Oscar Frost is a Brand Journalist and Author at HTGANIC, who specializes in digital marketing and ghost blogging.
After getting free from work and finishing the house chores, all a normal human being *desires* (in Lucifer’s voice) is to relax and unwind. We sink into the couch, grab our favorite munchies, and hit the “Netflix” button on our TV remotes. It may sound a little sad, but we live for that temporary escape and freedom offered by Netflix.
However, what If I told you that Netflix isn’t the same for everybody across the world? If you live in the United States, you just happen to be among the luckiest. You see, the US library is filled with exclusive movies/TV shows that aren’t available elsewhere. It’s not that Netflix discriminates with other audiences deliberately, but they are bound by licensing agreements.
If production houses or distributors partnered with Netflix demand to make a TV show/movie available in only certain regions, the Video-on-Demand (VoD) will have to oblige. Similarly, if these production houses demand that only a few seasons be shown in different libraries, the streaming platform has to fulfill on those requirements too. At the end of the day, it’s all about money and business!
What’s interesting though is that this difference of content varying by location, urges users in over 190 countries to explore the American library of Netflix; one that is brimmed to the top with amazing originals, new releases, exclusives, and classics. When the realization hits that a majority of these titles aren’t available to watch in other countries, people do get a little furious, and who can blame them?
American Netflix and It’s Dominance
Last year, the market was filled with new VoD services from big corporations like Disney and Apple. Despite these new introductions, Netflix remained at the number one spot by a wide margin. According to Statista’s Global Consumer Survey, almost 85% of respondents in the U.S. (between 18 to 64 years) who paid for digital video content stated they pay for a Netflix account.
As of 2020, the American version of Netflix has over 60 million subscribers. Now, people don’t just subscribe because they feel like it. They get an account because of the content available on it. Did you know that Netflix won the most Academy Award nominations in the United States for 2020? The VoD had 24 nominations under its hat, defeating Disney, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros.
The movies that scored these 24 nominations in the Oscars 2020 were “The Irishman”, “Marriage Story”, “The Two Popes”, and “Klaus”. And if you haven’t already guessed it, all four of these titles were only available on the US version of Netflix initially. Users in other countries could not access them and received the “This Title is not available to watch instantly” error upon attempting to watch them.
Netflix Set the Stage for Region-Hopping!
The popularity of Netflix overall as a brand has only taken off in the past decade. However, the streaming service has been in business since 1997. Initially, it was only a small DVD service, but with time grew into an online video giant, launching its streaming site in 2007 and making available its services in an app for Xbox, Blu-ray disc players, TV set-top boxes, moving beyond web-browsers!
Just three years after, Netflix became the first “international” streaming service of its kind, branching out to different markets starting with Canada in 2010. Fast-forward to 2016, Netflix was available in almost all countries worldwide by introducing varied libraries, based on region. This is what led many major ISPs like Comcast to throttle Netflix streaming.
At the same time, the various content libraries with limited titles (as compared to the US), led streamers around the world to use proxies, DNS addresses, and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). In short, region-hopping became highly popular and commonplace, thanks to Netflix. Funnily enough, this is what urged Netflix on cracking down against unblocker and proxy services…
A Clash of the Titans: Netflix and VPNs
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are crucial tools for leveraging privacy and anonymity online. They change your IP address, add a layer of encryption to your connection, and pass all incoming/outgoing traffic through a secure tunnel. Since you also have the ability of shifting your location to any country in the world, these tools play an important role for streamers and binge-watchers worldwide.
Suppose that I reside in Indonesia, which hosts less than 6% of the full US library. To get American Netflix, all I have to do is connect to a VPN server in the United States. However, this is where things get tricky. Following the huge increase of region-hoppers on the platform, Netflix came up with what is possibly the best VPN detection system outside “The Great Firewall” of China.
Therefore, if you use a VPN to access Netflix, you will instantly receive the above error code: M7111-5059. The VoD is aware that you’re using an unblocker and will prevent you from accessing any of its content, until and unless you turn off these services. After VPN providers became aware of Netflix and its strategy to ban their services, some immediately came up with a solution.
It comes in the form of “obfuscation” technology that transforms VPN traffic into regular HTTPs traffic in order to unblock different Netflix libraries and bypass all strategies like DNS poisoning, DNS hijacking, IP address filtering, and Blackholing of VPN servers. This fight of region-hoppers and Netflix is the reason behind the obsession of accessing the American library.
Wrapping Things Up
Entertainment-geeks and binge-watchers understand the pain of VoDs offering different libraries by country. Licensing issues from production houses force Netflix into imposing geo-restrictions, but you shouldn’t have to suffer because of it. This is why people are obsessed with accessing the American library of Netflix and honestly, it’s to be expected.