VPN users are a lucky bunch, enjoying increased security as well as uncensored internet access. That is until it comes time to stream a movie or TV show. Try navigating to a streaming site while using a VPN and chances are you’ll get an error message. It’s frustrating, for sure, but the right VPN provider could eliminate these woes.
NordVPN certainly claims to be up to the task. Its site boasts of advanced streaming capabilities and unique streaming-enhancing technologies. These features have earned it a reputation as a streaming powerhouse. But in practice, many factors impact its effectiveness, especially on the world’s biggest streaming site: Netflix.
Netflix and VPNs
Why Does Netflix Block VPNs?
Netflix does own some of its catalog, specifically the movies and TV shows that it produces. But the rest of its content is licensed from other studios and distributors. These licenses are temporary, which is why offerings change from month to month. They’re also geographically restricted.
Geo-restrictions allow content owners to control the market for their media. Netflix increases exposure but decreases profits, a fact which can be utilized strategically. By limiting a movie to, say, US Netflix, a distributor benefits from the massive audience of American Netflix users. But in other countries, potential viewers will still need to purchase the movie through other, more profitable means.
If Netflix doesn’t agree to and enforce geo-restrictions, it loses the right to offer much of its content. But geo-restrictions claim travelers as collateral damage. If you’re an American visiting the UK, you won’t be able to access US Netflix from your London hotel. It’s the country you’re in – your IP address – that matters, not your nationality.
And a VPN is perhaps the best way to change your IP address. Just pick a new country or city and voila! To the rest of the internet, it’s as if you’re really there. Our American abroad could simply connect to a VPN, pick a United States server and get back to watching the Office.
This, of course, is bad news for Netflix’s licensing agreements. If there are too many violations, the company could lose its content licenses. So it and many other streaming sites have responded by blocking VPNs.
How Does Netflix Block VPNs?
When you connect to a VPN, you’re given an IP address from your location of choice. But you’re not the only one who’s used (or is using) that IP. VPN servers have a finite amount of IP addresses to distribute. And when many users access the same streaming sites, there’s bound to be IP overlap.
Netflix keeps track of the IPs that access it. It’s normal for there to be a few instances of the same IP at the same time. Many households share a Netflix account with all members, some of whom may stream at the same time. But when Netflix notices many different accounts with the same IP, that indicates something fishier. It assumes – often correctly – that the IP belongs to a VPN server. And since VPN servers are used to spoof locations, Netflix swiftly blocks that IP.
Again, there’s often collateral damage here. University WiFi networks are used by many students, each with their own Netflix accounts. But because they all use the same network, they have the same IP address. This usage pattern can trigger a false alarm in Netflix’s system, resulting in an inaccurate proxy block. The same is true of workplaces, apartment complexes with shared internet and public places like airports.
What Can VPNs Do About This?
To get around this, VPNs must play a game of cat and mouse with Netflix. As each IP gets detected and blocked, the VPN must replace it with a fresh one. Some providers can keep up with this and have a steady supply of new IPs on deck. Others are limited by their internet providers and are unable to obtain new streaming IPs. As Netflix’s blacklist grows, the pool of potentially working IPs shrinks. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before VPN users fully succumb to geo-restrictions.
NordVPN and Streaming
Despite Netflix’s aggressive anti-VPN stance, NordVPN continues to posit itself as a streaming behemoth. The company’s website is peppered with streaming site names and logos. It offers streaming access guides and unique streaming-enhancing features. A streamer’s dream, at least in theory. But do these claims hold true in reality?
Can NordVPN Unblock US Netflix?
The largest and most popular Netflix catalog is definitely the US version. It’s not just traveling Americans and homebody VPN users who demand it, either. Residents of other countries whose catalogs are lacking can find endless entertainment on US Netflix. It’s the most valuable streaming site a VPN can unblock.
NordVPN has gone to great lengths to do just that. US Netflix is easily accessible from any of the provider’s 1,800+ US servers. These servers are distributed across 20 US cities from coast to coast. Whether you’re in Asia, Europe or the USA itself, you’ll be close enough to a server to get great speeds.
With NordVPN, you may not even have to connect to a US server to gain access to US Netflix. Any NordVPN server (except those in the UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy) will work. If you’re in a different region, you don’t need to sacrifice local speeds to stream American Netflix. Your nearest server will work just fine! That’s because of NordVPN’s SmartPlay smart DNS feature.
SmartPlay works by scanning your DNS requests for Netflix and its associated domains. Then it re-routes the necessary data through a US server, regardless to which server you’re connected. Netflix receives that data as if it’s coming from the USA and allows you into the American site. It’s super convenient and always on, so you don’t need to lift a finger to get streaming.
What About Other Netflix Sites?
US Netflix may have the biggest selection of content, but other countries have plenty to offer as well. Many VPNs only prioritize US Netflix while ignoring the rest of the world. Doing so saves resources that would otherwise be spent acquiring fresh IPs from other countries. But it leaves you unable to view thousands of hours worth of quality foreign content.
NordVPN doesn’t skimp on its international Netflix offerings. Its Canadian servers can access Canadian Netflix, unlocking content that’s not available in the USA. This includes cult favorites like the Fargo TV series and beloved sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother.
UK Netflix also has an impressive catalog, with tons of exclusive shows like Doctor Who and Blackadder. Not into British TV? Plenty of American shows, including Hannibal and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, are available on UK Netflix as well. And NordVPN’s UK servers can get you in faster than you can pour a cup of tea.
Anime lovers, rejoice! NordVPN unblocks Japanese Netflix and all of the exclusive animation, dramas, and comedies found within. German, French, and Italian Netflix are also unblocked by their respective servers. You’ll never complain about running out of things to watch on Netflix again. Just pick a new country and unlock a whole new region of content.
Does NordVPN Unblock Other Streaming Sites?
Netflix isn’t the only streaming site that NordVPN can open up for you. Many others work with this VPN as well. From big names to little networks, you’ll have no shortage of streaming sites to check out.
NordVPN and Hulu
Hulu is quickly catching up to Netflix in terms of variety and quality. With popular TV shows like Star Trek and critically-acclaimed originals like the Handmaid’s Tale, it’s a highly desirable streaming service. NordVPN’s desktop apps can access Hulu from any server, US or otherwise. On other devices, including phones and routers, select US servers will work.
NordVPN and BBC iPlayer
The UK’s premier TV network is also its most popular streaming service. Lovers of stunning nature documentaries and irreverent British comedies will find an endless supply of entertainment here. NordVPN’s UK servers work with BBC iPlayer. As a bonus, its desktop apps allow you to download content for offline viewing from certain servers.
NordVPN and Amazon Prime Video
It’s the biggest retailer in the world, and its streaming selections aren’t bad, either! Amazon Prime Video has blockbuster movies like Iron Man 2 and world-renowned TV shows like Downton Abbey. NordVPN’s desktop apps can unblock the US version of Amazon Prime Video from any server except those in the UK. That’s because the UK servers unblock the British version of the site. Mobile devices can’t use the US or UK sites, but can use several different servers to access the French site.
NordVPN and HBO Go
HBO Go’s diverse offerings range from Game of Thrones to Sesame Street. It’s usually only available to those in the USA, but NordVPN changes that. Any US server can unblock HBO Go with ease.
Is NordVPN Fast Enough for Streaming?
Streaming can be a pretty intensive task, both in terms of computing power and bandwidth usage. If you’ve ever had to deal with endless video buffering during peak usage times, you’ll understand the need for speed. VPNs are well-known for reducing internet speeds, so is it really wise to use one for streaming?
With NordVPN, the answer is yes. If you stick with nearby servers, you’re not likely to see your speeds drop by more than 20%. A typical home internet connection in North America and Europe is 50Mbps or more. NordVPN would reduce that low end to around 40Mbps, which is still more than enough to stream in Ultra HD.
For reference, Netflix’s absolute minimum speed requirement is 0.5Mbps, with a recommended minimum of 1.5Mbps. It recommends 3Mbps for standard definition and 5Mbps for high definition (720 or 1080p). The highest available quality, 4K Ultra HD, requires at least 25Mbps. But displays that support such a high resolution are still far from commonplace, so you’ll likely be able to get by with much less.
What if I Can’t Stream with NordVPN?
Streaming site unblocking isn’t an exact science. Occasionally, even the most robust server arrays run out of working IP addresses. Other times, there are so many servers to try that you simply run out of patience for trial-and-error.
But if this happens, that doesn’t mean you’re left high and dry. NordVPN states that if you have trouble getting a streaming site to work, there’s help available for you. Contact NordVPN support, and a staff member will help you find a suitable configuration for your needs. Often, they can suggest a specific server for you to try, as they know which ones have the freshest IPs. NordVPN also provides a DIY troubleshooting guide for streaming issues.
Summary: NordVPN is well-known for its speeds and streaming powers, and in practice, it easily lives up to its reputation. You can access Netflix catalogs from seven different countries, plus other sites like BBC iPlayer and HBO Go.