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Netflix is winning a war it doesn’t even want to fight

Published Oct 17th, 2016 5:16PM EDT
Netflix VPN Ban

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Netflix has always seemed like an excessively pro-customer company. Since Netflix first launched its streaming product, it has been letting users share their login credentials with friends and family. In fact, it has on several occasions encouraged subscribers to share their logins. The company also turned a blind eye for years as customers from regions around the world spoofed their locations using virtual private network services, or VPNs, in order to access region-locked content not available in their countries.

To this day, Netflix still happily lets users share login credentials with friends and family — the company even introduced a profile feature so that content viewed by other users doesn’t impact the main subscriber’s viewing history or recommendations. Region spoofing, however, is a different story.

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When it comes to sharing login credentials, Netflix is the only company impacted by the practice. Region spoofing is an entirely different story though, because Netflix pays licensing fees by region. So, if Netflix only licenses a movie in the United States and users from outside of the US watch it, Netflix isn’t paying content owners for those views.

And you know what happens when “content owners” feel cheated.

Earlier this year, outside pressure finally led to Netflix clamping down on subscribers who use VPN services to spoof their location in order to access content that is only available in other regions. Needless to say, users were not happy. Some threatened to cancel their service, others complained and tried to explain that they only use VPN services to protect their privacy. In any case, a cat and mouse game began.

VPN companies didn’t want to lose business as a result of Netflix’s move, so they put workarounds in place. Then Netflix blocked the workarounds. Then they found new workarounds. Then Netflix blocked those workarounds, too. It seemed like this ordeal would go on forever, but now it appears as though several VPN providers are giving up. As CBC News reported, a number of providers have seemingly quit the game.

Australian VPN service UFlix stated plainly that it will no longer attempt to work around Netflix’s blocks. “Unfortunately every time we set up a new network or find a workaround, it is getting blocked within hours,” the company said in a blog post. Meanwhile, other providers including Unblock-Us and UnoTelly have also stopped releasing workarounds, though neither company has explicitly stated it is giving up.

Most users expected this cat and mouse game to go on forever, but it looks like Netflix may ultimately win the war. As a result, users will have to turn to more traditional means of stealing content unless they want to, you know, pay for it.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.