Today marks the launch of the third season of the American web television drama series House of Cards. Unlike traditional TV series made by traditional broadcasting companies, House of Cards is made by web streaming company Netflix, and is designed to fit in with 21st century viewing habits, as each season of the series released all at once.
This allows viewers to watch the show when they want , and on any device they want (Netflix is available on pretty much every device you can think of!), and is perfect for settling down to binge watching sessions!
We won’t give away any plot spoilers here, but we can say that we are excited at the prospect of seeing persecuted Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot appearing in a cameo role, playing themselves!
The show is available to Netflix subscribers (subscriptions starting at $7.99 per month) from today. Unfortunately, although now available in over 40 countries, there are still many places where due to restrictive licensing restrictions set by copyright holders, it is not (Australia and New Zealand being notable examples).
The good news is that although Netflix blocks access to its content if a potential viewer’s IP address indicates they reside in an area not covered by Netflix, this is easy to overcome, and Netflix is notoriously lax about accepting subscriptions from overseas addresses and credit cards (much to the chagrin of Hollywood copyright holders.)
In other words, as long as you appear to be accessing the internet from a country where Netflix has a service (geo-spoofing), you will have no problem signing up for and watching House of Cards on Netflix.
US customers enjoy the largest and most up-to-date catalog of content, so this is usually the best location to geo-spoof, although lag due to distance can cause buffering issues. If you encounter this problem then it may to better to geo-spoof a location that is closer to you.
There are two main ways to geo-spoof your location…
VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer, smart phone, or tablet, and a VPN server. Most commercial VPN providers offer servers in many different countries, making VPN great for geo-spoofing.
The main downside of using VPN for this purpose is that thanks to the extra processing power required to encrypt and decrypt all internet traffic, there is always a performance hit (i.e. internet access is slowed down.) Depending on provider and the individual server you use, this can be as little as 10 per cent, but this does vary, and on a slow connection can lead to buffering problems when streaming content (such as from Netflix.)
On the plus side, using VPN helps protect you from the NSA, prevents your ISP knowing what you get up to on the internet, allows you to P2P download safely, and secures your internet connection when using public WiFi hotspots.
Almost any VPN provider with servers in the US (or whichever country you want to access Netflx from) will be fine for this purpose, but we recommend the excellent ExpressVPN.
When you type a website’s address into a browser’s URL bar (e.g. www.netflix.com) it must be translated into a numerical address that computers can understand (e.g. 184.108.40.206). Known as the Domain Name System (DNS), this process is usually performed by your ISP (in your country).
Smart DNS services, however, allow you to change your devices’ settings so that the DNS translation is performed by the Smart DNS provider on its computers, typically located in useful locations such the US. This makes it appear that you are accessing the internet from wherever the DNS server is located.
Smart DNS services are typically cheaper than commercial VPN services, and because no encryption is involved and the process almost instantaneous, they are much quicker (although distance can still cause lag). Smart DNS is also available on a much wider range of devices than VPN, as the DNS settings can be changed on just about any device that can connect to the internet (including smart TVs and games consoles).
Manually changing DNS settings is not difficult (and most providers have extensive how-to guides), but it can be a bit of pain if you like changing the settings regularly, although with computers and smart phones etc., some providers now supply software that makes changing DNS settings very easy.
In general, if your only concern is to geo-spoof your location so that you can watch services such as Netflix, we recommend using Smart DNS over VPN, but smart DNS offers none of the privacy and security advantages of VPN. If you wish to find out more about the two services, you can do so here.
It is increasingly common for VPN companies to bundle a Smart DNS service with their regular packages, but for a great no-nonsense stand-alone service we highly recommend UnblockUs.
Whichever method you chose, simply being in a country not served by Netflix is no reason to miss out on the new series of House of Cards. Enjoy!