Online streaming services like Lovefilm or Netflix may be putting video stores like Blockbuster out of business, but they’re pretty good services in general… and if you know how to manipulate your connection, you can make the most of them.
I use Netflix on my Playstation 3, and while initially I didn’t fiddle with it too much and enjoyed the service, after a while you start to run out of things to watch (if like me you tend to cane an entire series in a weekend).
Rather than just cancel your sub and go back to illegal downloads, or buying DVDs or streaming through other services that may not be as good – I’m going to give you a few pointers on how to change your Netflix library so if you’re in the UK, you can use the American or Canadian library (which is 3-4 times larger), or if you’re elsewhere you can access some of the UK-only content etc.
Now just to let you know – the reason the regional libraries differ is due to licensing. So as an example one of the most common reasons a particular movie or series is available on Netflix outside your region is because a TV provider like Sky have the rights to broadcast it at the time… but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not on Netflix. All it usually means is that the European TV provider wants exclusive rights to it for a while before they’re happy for Netflix to stream it.
As far as the differences between libraries… the UK one tends to have a lot more British TV shows, whereas the American and Canadian ones have more feature films and more mainstream & obscure series… so you get movies like Captain America, Thor, Serenity and excellent full series like 24, Invader Zim, The Walking Dead, Vampire Diaries, Once Upon A Time and it just goes on and on.
Thankfully, Netflix as a company are pretty flexible. You can sign up for the service in the US, and if you emigrate to the UK or Australia then the same login works there – your location is all that determines which version of the service’s library you’ll see. However there are ways and means of manipulating how you’re perceived on the Internet as far as your location goes.
Changing your Netflix region is relatively easy, and best of all – legal. The great thing is that as you’re paying your subscription to Netflix, they don’t care which region you connect to. It costs the same either way, and how you decide to connect is up to you.
Ok – so the way we change the region connection to the Internet is through a proxy address. All you do is update your device of choice, be it your router, Xbox or PS3 etc with the required address, restart, and when you log in to Netflix (or any other service), you’ll see a different library. You can look online for free proxies in the location of your choice by looking at sites like HideMyAss.com or ProxyNova.com, or go onto a search engine and type in “Free [insert your country of choice] proxy server”.
And although Netflix is probably the most popular service to take advantage of this proxy jiggery-pokery, there’s a load more too – for example US users can set their region to UK, then hop onto the BBC iPlayer, or UK users can set their region to US and use Hulu or Pandora – the list goes on.
Unfortunately a lot of proxies can be slow, or unreliable – but there are services out there that will ensure your connection, and even chop and change depending on which library you want to switch to. These are usually chargeable, but where reliability is concerned, you get what you pay for.
There are many of these services, but my current one of choice is Unblock-us.com, and best of all they offer a week-long free trial where all you do is register your email address. Of course it’s a little more complicated, so I’ll go through the basics for you just to put your mind at ease.
With Unblock-us everything is really user-friendly, as they cater for nearly every device you can think of; PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, Apple TV, Boxee, LG Smart TVs, iPhone, Andoid and so much more!
The site have a great how-to for every device they support, with a text and video walkthrough. So rather than detract from the service they’re providing, here’s the guide I used for my PS3:
Now the setup says you need to download the Netflix application afterwards – that’s not really necessary to be honest. Like I said with Netflix’s flexibility it doesn’t matter if you already have it installed. However if you want to use a service like Hulu that are only based in the US, you will definitely need to go the extra mile in setting up a US PSN login to download the app.
So that’s it – easy peasy… and if you just want to check it out, there’s the aforementioned week-long free trial with no obligation to continue once it ends. Just set your DNS back to normal & away you go. However if, like me, you couldn’t go back to the UK library… then it only costs about £3 a month for the service… and with the amount that I use it, I definitely get value for money.
Have you already gone through this process and started using services outside of your geo-ringfenced location? How do you find it? Do you have any other services like Unblock-US that you’d like to recommend? Post them in the comments!