Prior to the massive global expansion that it announced at the Consumer Electronics Show 2016 last month, Netflix was only available in a couple of dozen countries. That meant that if you weren’t in a supported country you would have to use a VPN to mask your connection in order to access the streaming service. Despite its global expansion, many continue to rely on VPNs to get the most amount of content. For its part, Netflix says it can’t do much more to restrict the use of VPNs.
At CES 2016 Netflix announced that it was expanding into 130 additional countries immediately and it went off without a hitch. However, it doesn’t offer the exact same content in every market due to licensing restrictions.
So for example, if you can watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S on Netflix in the United States it doesn’t necessarily mean that the iconic TV show is also going to be available for on-demand streaming on Netflix in Russia despite the fact that it’s now officially available in the country.
That’s really one of the main reasons why people use VPNs to connect to a version of Netflix that has the most amount of content, and undoubtedly that’s the U.S. version. Territorial rights are “sliced and diced,” says Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos, which is why users are frustrated when they don’t find content that’s available on the very same service elsewhere.
Accessing Netflix for another market is an easy workaround since most free VPNs are capable of making this happen, and paid options with better speed usually don’t cost more than $10 per month so it’s not exactly expensive to do this.
Netflix chief product officer Neil Hunt did say at CES 2016 that the company is working hard to acquire global licensing deals with all content so that users no longer have to use this workaround but this is going to take time, “maybe the next five, 10, 20 years, it’ll become more and more similar until it’s not different,” he said.
For now, though it can’t do much more to limit the use of VPNs even though it applies industry standard technologies to limit the use of proxies. If it continues to rely on a blacklist of VPN exit points that are maintained by companies that aim to circumvent these geo-filtering restrictions in the first place, it’s not particularly hard to them to adopt a new IP address and evade the restriction.