netflix if not giving you access because you are using a proxy server. However, Netflix cannot block all VPNs. Even your existing VPN might experience only temporary blocks imposed by Netflix.

Netflix’s crackdown on VPNs has become harsh recently. Disgruntled users even petitioned Netflix to stop blocking VPNs. Market surveys have warned that blocking VPNs can even make copyright violations worse. Netflix does not seem to budge from its anti-VPN position.

However, luckily for web users, top VPN providers are finding their way around Netflix’s VPN block. Many have resorted to engineering solutions and finding back doors through the Netflix block. Some VPN services, especially the ones that focus on security, have been largely unaffected, or the damage has only been minimal. ExpressVPN, a popular service that focuses on security, said that the Netflix ban has affected the service only minimally.

How to Choose the Best Service to Bypass Netflix Geo Blocking

If you choose a VPN provider that offers many securing enhancements, you will be able to access Netflix, even if it bans VPNs. Lower-grade VPNs that are focused only on offering speedy connections to streaming sites don’t have the necessary tools to bypass certain filters like the one Netflix has implemented. However, top-level VPNs are specifically designed to bypass even VPN blocks.

Let’s consider VyprVPN for example. This service is designed to bypass the Great Firewall of China, which, like Netflix, hates VPNs. VyprVPN has modified its VPN infrastructure with such blocks in mind. So, you can easily use VypVPN to access all content on Netflix. There are many other services like VyprVPN. ExpressVPN, mentioned above, offers speedy connections that can cut through any filter. VPNs like IPVanish, CyberGhost, and SaferVPN are also highly recommended for watching Netflix in the UK. If you are budget-[conscious, you can choose a cheap service like NordVPN.

You must also take care to purchase a VPN with speedy and reliable connections. Streaming video is data heavy. If the connections are slow, your video will be buffering forever. Choose VPNs that offer unlimited speeds and bandwidth so your data use is not restricted. Additional features like multi-device compatibility, simultaneous login, malware protection, and data compression can make watching Netflix from the UK much easier for you.

Some services offer free trails or free but limited packages that you can try before making a purchase. Do your research well before sticking with a service. Read both user and professional reviews in advance. Then you can subscribe to a good service. 

More articles