Netflix is stuck in a position where it would rather not be. It would be simpler and more profitable if the service could show all its movies and TV shows to customers everywhere in the world. Unfortunately, it can’t do this.
Most Netflix content comes from third-party sources. Many of them have exclusive distribution arrangements that protect the channels they use from the competition. CBS or Hulu might have exclusive streaming rights in certain countries. Netflix can present the shows only if it limits access by geolocation. A show might be available in Britain but not the USA, or vice versa.
If you open a Netflix link to a show that isn’t available in your current location, you’ll get an error message.
Netflix needs to take its obligation seriously, or it will lose those shows completely. It blocks access from IP addresses in certain countries. Many people use virtual private networks to get around those restrictions, making it appear that they’re accessing the content from a country where viewing is allowed. Netflix has countered this by detecting VPN access and blocking it. It tries to keep tabs on VPN IP addresses and watch the connection for certain clues. If Netflix thinks you’re using a virtual private network, it will stop you from viewing any content.
It’s an ongoing arms race between Netflix and the VPNs. Some providers don’t try to overcome Netflix blocking. Others take a pride in making the shows available. Regardless of whose service you use, there’s no single setting that will give you access to everything, but you can choose a VPN server in a country where the show you want is available. With Surfshark, you can easily set up a VPN for Netflix.
Some countries block Netflix nationwide. If you’re in one of them, a VPN is your best option for getting Netflix at all. These countries commonly ban or restrict VPNs as well, so you’ll need to put in some extra effort to get it working without being caught.
Some examples of restricted content
A crime-investigation show called Billions is very popular in Japan, but Netflix doesn’t let you watch it in the United States, the UK, Australia, or Canada.
The supernatural drama Shadowhunters was popular in many countries, but Netflix can’t show it in the United States.
Doctor Who is notoriously hard to view online in the US, and it’s not available there on Netflix. To further frustrate US science fiction fans, they can’t watch Star Trek: Discovery, either.
We’ve listed more examples here.
Which VPN to use?
You have to do careful shopping to be sure your VPN provider will get you through to Netflix. The situation can change from day to day. It’s theoretically possible that Netflix will devise a breakthrough that will block all VPNs forever, though it’s unlikely. Any such scheme would block a lot of false positives, and Netflix doesn’t want to cut its own throat. VPN providers that have kept ahead of Netflix so far will probably stay in the lead.
The free ones won’t be helpful. They provide minimal service, usually supported by ads, and they can’t afford to put effort into overcoming geoblocking. The primary tool Netflix uses is the identification of IP addresses. A free VPN doesn’t have many addresses and can’t change them frequently, so it’s an easy target for blocking.
Some providers, including Surfshark, make a selling point of Netflix access. They’re the ones who put serious effort into it and give you the best chance of continued viewing. If they get blocked, they’ll find a way to unblock themselves.
How do you choose among these providers? Speed is one of the most critical factors. The faster the connection, the less you’ll have to wait for buffering, and you’ll get the higher-resolution streams. A free trial or money-back policy is important, as well. No one can guarantee 100% success at this game. You want to make sure that the VPN will provide Netflix access for you before you commit.
Look for reviews on reliable sites. Many of them specifically address the ability of VPNs to access Netflix. Here are a few lists:
It’s a service you’re paying for. It’s legal in most countries to use a VPN to access streaming content. It will let you see shows you love and otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. If you feel at all guilty, buy a little of the show’s merchandise, and everyone will be happy.