Netflix is a textbook example of a company pivoting to stay relevant with a changing landscape. At one time solely a DVD-by-mail subscription service, Netflix is now much more popular in the streaming video space, and had even spun off its DVD-by-mail business into Qwikster. It operates in more than 100 countries, though the same selection of movies and TV shows is not available in each location. That is where virtual private networks (VPNs) come into play.
VPNs are primarily used to enable a more secure connection and are particularly useful when sending and receiving data over a shared or public network. The short explanation is that it uses encryption to keep a user's data away from prying eyes (there's a bit more to it than just that).
While handy for security purposes (like when staying at a hotel and using the establishment's free Wi-Fi service), VPNs have other benefits too. As it applies to Netflix, a VPN can make it appear as though a user is located in a different country, thereby bypassing the streaming video service's content restrictions in certain areas.
Not all VPNs are adept at bypassing Netflix's firewall, though. With that in mind, Comparitech conducted a comprehensive study of which VPNs work best with Netflix, in terms of making more content available to users. The site tested 59 VPNs in all, spread across 30 countries testing Netflix in a desktop browser and with the service's Android and iOS apps. In total, it ran more than 5,000 manual tests on actual devices.
"NordVPN was the only provider to unblock every country tested on all three platforms: desktop browser, iOS, and Android. SurfShark, a provider we knew little about prior to this study, came in a close second, unblocking Netflix on all three platforms in 28 out of 30 countries. PrivateVPN was a distant third, unblocking 20 countries on all platforms," Comparitech said.
As it applies to Netflix, what this means is that the choice of VPN service matters, and in some cases it matters quite a bit. In addition, choosing a desktop or mobile platform also matters.
"It’s generally more difficult for a VPN to unblock the Netflix mobile app for iOS or Android than it is to unblock it in a web browser. This is largely because the Netflix app can use means not available to a web browser to verify its location. For example, Netflix can override your device’s DNS settings in the mobile app, but not in a web browser," the site explains.
Unfortunately for Netflix users in need of a VPN, NordVPN is not a free service. However, it is on sale today for up to 75 percent off. The biggest discount applies to its three-year plan, which is available for $107.55 (down from $430.20). It also offers one-year and two-year plans, as well as a monthly subscription.