Last Updated on
I’ve just cancelled my Sky cable service, I realised that my wife and I rarely watched any of the channels. In effect we were paying the £65 monthly subscription (that’s $98!) for my youngest to watch reruns of Scooby Doo on one of the kids channels. This we decided was not great value for money so I went in search for more options in the world of online media and streaming services.
I had come across US Netflix whilst visiting Disneyworld on a family holiday briefly, where it was all set up in our holiday apartment. I never really watched it much but I knew that when my children were able to watch Netflix they loved it. So after some investigation and recommendations from a couple of US friends – I decided Netflix was worth a go and signed up for a month.
So here we go – my shiny new subscription to Netflix already streaming mindless rubbish to my 14 year old son.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was quite impressed – there’s loads of TV shows and lots of choice. The interface builds up your preferences from what you watch – which is clever except when you have a teenager watching South Park all the time which messes up your selection. The missus and I settled down to watch episode one of a series that we’d somehow missed but everyone else in the universe had been enthralled by which was called Lost. So all was good except I kept searching for new stuff recommended by some American friends of mine, and very often simply couldn’t find them.
US Netflix is the Gold Standard for Entertainment
It turns out that the UK and the US versions of Netflix are very, very different. In fact from my initial research it seems that the American version of Netflix is much better than all the other country variants, even just over the border – Canadian Netflix isn’t anywhere near as good. Unfortunately it’s not easy to watch American Netflix unless you’re actually in the US. This is because like many thousands of media sites, it’s geo restricted which means that it’s only accessible to people in certain locations.
Netflix is not restricted specifically to a particular country unlike many media sites. However where you are does determine which version you can see, so for US Netflix you need to be physically located in the United States. This is important because people think that if you subscribe to American Netflix then you’ll always get that version. This isn’t the case – they are all localized, for example when a US citizen on holiday in Mexico connects they’ll get the Mexican version of Netflix.
Obviously this is inconvenient if you’re from the US and travelling or living abroad. Yet for many millions who live outside the United States, there’s a sense of missing out despite paying virtually the same for their Netflix subscriptions. there’s no doubt that American Netflix offers a much wider choice of TV shows and movies than any other locale. So what can be done? Is there a way to unblock Netflix and watch this premium version outside the US ?
How to use an American Proxy for Netflix in the UK?
Just as with most online media services in existence, where you live determines what you can access. Most media sites simply block access based on your location. If you want to watch the wonderful (and completely free) BBC iPlayer for example you’ll get blocked from outside the UK. Similarly a large number of US sites are inaccessible from outside the US borders. However some of the global resources like Netflix simply route you to a specific version of their site rather than block access.
Fortunately there is a way around this and if you want to watch the US version you can. Simply by changing your IP address and tricking the Netflix application about your location you can access the American version of Netflix fairly easily. I’d read online and everything pointed to using a proxy server and more specifically a US proxy site. This was partly true, although the information was slightly out of date and unfortunately even the best proxy server would no longer work as Netflix blocked them. If you tried you’d usually get the infamous proxy error messages which meant Netflix has rumbled you and your IP addresses were invalid.
The next option that supposedly works is by using a VPN – this is a more secure and encrypted version of the simple proxy which many assured me would allow me to access Netflix US style. Again some truth, there are a couple of VPN (Virtual Private Network) services which allow you to watch American Netflix, however the majority don’t.
There are in fact only a couple of services which still work and they both utilize the more sophisticated VPN proxy which is harder to detect.
Bypass the Netflix Proxy Error with Smart DNS
Now I use two separate services for switching my location and keeping my connection secure for a variety of reasons. Both are fast, easy to use and well supported – NordVPN and something called Smart DNS Proxy.
In this instance I’ll use the Smart DNS solution to switch my location to a US one, which you can actually try completely free of charge for 14 days here –
Smart DNS Proxy is primarily a smart DNS system which will actually work with Netflix very well. Instead of creating a connection which tunnels your entire connection, The Smart DNS only activates when you try and access one of the geo restricted sites like Netflix. It then routes part of your connection through a US server acting as a Netflix proxy, the rest of your traffic flows directly through to the target server. It is setup to do this with most popular streaming sites and if you need something new, they will add it for you pretty quickly.
Here’s a good video on YouTube which illustrates how they work –
The two main advantages of Smart DNS are the fast speeds as it doesn’t divert your entire internet connection and the fact it requires no software. You just change your DNs settings to point at the Smart DNS ones and they do the rest. Although it’s great for accessing Netflix abroad it should be pointed out that it doesn’t offer any security or encryption.
There’s no other real difference between this and a VPN. When I start Netflix with Smart DNS configured I am treated as a US surfer and will partially use an American proxy for Netflix which has loads more content and is much more up to date than the UK version. Netflix operates as a global company so it’s important to highlight that my account is still a UK one, but will change as I move location. So if I was physically in the USA – my UK account would show the US version of Netflix library.
You can use any VPN or DNS based service to change versions like this, NordVPN and Smart DNS Proxy are definitely worth trying though as they are by far the best value out of any I’ve tried. Remember the vast majority of these VPN solutions don’t work with
Incidentally this method is based on the PC, you can use similar methods on lots of other devices, like Wii, Routers etc. For iPad – try this post and select a US server instead of a UK one, before you connect to the Netflix site.
You may have heard that Netflix is waging war on VPNs and Smart DNS programs and you can forget an American proxy, effectively blocking all of them. Only a couple of VPNs now work with the US version of Netflix – the fastest is the program I use Identity Cloaker – who have developed a system which bypasses the Netflix blocks – works great.