Update August 2020, latest information on the best VPNs that works with Netflix.
Now I know it’s not really about UK TV but for many of us Netflix has replaced many of the traditional cable and satellite subscriptions. Despite the cost of a standard Netflix subscription slowly creeping up, it still represents pretty good value when compared to some of the UK and US cable deals. Also if you’re an expat living abroad then building up a decent entertainment package can be something of a priority especially if you’re not fluent in the local dialect. Being isolated from your favorite shows can get rather boring !
Well for many years pretty much my entire families entertainment has been covered by a system to access UK television – by that I mean a VPN or Smart DNS setup and a Netflix subscription. The cost is very reasonable – around £8 for Netflix and a few dollars for a Smart DNS system gives me pretty much everything I need. The Smart DNS systems I’m currently using also has an added bonus. In addition to enabling all the UK television channels online, it also allows me to switch to the US version of Netflix which frankly is way better than the UK version.
It was a surprise as most of the VPN and DNS services no longer support access to Netflix. This is because they introduced some fairly robust blocks and restrictions about a year ago. This made it quite difficult to access any version of Netflix other than the one you are regionally locked into. In my case it was the Spanish version which is ok, but we were slowly running out of stuff to watch.
The US version of Netflix is however, much better than the Spanish or indeed any other version of Netflix by quite a large margin.
Anyway here’s a quick demonstration of how simple it is to access the US version of Netflix using the same service that allows me access to the BBC and ITV abroad.
How to Get US Netflix Unblocked in 2020
It’s probably quicker if you want to see a demonstration to watch this video.
So that’s it, all you need is a subscription to a Smart DNS service which supports access to US Netflix and you’re good to go. One of the huge advantages of using Smart DNS rather than a VPN is that it’s much easier to configure. Also because it has no real software component to install then it’s also suitable for devices other than computers like media streamers, games consoles and similar.
Basically any device where you can get access to the network settings and update the DNS servers should potentially work. Personally I’ve used it on a variety of different devices which have worked perfectly, remember just sign up with an account and change your standard DNS servers to the Smart DNS ones and you should be fine.
So what’s happening here? Is this like the best VPN or proxies you can buy to change your IP address? It actually works in a similar way, but instead of all your data being routed through a VPN server only a small part of your data is. When you try and visit a Geo-locked sites like a different Netflix region, then the Smart DNS server instead routes the initial part of your connection through a VPN server in the right location. So to watch Netflix US then it will go through a US server, for the BBC through a UK server and so on. That way you can effectively configure all these different services in different countries through a single location – the DNS server.
You’re still using a VPN to some extent to ensure your device works with Netflix or whichever service you need. However because only a small portion of your bandwidth is routed through this server it’s potentially much cheaper to run and is faster as the majority of streaming is direct with the media server. It sounds more complicated than using a Netflix VPN but in reality it’s actually easier. You just have to change your DNS server, authorise your IP address to use it (by pressing a button) and it will work. It works better on things like a Smart TV because it requires no software, where as even the best VPNs usually need client software to work.
There is some caveat to this though, some devices block this sort of access enforcing the DNS servers that are specified. This is probably due to some sort of ‘deal’ with the manufacturers who want to enforce the restrictions. Netflix don’t want people from Europe to access the Netflix library in the US servers for example. Many other streaming services are the same wanting to control what we can or can’t access.
Devices like the Xbox One and Roku are examples which hard code the DNS settings that the device use. Even if you input the new Smart DNS servers for example the Netflix application will ignore them, you’ll then get the standard proxy error when you try and access Netflix. Although it’s still possible to set up Smart DNS on these it’s much, much harder and relies on configuration on your router as well. Basically if you want to unblock the US version Netflix in 2020 then it’s best to avoid these devices as they will make your life more difficult.
Also it’s a good idea to check before you buy if possible that the device you intend to use doesn’t do this, it makes it very inflexible to use as well not being able to unlock US Netflix. Also the DNS option provides no online privacy or encryption at all so if this is important you’ll need to use VPN for Netflix. The trial option is also a VPN provider though, so you can test that too.
Once you’re enabled though all you have to do is connect to Netflix as normal and you’ll be rerouted to the American version. It might not be apparent at first but I can assure you that there are thousands more films and TV shows. What’s more you’ll find many more later releases in all sorts of genres. For example a couple of my favorite shows on Netflix stop at early seasons on the European versions where as the American Netflix has the complete seasons.
Now of course, some people will wonder if it’s worth spending even a small amount of money on a service to unblock Netflix. It’s difficult to say and in some senses it probably depends on your viewing preferences. After all for many the small amount is recouped by watching one item from the US catalogue, perhaps the latest Guardians of the Galaxy film or The Last Jedi both of which can only be found on the US version. However there’s a solutions to this too – it’s a free trial of the only reliable solution to unblock US DNS and watch the American version of Netflix.