How can I watch the US version of Netflix here in the UK? They've got some great TV shows over there that I want to watch, but they're unavailable in the UK.
Yes, you can get US Netfix in the UK, and we'll show you how in this article.
If you're a fan of Netflix (the popular TV streaming service), you're probably aware just how much better Netflix is in the US than here in the UK. Across the pond our American friends pay less for Netflix (the equivalent of £5.09 instead of £5.99); gallingly, for that lower cost US Netflix users get more movies and TV shows, and get the latest films and programmes long before they arrive in Blighty.
(To be fair, this discrepancy isn't really Netflix's fault; mostly it's because the US studios offer different deals to their domestic customers and the British government charges a higher tax rate than is levied in the US.)
No wonder British Netflix users are so keen to get the same service as the Americans. But don't worry: it's possible to access the US Netflix service in the UK. In this feature we show you how to watch American Netflix shows and other content in the UK using a range of Apple devices: Mac, iPad, iPhone and Apple TV. But in each case the principle is the same: you'll be using a VPN, or virtual private network. Don't worry: we'll explain what that is, and how to use one.
Here are the main sections of this article, so you can jump to the bit you're interested in:
- Is it legal to watch US Netflix content in the UK?
- How to use a VPN
- How to get American Netflix in the UK on Mac
- How to get American Netflix in the UK on Apple TV
- How to get American Netflix in the UK on iPad & iPhone
How to get American Netflix in the UK: Is it legal to watch US Netflix content in the UK?
All you need to do to watch US Netflix content is trick Netflix into thinking you are currently in the US. This is, as it turns out, remarkably easy to do. But at this point we should point out that this goes against the terms and conditions you signed up to when you signed up with Netflix.
The Netflix terms and conditions explicitly state: "You may view a movie or TV show through the Netflix service primarily within the country in which you have established your account and only in geographic locations where we offer our service and have licensed such movie or TV show."
So be warned that this is against the rules. To our knowledge Netflix doesn't check for people using this trick and hasn't blocked any users from accessing US Netflix in the UK. (A Quora user claims to have been told by a member of Netflix customer support, "we don't encourage nor recommend the use of [VPNs], but if you haven't had any issues while streaming, it won't affect anything on your account as we don't have an official stand about it". Take from that what you will.) But the company does have the right to suspend your service.
Whether it's legal or not to use a VPN is more of a grey area, and varies depending on local laws, but it's hard to imagine anyone pursuing a case for copyright infringement. Indeed, many observers would argue that Netflix is technically broadcasting to the US, for which territory it obviously owns the broadcasting rights.
Assuming you're happy to proceed, having read all this, here is how you access US Netflix content on your Apple devices in the UK.
How to get American Netflix in the UK: How to use a VPN
Netflix provides a different service based upon where you're currently located. So if you access Netflix in the US you get American Netflix, while if you log on to Netflix from the UK you get the British edition. Netflix monitors your IP (Internet Protocol) address to determine where you are. Furthermore, Netflix stated that it would ban UK users from getting US Netflix using a VPN or proxy.
Fortunately, certain VPNs are trying to overcome this new Netflix ban as a matter of principle and the "freedom of internet and borderlss streaming". A NordVPN spokesperson informed Macworld: "NordVPN has been made aware of a few connection errors, but resolved those by guiding users through an alternative connection. Furthermore, we can confirm NordVPN service still works to access US Netflix. We have a number of strategies lined up if the Netflix crackdown becomes even more aggressive (i.e. prep back-up servers)".
It therefore is still possible to use a VPN in order to watch American Netflix, but time will only tell when the methods will be unavailable to users.
As we previously mentioned, Netflix has to strike different deals with the TV companies for each location, and generally the US edition of Netflix has a far better selection of movies and TV shows.
The good news is that it's pretty easy to watch US Netflix from the UK, because your account is international. If you ever visit the US you can watch US Netflix using your UK account. So you just have to trick Netflix into thinking you're in the US when you are actually in the UK.
If you've ever been to the US you can sign in to Netflix using your UK account details, and you'll notice that all the new content is available to you. This is because you essentially have an international license to use Netflix, but it delivers the content based on your actual location.
Netflix knows where you are by checking your IP (Internet Protocol) Address. This is a unique number that is assigned to your computer when it goes onto the Internet. The IP address is how the Internet knows to route which web pages (and other data) to which computer. You can find your IP address by opening Safari and typing IP Address into the Smart Search Field (Google will display your own IP address above the Google search results).
The trick is to change your IP address so that Netflix thinks you're in America. You do this by signing up with a VPN.
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, works like a second internet sitting between you and the larger internet, your computer connects to the VPN, which then connects to the internet. You ask it for the website, it sends the website to you. The VPN itself can be based anywhere, but you want one that's based in the USA. The VPN talks to Netflix, and Netflix thinks it's talking to a computer inside the USA, and the VPN passes the show on to you.
Can you trust VPN companies?
One last thing to bear in mind: the company running the VPN service theoretically has the power to intercept your web traffic, so be cautious about the company you sign up with (as usual when trust is involved, it's best to go for a big name that has something to lose if it gets caught misbehaving), and remember to switch off the VPN when you stop using Netflix. You won't need it when logging on to your online banking, for example, and you could suffer badly if the VPN company turns out to be untrustworthy.
That, then, is how you use a VPN. Sounds complex? It isn't really, because there are some great free services out there that make it easy. Two in particular come recommended: Hola and Tunnelbear. Let's look at how these services work.
How to get American Netflix in the UK: On Mac I (using the Hola VPN service)
Hola is a free VPN service that works by a plug-in with your browser. The only gripe we have with Hola is that it doesn't work with Safari, instead you have to use either Chrome or Firefox web browsers (we're going to use Firefox). Here is how to use Hola to access Netflix:
- Open Firefox and visit www.hola.org
- Click Sign Up. Enter your email address and a password you want to use. Click Create Account.
- Open Mail and look for a message with "Verify your Hola email address" as the subject. Click the link in the email address.
- Click Get Hola, It's Free.
- Click Allow and Install Now.
This will install the Hola extension in Firefox. You will see it in the top-right displaying the American flag. This means that you are viewing from America. Now all you need to do is load the Netflix website, but stop! Netflix has been under increasing pressure to block Hola and other VPN services, and if you go to www.netflix.com it doesn't work. There is a workaround: log into movies.netflix.com. For now this seems to work, but for how long we can’t say.
Log into your Netflix.com account and browse as normal.
How to get American Netflix in the UK: On Mac II (using the TunnelBear VPN service)
If you'd rather watch Netflix in Safari then there is another option. Use TunnelBear instead of Hola. TunnelBear works as a Mac OS X app, although you need to sign up and log in to your account.
Once you've signed up with TunnelBear you get an icon in the Menu bar, click the switch to On and ensure that the drop-down menu says "United States".
Now log into Netflix as normal (you can even use the regular www.netflix.com address instead of using the movies.netflix.com trick). With TunnelBear installed and running you can watch Netflix movies in Safari on your Mac.
The only downside of TunnelBear is that you get 500MB of free data every month, although you can get an extra 1GB per month by tweeting an advert for TunnelBear. If you find the service useful you can pay $4.99 per month to get unlimited tunnelling.
How to get American Netflix in the UK: On Mac III (using the TunnelBlick VPN service)
There's a lot of difference of opinion when it comes to VPNs, and which VPNs are best or most trustworthy. So here's a third option: TunnelBlick.
One of my colleagues has TunnelBlick installed on his Mac so he can connect and disconnect to the VPN whenever needed directly from the toolbar, makes life a little easier. (He gets his my actual VPN access from a website called VPN.ht - it's $4.99 a month and my colleague has had no issues accessing US Netflix, along with blocked sites such as The Pirate Bay.) All he had to do was add his configuration to TunnelBlick from VPN.ht and he was able to connect instantly, and the 'location' can be changed from the VPN.ht website.
My colleague points out that it's always best to pay for a VPN server rather than use one of the 50p (or worse, free) servers online because they are more likely to value your privacy. As we mentioned above, he tends to only enable the VPN for specific reasons (torrent, US Netflix and so on) and disables it before logging into email, online banking or similar, as the traffic can be accessed by the VPN provider.
How to get American Netflix in the UK: Apple TV
The easiest way to watch US Netflix from the UK is to use your Mac to stream the Netflix show, and use AirDrop to send it to the Apple TV. Because both Hola and TunnelBear work via the Mac, if you try to sign in with the Netflix app on your Apple TV you will be sent back to the UK website.
Follow these steps to watch Netflix shows on your Apple TV:
- Open Netflix.com using either the Hola or TunnelBear method.
- Start playing a show.
- Click the Full Screen icon in the bottom right of Netflix.
- Scroll to the top of the screen to reveal the Menu bar, click on the AirPlay icon and choose Apple TV.
The TV show will now start to play on your Apple TV. We think this is the best method, but if you really want to get your Apple TV to play American shows directly using the Netflix app on the Apple TV you can change the DNS settings on your router to those provided by your VPN service.
There are many different VPN services available, although www.privateinternetaccess.com comes highly commended. They have lots of tutorials to help you set up VPN, and you can even buy pre-configured routers (www.flashrouters.com). We think this is overkill if all you want to do is watch the occasional show from US, and it's easier to use Hola.org or TunnelBear and use AirPlay mirroring.
If you're keen to learn more about the Apple TV, by the way, here are some basic tips:
How to get American Netflix in the UK: iPad & iPhone
As we've seen, on a Mac laptop or Apple TV it's pretty easy to get American Netflix in the UK; it's simple enough to install an app like Hola or TunnelBear on a Mac. But readers often ask us if it's possible to use Hola or TunnelBear on an iPad (or an iPhone). It is!
Use a VPN (Hola) for iPad or iPhone
Hola is one of the main services that people turn to when wanting to watch US television or access other US-only services while based in the UK.
When you're using Mac OS X, Hola is a plug-in for the Chrome or Firefox web browsers (but not for Safari, unfortunately). The good news is that Hola is available for the iPad (and iPhone) in the form of an app. Here's how to install Hola on the iPad:
- Download the Hola app from the App Store.
- If you already have a Hola account, log in with your email and password. Alternatively, enter a new email and password and click Create Account.
- The Hola app now walks you through installing the VPN settings on your iPad (or iPhone). Click Ok, Let's Do It.
- The app switches to Safari, which loads some settings, then switches automatically to Settings in the Install Profile section.
- Tap Install.
- If your iPad has a passcode lock, enter the four-digit code.
- Tap Next, Install, Install and Next.
- Tap Done.
You have now set up Hola to act as a VPN (virtual private network) on your iOS device. It will be ready to steam shows from America to your Netflix app on the iPhone or iPad.
Use a VPN (TunnelBear) for iPad or iPhone
TunnelBear is another option for watching US Netflix in the UK. On the Mac, TunnelBear is a separate app that makes it easy to divert all your internet traffic through the TunnelBear server. On the iPad and iPhone, TunnelBear is also an app that you download from the App Store.
TunnelBear on the Mac works very differently to Hola on a Mac, but on iOS both services work in a largely similar manner.
Once you've got Hola or TunnelBear set up on your iPhone or iPad you should be able to watch Netflix using the Netflix app.
You do this in iOS by turning on the VPN service in settings. Follow these steps to turn on the VPN:
- Tap Settings and VPN.
- Scroll down and check that Hola United States has a tick next to it. If you do not see Hola United States you may need to follow the Hola installation again.
- Tap the switch next to Not Connected to set it to On.
- Wait for the switch to change from Connecting to Connected.
Now open the Netflix app. If you've done every right, it should be displaying the content from the American version of Netflix. Happy viewing!