Netflix Goes Global: Streamer to Combat VPNs, Push Subscribers to Local Service

Netflix vs. The World - H 2015

Netflix vs. The World - H 2015

"If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn't be a reason for members to use proxies or unblockers,” said David Fullagar, Netflix’s vp content delivery architecture.

Netflix might have plans for global domination but the streamer will approach each new market cautiously, offering a restricted service until it can get all territory rights to TV shows and films in its vast library.

Part of that process is to ensure that customers are accessing their local Netflix service, with the company publicly acknowledging that customers worldwide have been working around the system to access, in the main, Netflix in the U.S., with the use of proxies or virtual private networks (VPNs). Netflix's U.S. service has many thousands of hours more content available than it does in the other 189 countries in which it now operates.

“If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn't be a reason for members to use proxies or unblockers,” David Fullagar, Netflix’s vice-president of content delivery architecture, wrote in a company blog on Thursday. “We are making progress in licensing content across the world ... but we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere,” he added. 

“Over time, we anticipate being able to do so. For now, given the historic practice of licensing content by geographic territories, the TV shows and movies we offer differ, to varying degrees, by territory. In the meantime, we will continue to respect and enforce content licensing by geographic location," he said.

“That means in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are,” Fullagar wrote.

The announcement comes just a week after Netflix went live in 130 new countries, bringing its total coverage to 190 territories worldwide.  

Netflix was widely quizzed on the proxy issue when it launched in Australia last March, with the company side-stepping queries. At the time, local reports estimated that the company had between 150,000-200,000 Australian customers using VPNs to access the Netflix U.S .service. It's unclear how many of those migrated to the Australian services, which now counts around 2.5 million users, or continue to access Netflix in the U.S.  

Clearly Netflix’s newfound desire to step into line with program licensors and content providers has struck a nerve. Newspapers in France, Hong Kong, Germany and Spain, places where there are significant numbers of people using VPNs to access Netflix U.S., have all reported on Netflix planned clampdown since it was announced on Thursday.

“The strategy is simple — they have a responsibility to content owners to only show that content in the geographies for which they have a license. Enforcing those restrictions is a Netflix responsibility," Gartner research director Brian Blau told Reuters.

For Netflix’s part, “We look forward to offering all of our content everywhere and to consumers being able to enjoy all of Netflix without using a proxy. That’s the goal we will keep pushing towards,” Fullagar wrote.