It was during the Summer Olympics in 2012 I first looked for a way to bypass a geo-block. I wanted to cheer for the Hungarians participating in the Summer Olympics, but as I was outside Hungary there was little focus on the Hungarian athletes.
That is when I got an idea. Why don't I watch the Summer Olympics on Hungarian TV online? It was a brilliant idea and at once I visited the website of the Hungarian TV broadcaster. That is when I faced the problem of a geo-block for the first time. I was not allowed to watch the Hungarian TV stream for one simple reason – I was located outside Hungary. The live stream was only available to people located in Hungary.
Instead of complaining I looked for a solution
I could have given up right away, but instead I looked for a solution. How could I make the website of the broadcaster believe I was located in Hungary? I had no clue what I was actually looking for, but I quickly understood that VPN was an important keyword on my path towards a solution.
I remember buying a one month subscription for a VPN provider back then in the summer of 2012. The price was around 10 USD for one month and I felt like I did the investment of a lifetime. A few minutes after signing up I connected to a server in Hungary and guess what? I bypassed the geo-block and at once I could watch the Summer Olympics on Hungarian television. That was only the beginning! I quickly discovered that using the same strategy I could unblock TV channels in the UK, in the USA, in Australia and other nations all around the world.
Since then I started writing lots of blog posts about bypassing geo-blocks on www.ipaddressguide.org and of course about VPN providers. Whenever you met a geo-block the solution was a VPN service providing you with a local IP address. Life was easy and things worked smoothly. That was back in 2012!
A backdoor used by many
Using a VPN to bypass a geo-block might have been a backdoor used by few back in 2012. But, with an increase in material available on the Internet and people traveling more and more, the need for solutions to geo-blocks has increased rapidly. What in 2012 was a backdoor used by few people has by 2016 turned into a big industry.
The increase in geo-block bypassers has forced the TV networks and streaming services had to take action. But, is it in the interest of the streaming services to actually take action against VPN users? These companies are after all looking for as many viewers and paying customers as possible, and even though I use a VPN, I am still a viewer and a paying customer. That can't be so bad after all?
Hulu started their battle in 2014
One of the first major streaming services to take visible action against VPN users was Hulu. Back in 2014 they suddenly banned lots of IP addresses used by VPN providers from one day to another. Now that might seem strange, after all they actually scared away many of their own paying customers. Why would they do such a thing?
Hulu is producing more and more original material, but the majority of content on Hulu is created by other TV networks and companies. These companies are not well served with international viewers getting access to their content on Hulu. As a consequence they forced Hulu (and still do) to take action against its international users.
Netflix started their battle in 2016
On January 6th in 2016 Netflix announced the launch of their streaming service in more than 130 new nations. Until then millions of Netflix users used a VPN to virtually reside in a country in which Netflix was available. With the new launch that was no longer necessary as Netflix suddenly was available in their very own nations.
Meanwhile the pressure on Netflix to take a stand against region-jumpers got even harder. It started slowly, but as of October 2016 one can say that Netflix has taken their battle against VPN and proxy users seriously.
The battle is constant and never ending. VPN providers get hold of new IP addresses which are not yet banned. Netflix (and Hulu and other streaming services) have people working to get hold of new IP addresses offered by VPN providers for one purpose; to ban them.
Netflix and Hulu are not stand-alone examples in this battle. The truth is rather the opposite. It is getting harder and harder to find streaming services and TV networks online NOT banning IP addresses used by VPN providers. One can see it all across the world, be it BBC in the UK, Tenplay in Australia, Viaplay in Scandinavia, HBO Now in the USA and lots of other networks and streaming services.
For this reason a local IP address is no longer enough
Back in 2012 it was enough to get a local IP address in a country to stream online content. In 2016 it is no longer enough. You do not only need a local IP address, you need a local IP address that actually works. How can that be found?
Here are my advises:
- Skip your Google search for „how to get an IP address in …?” Instead you should search for „how to watch … ?” the actual service you are interested in.
- Look for blog posts which are newly updated with information on VPN services that work with the service you are interested in. This will not guarantee success, but if will for sure increase your chance to find a solution that actually work.
- Make sure that the VPN provider or SmartDNS service you consider trying has a good refund policy in case you sign up, pay, and the service does not work like you thought it would!
- Do not sign up for 12 months if you goal is to stream online content. A VPN service might work today, but it can very well be banned tomorrow. And if that is so, then you might not want to have paid 11 extra months for a service you no longer need.
Using a VPN or a SmartDNS service is still the solution if you want to bypass geo-blocks! But, it is much harder than it was back in 2012!