Netflix won’t succeed in stopping “geo-dodgers”

January 15, 2016

Netflix, the U.S streaming network has revealed it will crack down on users who attempt to access content available on another country’s site.The reason is that it all comes down to licensing agreements Netflix has in a specific area for each movie or television series. There are many people who have been using “geo-dodging” technical tricks to gain access to another country’s Netflix catalogue using their own account.If crackdown is successful,it  means subscribers will no longer be able to use Virtual Private Networks, proxy servers and smart DNS services to view content not available in their home country.While every service across the globe has all of Netflix’s original content, complex licensing deals mean not all of the content in the streaming service is created equal.However, the developments means the popular shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards are Netflix owned content which it distributes globally on the platform and won’t be affected.Although Netflix is now available in 190 countries not all Netflix content is available equally. “Geographical-dodging” is a way of tricking a device into thinking it is in a different country, and this technique allows Netflix users to access shows that are not licensed in their country.Such activities are not illegal in most countries the streaming service provider is operating, but is against its terms and conditions.Netflix has traditionally not wanted to shut down global access of content and there are clear plans it wants to license future content on that model.No doubt there will be those against such a model especially those service providers who want exclusive rights to content in their own geographies going by the fact that content providers believe in maximising amount of money they make from their content by parcelling up licenses geographically.

David Fullagar, a vice president at Netflix, said the company looks forward to one day “offering all of our content everywhere,” in the interim, it will make sure licensing agreements are being enforced.”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,” he said in a blog post Thursday. “In the meantime, we will continue to respect and enforce content licensing by geographic location.”Several popular ways for users to enjoy a television show or movie not available in their country include using virtual private networks and “unblockers” to mask their location.“To address this, we employ the same or similar measures other firms do,” Fullagar wrote. “This technology continues to evolve and we are evolving with it. 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. We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies.” This will not the first time Netflix has raised the issue of geo-dodging, but the announcement is seen as a clear declaration of intent, and suggests the company will be more vigilant than before. While geo-dodging does not directly cost Netflix, it does make its service less attractive for companies that produce and own content. In 2015,  Netflix subscribers enjoyed 42.5 billion hours of programming with a sharp spike of 50 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter and that translates to subscribers watching an average of 13 hours of programming per week.

Netflix logo
Netflix logo

In my own opinion, Netflix need to find an equilibrium between showing the content holders that they are serious about restricting their content, and at the same time giving their customers what they really want. To me, plans of blocking Virtual Private Networks seem to be more about appearances than a committed shift in how they restrict their content.Netflix could also run the real danger that if it is successful in blocking access to US content specifically, it could potentially start losing subscribers in large numbers.From a expert point of view, I can confidently say that Netflix will not succeed easily and it will indeed find it difficult to shut down Virtual Private Networks access to another country’s content. I spoke to a Virtual Private Network expert working in Montreal, Canada who told me that their clients will find it a cakewalk to unblock restricted Netflix content because it will just be a matter of deploying new server IP addresses so that their users can easily bypass blocks.And as a service provider, his company based in Montreal, Canada has the ability to be able to keep switching Internet addresses of their Virtual Private Networks faster than Netflix will want to block them. He revealed to me that service provider Hulu tried to block Virtual Private Networks more aggressively than Netflix is planning to do and eventually it lost the appetite thanks to limited success. Those unaware, Virtual Private Networks service providers now represent a huge business community and there is little chance that they will simply stand by and lose their customers if Netflix was to be successful.That makes me skeptical about the whole plan of Netflix blocking “geo-dodgers.”

Contador Harrison