By now, you probably know that Netflix has a different selection of TV shows and movies in each country it’s active — which is pretty much everywhere. However, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, so in this article we’ll make sure you’re wise to all the facts surrounding the Netflix VPN ban, which is the biggest obstacle to watching any country’s Netflix from anywhere.
If the system behind Netflix’s VPN block is old news to you, and you just want to know how to beat error code m7111-5059, click the link and find out (hint: it involves signing up to ExpressVPN). If you’d like to know more VPN options besides that stalwart, we also have an article on the best VPN for Netflix, though for convenience’s sake we’ll also recap our picks just below.
However, if you’re more interested in spelunking into the depths of copyright law and other weird lawyerly tricks, stick around as we talk about why so much Netflix content is hidden away.
Best Netflix VPN: Which VPN Works in 2020?
- ExpressVPN — Best Netflix VPN to access any country, 30-day money-back-guarantee
- NordVPN — Great Netflix VPN for the USA
- Cyberghost — Netflix VPN to stream in Europe
- VyprVPN — Unblock Netflix while staying undetected
- PIA — Cheap VPN with many simultaneous connections
- ProtonVPN — Great bundle with secure email
- Windscribe — Access Netflix on the cheap
Why Does Netflix Block VPNs?
Until about four years ago, Netflix didn’t block people who accessed the service through a VPN. It turns out that there were far too many people unhappy with their country’s Netflix library, who were using VPNs to access American Netflix for its far superior selection of TV shows and movies.
Why the U.S. version of the streaming service was so much better had to do with a maze of legal agreements, as well as the usual bugbear of the digital age: licensing deals. If you look at the homepage of Netflix, you’ll quickly see it offers hundreds — if not thousands — of titles no matter where you are, but only a few of them are made by Netflix itself.
The vast majority of Netflix’s content is made by networks the world over, and it has made deals with content distributors to be able to offer it for streaming to subscribers.
However, the movies and shows on Netflix are distributed by different companies, who may want their content in one country but not another. Making matters worse, sometimes multiple companies own the rights to the same movie or TV show, just in different parts of the world.
As a result, each country in the world — except for China, Syria, Crimea and North Korea, which don’t allow access to the streaming service — has its own Netflix library, which makes for wildly differing offerings depending on where you are.
Netflix and Distributors
When a network produces a show or a studio makes a movie, they make deals about what distributor can show it where — and that’s not always necessarily the same company. For example, the hit show Homeland is produced by Showtime and, as such, is available in the U.S. on its very own streaming site, which you can’t access from anywhere else.
However, Showtime has also made a deal with Netflix to make Homeland available in countries other than the U.S. In Germany, you can watch it just fine on Netflix, while in the States you’d need to hook up to Showtime.
However, it could very well be that, in another European country, Homeland is not available because Showtime has made a separate deal with a local network to air it. It really depends.
Let’s use another example: take The Americans, a taut spy thriller series set in the ‘80s. It originally aired in the States on the FX network. However, FX doesn’t have its own streaming service, so if you want to watch it online from the U.S., you have to go with iTunes or Amazon Prime Video.
The picture changes, though, in Europe, where several countries have all five seasons of the Jennings’ trial and tribulations on Netflix, no problem. If you’re an American who wants to watch the show and you already have a Netflix subscription, but you don’t want to shell out for another streaming subscription to Amazon, you’re just out of luck.
Best Netflix VPN to Stream Despite the Block
This is where virtual private networks come in. The linked article has all the details, but in short, a VPN allows you to access the internet from a third-party server. This has two main benefits. First, a VPN makes your browsing more secure. More important to streaming, though, a VPN can make you appear as if you’re somewhere else geographically by spoofing your IP address.
Using the same example, a Netflix subscriber from New York City who wants to watch The Americans without signing up to Amazon can do so by connecting to a VPN server in Germany, which has all five seasons in its Netflix library. It’s really as simple as that: open up your VPN, select a server in another country and say “bye-bye geoblock.”
That’s how it should work, at least. The distributors we mentioned earlier most likely don’t care for people undermining their distribution agreements, and they allegedly began forcing Netflix to start blocking VPNs — nobody seems to know exactly why the ban came into effect. Ever since, users have been met with the now infamous Netflix error message.
That said, if a distributor makes a deal with two different streaming services to show a film in different countries, it doesn’t want people to cross over willy-nilly. That’s just bad for business, especially in the age of the streaming wars.
Right now, there are about 15 streaming sites competing with each other, and all of them seem intent on making sure you only watch certain shows on certain sites.
How to Watch Netflix With a VPN
As many companies have found out before, though, you can’t keep geeks down, and plenty of VPNs started quickly developing their own block-busting techniques. Right now, this whole thing has become a bit of a cat-and-mouse game, where VPNs figure out new ways to cycle IP addresses and Netflix finds new ways to detect them.
How exactly VPNs circumvent these blocks is a little unclear — it likely has to do with regularly cycling IP addresses — but what is very obvious is that some VPN services are better at it than others.
Finding out which VPNs belong in that category is a simple process, but a labor-intensive one: you just try watching content with different VPN servers until the Netflix proxy error goes away. This is where we come in: we’ve reviewed over 60 VPN services to put together our best VPN rankings, and we’ve tested each of them for Netflix access and streaming speed.
Any of these three VPNs will work with Netflix eventually (the next section will go into the details of that), while also offering a user-friendly interface, efficient customer support through live chat and a money-back guarantee of 30 days in case you don’t like the VPN service.
There are some VPNs you should avoid, though. For one, any VPN service that advertises itself as free and able to get into Netflix is trying to sell your data (though it’s not only free services that do that, as you can read in this review of Avast VPN).
Also be careful of any new VPN services; they generally lack the expertise necessary to become one of the better VPNs for Netflix.
How to Use Netflix With a VPN
First thing first: you can’t change your Netflix region without a VPN; proxies won’t work, and neither will any other method of switching out IP addresses. Your only option is a VPN, and for this example we’ll use ExpressVPN, simply because it’s very easy to use. Note that this is a quick recap; if you want the full guide on how this works, check out our guide on how to watch Netflix with ExpressVPN.
The first thing you want to do is sign up to a VPN. We like ExpressVPN, so we use that service for our examples. Once that’s done, open up the VPN app, pick a location you’d like to access Netflix from and click it to connect.
When you’re connected, go to Netflix, click the show or movie you want, and you should be good. If Netflix is not working right, that means you have a bad VPN server, so you need to switch server locations by going through the above steps again. It’s that simple, and it will stand you in good stead no matter from where you want to stream Netflix.
There you have it: the skinny on the Netflix VPN ban as well as the way to get around it. ExpressVPN is the ticket for anybody looking to thumb their nose at copyright restrictions, though plenty of other VPNs will do the deed, as well.
Do you have any tips on how to watch Netflix in other countries? Or maybe some questions we haven’t answered? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.
Will Netflix Ban Me for Using a VPN?
No, it will not. We’ve been messing around with VPN services to get around the Netflix VPN block for years now, and we’ve never received a single warning or demand to cease. If you get some kind of email, chances are it’s a scammer trying to get something out of you and has nothing to do with Netflix.
What Do You Mean With “Switch Servers?”
It means going from one VPN server (or IP address) to another within your VPN service. So, say you’re in the UK and want to watch U.S. Netflix through a server in New York, but it’s blocked. You can switch instead to a server location in Washington, D.C., or LA and see if either of those work with Netflix.
Is It Legal to Watch Netflix With a VPN?
Yep. Though you’re officially not supposed to do it, nobody seems too intent on catching perpetrators. This may change in future, but we doubt it.
How Do I Bypass the Netflix VPN Block?
By using a VPN that isn’t detected by Netflix. The best VPNs to pick from are ExpressVPN, NordVPN and CyberGhost, though there are plenty of others that do the trick, as well. Even then, though, the whole process can be kind of hit-and-miss.
What VPNs Are Blocked by Netflix?
Most of them, truth be told. In fact, the number of VPNs that do get past the block is dwarfed by the massive majority of VPNs that get hit with proxy errors when connecting from abroad. VPNs that usually do the trick are ExpressVPN, NordVPN and CyberGhost.
Can Netflix Detect VPNs?
Yes, and with a vengeance. Except for maybe Hulu and Amazon Prime, the Netflix VPN detection system is the best in the business. In fact, only a handful of the best VPNs can get past it, though we’ve done our homework and have some excellent VPN recommendations for you.
Which Free VPN Works With Netflix?
None. Or at least, none of the best free VPNs we’ve tried out work with Netflix, and we’ve tried out pretty much all of them. A sort-of exception is the Windscribe VPN, which has a good free plan and also a paid plan that usually cracks the Netflix block. If you’re looking for a truly free VPN for Netflix, you’re out of luck.