For many, Netflix is the perfect streaming site. While we don’t disagree that it’s an excellent platform, it’s still has one major drawback – the geo-restrictions. Because of them, you can’t watch all the shows and movies you want, only the ones that are available in your country. And if you don’t live in the US, Canada, or the UK, you’ll have access to fewer titles.
Want to check that claim for yourself? Go ahead and use StreamCatcher. It’s an online service that tells you where Netflix titles are available. For example, if you look up Dexter, you’ll see the show is only available in ten countries. And Doctor Who only works in three countries: the UK, India, and Mexico.
Some of you won’t be bothered by that. But the rest are probably feeling like they’re not getting what they’re paying for. Plus, you’re probably asking yourself why Netflix does this in the first place.
We’ll tell you everything you need to know in this article.
Why Does Netflix Geo-Block Its Content?
It’s not that the company wants to do that. It’s that Netflix has to use geo-restrictions. Otherwise, they can end up in serious legal trouble.
Well, you know all the content on Netflix? The company doesn’t own most of it. Due to that, they have to buy licensing rights from the copyright holders. Unfortunately, Netflix often isn’t able to get global rights for the titles on its site. That basically means they can’t legally stream that content worldwide. If they were to do that, they’d breach the licensing agreements they signed, meaning they could get sued.
So, the company uses geo-blocks to make sure the shows and movies on their platform are only available in the countries they bought licensing rights for.
Can You Unblock Netflix Titles?
Alright, so it makes sense why Netflix uses geo-blocks. But that probably doesn’t make things better for you. You understand their POV, sure, but you still want to watch the content that you’re pretty much paying for.
But is there any way you can do that?
Yes. There are two unblocking methods, in fact – VPNs and Smart DNS services.
VPN or Smart DNS – Which One Is the Best Netflix Unblocker?
The best way to see which service is a good option for you is to see how both of them work, and take a quick look at the pros and cons of each one:
How a VPN Works
VPNs are online tools that hide your IP address and encrypt your traffic. Here’s how a VPN would help you unblock Netflix:
- First, you’d start off by using a VPN app to connect to a VPN server.
- The server has to be in a country where the title you want to unblock is available. For example, if you want to unblock a show that’s available in the UK, US, and Canada, you need to use a server in one of those countries.
- Once you pick a server, the app will establish an encrypted connection to it.
- When you visit Netflix, the site will think your traffic is coming from the VPN, not your device.
- Due to that, Netflix will only see the VPN’s IP address. Since IPs contain geo-data, Netflix will think your connection originates from a country that matches the VPN’s IP.
- Based on that information, Netflix will redirect you to the regional library that matches the VPN’s location.
So, if you were to use Netflix while connected to a US server, you’d be able to use the US content library.
How a Smart DNS Works
A Smart DNS is an online service that hides your geo-location. It stops sites like Netflix from seeing it by:
- Changing your DNS settings, so that you don’t use your ISP’s DNS server.
- Routing your traffic through proxy servers located in countries where the content you want to unblock is available.
- Intercepting and editing your DNs queries to make sure they don’t leak any geo-location data.
VPNs vs. Smart DNS Services – Pros & Cons
VPNs use encryption, which stops your ISP (or anyone else) from seeing your traffic. Without that data, they won’t be able to throttle your bandwidth anymore (i.e. intentionally slow down your speeds). So, with a VPN, you can binge Netflix in peace on the weekends without worrying about random, annoying slowdowns.
VPN encryption also keeps your data and privacy safe from hackers and advertisers. Also, by hiding your IP, VPNs can help you unblock Netflix on hotspots that block it – like campus, school, and hotel networks.
Smart DNS services, on the other hand, don’t use any encryption. So you don’t get extra privacy with them, and you can’t use them to prevent bandwidth throttling. Also, they don’t hide your IP, so they can’t bypass firewalls.
But here’s where a Smart DNS shines – the speeds. Since it doesn’t use encryption, you won’t experience any slowdowns (like you normally would with VPNs). Also, there is a chance (although an unconfirmed one) that Netflix doesn’t target Smart DNS services as much as it does VPNs.
Which Service Should You Use?
It really depends on your preferences. Here’s what you should keep in mind:
- VPNs are a good choice if your ISP speeds are fast (70-80+ Mbps), you want to protect your Internet privacy, and want to stop your ISP from throttling your Netflix traffic.
- Smart DNS services are ideal when you don’t want to experience any slowdowns.
But you don’t need to pick between a VPN and Smart DNS provider. Most of the top VPNs on the market (like ExpressVPN and NordVPN) offer built-in Smart DNS functionality alongside their VPN service. With them, you basically get a two-in-one deal.
The Bottom Line
Both VPNs and Smart DNS services are excellent Netflix unblockers. To get the most out of them, you should use a VPN that offers Smart DNS functionality too.
Which one is your favorite, though, and why? Please let us know in the comments below.