Netflix has begun blocking users’ access to the service when it detects that a geolocation bypassing utility, such as a proxy or VPN, is being used. Although these blocks are currently limited in scope, it could be a precursor to a wider crackdown by the popular streaming service.
Over the past few weeks, some users who have been bypassing region locks have discovered difficulties watching Netflix content. VPN provider TorGuard noted that there has been a recent spike in errors when connecting specifically to Netflix, indicating the company might be targeting and blocking specific IP addresses linked to bypassing restrictions.
However not all IP addresses were blocked, and many people could continue to watch Netflix simply by changing their VPN location. The same can’t be said for users of the Android app, who recently found that it was forcing Google DNS, preventing people outside the United States from using the app via popular DNS-based geo-unlocking utilities.
VPN- and DNS-based region bypassing services have become a major problem for movie and TV studios, which label their users as “VPN pirates”. Although these users are legitimately purchasing subscriptions to Netflix and not strictly pirating content without paying, they are accessing content not normally available to them.
The reason why content is not available to Netflix users in all locations, and why Netflix libraries and even Netflix access differ from country to country, is down to licensing deals between studios and services.
In some countries, TV shows and movies are exclusively licensed to services that aren’t Netflix. When a user decides to bypass the region lock on Netflix and watch it there, rather than through the local provider with exclusive access, it affects the studio’s licensing and negotiation process. If too many users choose to watch through cheap and easy services like Netflix, media giants won’t be able to sign as many lucrative, restrictive deals in some locales.
Naturally the easiest way to solve region locking, blocking and bypassing is to offer content to users in all regions, but thanks to stubborn and ‘old-school’ media companies, this probably won’t be happening any time soon.