Netflix has being in the news fairly frequently recently. The best of the news was the expansion of its services to almost all regions, bar a few, in the world. Then it got into the front page again when it started a campaign to ban VPN users trying to access content banned in their own countries. Even PayPal joined the fight against VPNs just to show the kind of traction the news was getting in the tech world.
Apparently, the ban on VPNs succeeded in blocking a few VPN softwares. For just a few days only. Because people found a work around to be able to get content through proxies. But Netflix was not relenting in its efforts though. It launched a renewed onslaught against users of VPN again. And this time, it seemed to be very effective.
“ Since yesterday, using a VPN while accesing Netflix will cause an error (M7111-1331-5059) and a message saying you must disable it in order to watch content.
I’m personally considering cancelling my Netflix subscription since 90% of the content I watch isn’t available in my country.
We all knew Netflix is against the use of VPNs but until now it was possible (and very easy) to use one without trouble.
What do you think of this? Is there a workaround? Other countries affected?”
And thus was born a viral discussion on whether it is worth it to continue subscribing to Netflix if one can’t use VPN to watch some restricted contents.
In summary, the problem for Netflix is this: the whole business model is location based. Only people in the US have access to all contents on offer. Some contents are not allowed in some countries due to many reasons. Chief among these is that content owners are yet to give Netflix permission to offer these programs in those countries. Another reason is the fact that governments in some countries do no want certain shows to be viewed by citizens. In cases like this, it is simply politics. For Netflix fans living in these countries, the only way to get access is through the use of VPNs to mask their locations.
Because of the reddit thread, now the discussion has shifted from finding a solution to blocked contents to outright cancellation of Netflix subscription. For instance, a Danish citizen, maxm, living in Germany outlined some of the problems of using Netflix in Germany. A subtitling problem that can be fixed by using a good VPN service,
“As a dane living in germany i can only chose german subtitles. So speaking danish, hearing english audio and reading german subtitles is completely unviable. If that geoblocking continues to be effective I am off.”
Netflix must be aware of the risk to their business if they block VPNs. It is back to the use of pirated content especially from torrent sites. Piracy, ironically, was what Netflix wanted to reduce or eliminate when it expanded its services. How to resolve the problem is not clear cut or direct. There are so many conflicting commercial and political interests at play. Not all of them can be satisfied with the solutions placed on the table by Netflix.
We all know how stories like this end. It is the old cat and mouse game really. If Netflix succeeds in blocking VPNs, the VPN services would simply upgrade and find a workaround. Or new and better VPNs would be launched. Then Netflix has to start from square one again.