You May Soon Not Be Able To Access Any International Netflix Content You Want

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 12.55.17 PMSure, your U.S. Netflix account offers a wide variety of movies and TV shows, but those offerings vary from country to country. Some show that aired in Europe last year may not even be available for Netflix to license to stateside viewers. Or an American movie may be unavailable locally because HBO or some other service has an exclusive, but people in Colombia can watch it on their Netflix. Clever Netflixers have long employed various workarounds to access international Netflix offerings, but now the streaming video service is warning that these may soon not work.

There are a wide variety of proxy services and unblockers that trick Netflix into thinking you’re in whatever country you want to be in. For a long time, this worked to Netflix’s advantage as users in countries without actual access to the service were transformed into evangelists for Netflix, spreading the word and increasing interest in the company before it even launched locally.

But now that, after adding some 130 new countries in a single day, Netflix is effectively available worldwide, it looks like the reins are going to be tightened.

In a new blog post, Netflix VP of Content Delivery Architecture David Fullagar acknowledges that some users are using proxies and unblockers to access Netflix offerings in other countries, but cautions that the company has the ability to curb this practice, and intends to use it.

“That means in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are,” writes Fullagar. “We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies.”

The ultimate goal, he writes, is for every Netflix user around the globe to be able to access the same content regardless of location. Don’t hold your breath for that one, as media distribution is still incredibly localized. No Hollywood studio wants to deal with figuring out licensing for hundreds of individual companies when they can hand off that business to smaller, regional operations.

“For now, given the historic practice of licensing content by geographic territories, the TV shows and movies we offer differ, to varying degrees, by territory,” writes Fullagar. “In the meantime, we will continue to respect and enforce content licensing by geographic location.”

The huge elephant standing in front of the TV in this room is China, which still does not have access to Netflix. Users in the rest of the world can no longer justify using a proxy just to access Netflix, but for viewers in China, a crackdown may mean that these potential future customers will be blacked out (until someone comes up with a way around whatever roadblock Netflix erects).

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  1. webalias says:

    Netflix says this won’t impact customers not using proxies. Maybe so. But there are plenty of good reasons for those concerned with security and privacy to use proxies, reasons that have nothing to do with accessing streaming video. Maybe I don’t much like the government knowing exactly what web sites I choose to visit. Maybe I don’t much like my ISP (good ol’ Comcast) or anybody else tracking my web use for their own marketing or other purposes. These are legitimate concerns here in the U.S., especially given the recent history of data breaches and government overreach. And in some countries, not taking steps to disguise your geographic location while accessing certain web content could get you killed. Netflix needs to come up with a better solution that doesn’t unfairly penalize those who aren’t seeking to circumvent licensing restrictions but have other legitimate privacy/security-related concerns. In the meantime, sophisticated techie types will likely find ways to get around the new restrictions anyway.