With streaming services overtaking pay TV for the first time, becoming the most common way for people to watch television shows, the new challenge for many viewers is deciding what to watch from the wealth of content available. But for all its benefits, streaming is far from perfect.
A large frustration with streaming is the restrictions. In the same way that DVDs were protected with region locks, streaming is restricted by geo-blocking. A common example of this is if someone from the UK attempts to watch something in BBC iPlayer while abroad, they will receive a message saying that the service is not available outside of the UK. As someone who pays for a TV licence, this can be infuriating as it then seems that they are being denied access to content they have paid for.
Thankfully there is a simple solution to predicaments like this one. A virtual private network, or VPN, is more commonly thought of as a security tool, but it is increasingly used as a method of avoiding geo-blocks and accessing your content, wherever you are. A VPN not only encrypts your traffic, but also ‘tunnels’ your connection through one of many worldwide servers. The benefit of this is that you can appear to be logging on from potentially anywhere in the world.
With the freedom to access content from all over the world in your hands, the big question is what entertainment are you missing out on?
TV and Film
In many cases, films are released into cinemas on an international schedule to minimise the lure of piracy. But there is a good chance that the DVD/digital release date will be subject to deals that result in early releases on certain platforms, depending on region.
If you have missed a film in the cinema and have been waiting months to get your hands on it, this can be incredibly frustrating. However, by switching servers you should be able to sign in and purchase a rental with ease.
As ubiquitous as streaming has become, a common complaint is how frequently content is removed from these services. Many providers are combatting this by creating original content that will be exclusive to their platform, such as Stranger Things or The Marvelous Mrs.Maisel. But, that is little consolation if you are halfway through watching a third-party series like Friends or RuPaul’s Drag Race and it disappears from your watch list.
When this happens, it is often because the licensing for the region has expired. This might mean that the series will resurface with a different provider. But with so many to choose from, this could mean paying out for yet another subscription.
As streaming services operate different libraries for certain parts of the world, it is possible that your series is still available, just not to your region. A common trick to solve this is to use a VPN to spoof your location. Appearing to browse from a different country will give you access to their content and you can get back to your binge.
What am I missing out on?
The popular Batman prequel series has started to air its fifth and final series in January 2019. Traditionally, the series airs first in the US and then comes to TV in the UK a few months later. This delay means that the series often reaches US Netflix before the UK run is finished.
- The Good Place
The latest hit series from Michael Schur, the creator of Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place is building a cult following for itself. To keep UK fans up to speed, new episodes are added to Netflix weekly, but they are still at least a day behind the US.
In the same way that Spotify nullified the growth of music piracy, the issues surrounding film and TV piracy are largely resolved by Netflix – but sport has yet to make this transition.
NFL fans have a solution in the UK with NFL GamePass, a subscription that provides live coverage of every single NFL match, but there is no sign of an equivalent for Premier League football.
Due to the popularity and financial benefits of exclusive rights, most of the powers that be are reluctant to offer a streaming solution that breaks from traditional broadcasting conventions for Premier League football in the UK, even though it is common knowledge that fans around the world are able to watch these games live. This is also true with boxing, which is increasingly put on pay-per-view. The result is that social media is flooded with poor quality, illegal streams that are often shut down on copyright grounds.
There is a creative solution to this problem. Using a VPN, UK fans could subscribe to NBC Sports Network or DAZN, a new streaming service that has the North American rights to Anthony Joshua’s fights, and watch live US broadcasts from the UK on reliable streams.
What am I missing out on?
Anthony Joshua, and Canelo Alvarez are the big names, but fighters from the Matchroom and Golden Boy stables are both will also be appearing on DAZN in exclusive North American streams.
Every game in the English Premier League, or EPL as it is known internationally, is available live in North America on NBC Sports.