How VPN Helps You Access Content

When it comes to how we interact with media as a society today, the collective observation is that this is happening in a completely different way. The way we ‘consume’ this media is radically different than just a decade ago, even, which really is a short period for such drastic lifestyle changes. This is also highly indicative of how quickly technology is changing and evolving. Those of us that are already adults at present will remember and appreciate that, not so long ago, the internet was not a central figure in our lives by any means. In fact, things like online transactions, social media let alone working remotely were not at all on the horizon. Our consumption of media back in the 2000s was primarily a mix of; television channels, music television, the radio, and a quick stroll to the nearest Blockbuster to rent a DVD, CD, or Playstation game. The key spark that would change everything would come with the release of platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and of course the release of the iPhone. All of these events took place within a couple of years of each other, in the mid-2000s. 

So, yes, it is a fact that humanity today heavily relies on the internet for everything from existential purposes (finance, medical, business-related) to ways in which we entertain ourselves (films, music, gaming, and streaming). The transition to an online world has led to the domination of online streaming platforms filled with movies, TV shows, and music meant for on-the-go consumption which is now the norm. Another factor that has largely changed the way we consume media is the downward spiral of Hollywood, where going to the cinema has become something of a niche, replaced instead with an affinity to consume media on a tiny smartphone or tablet screen, again on the go. The same has happened to the music television industry, with most music now being released strictly online. Statistically, the number of streaming music subscribers has grown immensely from around 80 million in 2015 to approximately 500 million at present. When it comes to video, Netflix is the biggest video-on-demand (VOD) platform with over 200 million subscribers as of now. YouTube, however, is the world’s largest video streaming platform, and it takes a third of all of the internet users in the world. Video streaming is predicted to take 82% of all internet traffic by next year!

In terms of the most popular streaming platforms today, these are the leading choices when it comes to both video and music;

  • YouTube
  • Netflix
  • Spotify
  • Apple
  • Hulu
  • Prime Video
  • HBO

Today we are faced with something called geoblocking, also known as geographical restriction laws applied to streaming online content. There are, fortunately, ways to bypass any geographical restrictions with the help of modern cybersecurity software. In fact, bypassing geo-restrictions is quite easy to do today with a specialized VPN service.

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is readily available software that, by connecting to an anonymous server in a location of your choice, cloaks and encrypts your entire internet connection. Some premium paid VPN services offer what is called a ‘no-log’ policy that guarantees the anonymity of your data. This means that, while you are kept safe on the internet by having a VPN as a middle-man, these providers are also legally liable never to monitor your data or your browsing, as well as not keeping any record of this data. Besides this fact, several million people are already using VPNs to be able to watch video streaming services, or music services, even podcast services that are blocked in certain geographical areas.

How a VPN Solves the Geoblock Dilemma?

VPNs (premium ones) can circumvent any issues around geo-blocked content by making you appear to be in the location where they aren’t blocked, even if you aren’t physically located there. Without a VPN, your IP address and other data will let streaming platforms know where you are, thereby allowing them to block you. The reason content is blocked or geo-locked to some countries is because of licensing and other expenses. Due to this, Netflix, as an example, will exclude certain areas due to financial reasons resulting in you not being able to watch your Netflix catalogue from another country. In the EU, though, this has been remedied (excluding the UK, unfortunately). To clarify this with a real-world example, let’s say that you live in Spain, and are going to the Netherlands for a holiday and would like to watch some Spanish streaming services or content there. You can do this because the boundaries have been removed with EU legislation on streaming content and geoblocking passed in 2015 and 2018. Another example is the BBC iPlayer, which can be limited to the UK. You will most likely run into several blocked streaming issues as there is more and more restricted content out there, even sports events.

Geoblocking is like a new version of the DVD region code block, only online and not hardware-based. It isn’t only streaming services that are geo sensitive, but even online stores, airline companies, or hotels will charge different prices according to each country. Of course, it all happens because of money, at the end of the day. However, if you are looking for U.S.-based Netflix content (which makes sense because they have the largest library), you won’t be able to do that from outside the U.S. For U.S. content, you will have to either be in the U.S. or log in through a US-based VPN server.

How to Set Up a VPN To Unblock Streaming Content

So, you would like to access some geo-blocked online streaming content if you are outside of the U.S., but wonder how to do this exactly? Here are the steps for Netflix, specifically;

  1. Primarily, you need to install a paid, premium VPN service provider that specializes in unblocking Netflix. You need to form an account and install the VPN software that suits your device (whether that be a smartphone, tablet, or computer)
  2. Once you are signed up and have downloaded your premium VPN, you need to launch the software
  3. Once the software is launched, connect to a server in the U.S.
  4. When you are connected to a U.S. server, you can now log in and watch Netflix because your connection is telling Netflix that you are in the U.S.

This process is usually the same for all filtered streaming services, where you need to point your VPN at the country of origin and sign up (or have a subscription to the program). Remember that, with a VPN, not only are you getting rid of pesky geo blocks but sustaining your internet security and staying safe from cybercriminals and ad targeting too.