Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

July 9, 2018

A proxy server (or just “proxy”) is a server that sits between your device and the internet so that all internet traffic to and from your device is routed through the proxy. As far as anyone looking at your traffic is concerned, this setup makes it look like you are accessing the internet from wherever the proxy is located.

A proxy server also hides your unique internet address (IP address). You appear to access the internet from the IP address (or just “IP”) of the proxy. So, if you want to access US Netflix, a proxy will enable you to do this.

Using a Netflix proxy server

Netflix is now available in most countries, but customers in some countries have access to much larger libraries of content than customers in others. This seems particularly unfair when you consider that a Netflix subscription costs roughly the same wherever you happen to live.

Here in the UK, for example, a Netflix subscription costs just $0.26 a month less than in the US, but we get only 52% of the library that American customers enjoy (2967 titles instead of 5665). And the UK has the third largest Netflix catalog in the world!

To see how much you are being short-changed in your country, check out our Notflix tool!

A Netflix proxy server allows you to access regional versions of Netflix from outside that region. Because it has by far the largest catalog of titles, most people want to access the US version of Netflix. Expats and suchlike also use Netflix proxies to access regional and own-language content from abroad.

Types of Netflix proxy

If the server is in a different country, then you can access that county’s Netflix catalog as if you were there. As discussed above, most people use Netflix proxies located in the United States.

The word proxy (or proxy server) is something of a catch-all term. For a detailed look at the different kinds of proxy servers available, please check out our Ultimate Proxy Server Guide. When it comes to watching Netflix, these are ones you need to know about:

Public or free Netflix proxy

A public free proxy server is a proxy that someone makes available free of charge to the general public. These are also known as open proxy servers. In theory, these are run by well-meaning volunteers. Finding a Netflix proxy free of charge can be a difficult thing to come by, but they do exist.

Open/Free proxy server pros:

  • They are free!
  • They are often private servers run by volunteers, so their IPs probably won’t be blocked by Netflix

Open/Free proxy server cons:

  • Because they are often private IPs run by volunteers, often on an extremely ad hock basis, they can be very unstable and regularly go offline without notice
  • They also tend to be very slow
  • Over  30% of free proxies actively tamper with your data as it passes through them. 18% are guilty of injecting HTML into static web pages viewed (ads), while 20.6% inject JavaScript. This may well result in you seeing unsolicited ads in your browser while watching Netflix content and presents a serious security risk to your system

Free proxies may also spy on your data, but this is unlikely to be major concern if you are only using them to watch Netflix. The very poor speeds and high level of instability, however, make public free proxies a poor choice for watching Netflix.

Netflix web proxy (Netflix proxy site)

Web proxies allow you to connect to a proxy server from inside your browser window.

Web proxy pros:

  • Usually free
  • Very convenient as no need to download and install any extra software or configure your browser settings
  • Often run by known companies, and so safer from criminals than using public proxies

Web proxy cons:

  • Usually very slow
  • More likely to be blocked by Netflix than public proxies
  • Poor handling of complicated webpage layouts, and tend to fall flat when encountering things such as Flash, Java, and  JavaScript scripts

To be honest, we have yet to find a web proxy that will actually stream Netflix. But they might exist.

Private Netflix proxy services

Technically, this category includes VPNs, but we will treat VPNs separately in the next section. These are commercial proxy services – run for profit.

As with regular HTTP/HTTPS proxies, you usually need to configure each app separately, which is both a pro and con depending on how you use the service. On Android this means that you must watch Netflix in your browser, as the Netflix app does not provide access to proxy settings.

iOS, on the other hand, does allow you to proxy the entire device. This is also possible in Android, but only if you root your device.

For just watching Netflix, you do not need to worry about the anonymity level offered by a proxy (and Netflix is protected by HTTPS anyway). The more exclusive a Netflix proxy server is, the less likely it is to be banned by Netflix. It is also likely to be faster.

Private proxy services pros:

  • Can be very fast
  • Run by commercial companies and so safer from criminals than using a public proxy
  • Dedicated and semi-shared proxies are less likely to be banned

Private proxy services cons:

  • Not free
  • Not as generally useful as a VPN

In theory, using a commercial proxy service offers most of the advantages of using a VPN when it comes to watching Netflix. It’s just that VPNs are more useful in general while costing similar or less than most private proxy services.

And thanks to the popularity of VPNs, other forms of commercial proxy service represent a fairly small and unexamined market. No proxy-only services that we are aware of have built up the reputation or received nearly as much scrutiny as the big-name VPN companies.

The plus side of this, of course, is that because they are less well known, their IP ranges are less likely to be banned by Netflix.

Netflix VPNs

A VPN will proxy your entire internet connection, usually at just the click of a button, once a VPN app is installed. VPN connections are usually heavily encrypted, which makes them a little slower than equivalent unencrypted proxy connections.

This is offset, however, by the fact that commercial VPN services invest heavily in high-quality servers and sometimes even their own network infrastructure. In practice, VPNs usually provide the fastest proxy experience available, resulting in the smoothest Netflix streaming possible.

We are based in the UK, but thanks to the magic of VPNs, we can watch the entire US catalog of titles! Because it proxies the entire internet connection, a VPN works very well with the Netflix app on mobile devices.

VPN pros:

  • Easy to setup and use
  • Reliable
  • Safe
  • Fast compared to most conventional proxies
  • Works with the Netflix app on mobile devices
  • Has lots of other uses, such as providing privacy and security on the internet. Check out our VPN Beginners Guide to find out more

VPN cons:

  • Not free
  • Many VPN services are blocked by Netflix

Note that free VPN services do exist, but not a single one we have tested works with Netflix. And even if you found one that did, the data and/or bandwidth limits placed on all free VPN services would make watching Netflix an impractical proposition.

By far the biggest issue with using a VPN for Netflix is that, thanks to pressure from copyright holders, Netflix blocks all IPs known to belong to proxy or VPN providers. VPN services are much more popular than commercial proxy services, and so are disproportionately affected by these blocks.

Many (often smaller) VPN providers have consequently given up, but others now do good business offering access to Netflix using tactics such as regularly replenishing IP pools and deploying fancy DNS routing.

This is always something of a cat-and-mouse game, but many VPNs try to always have at least one server running that works for US Netflix. It is therefore always worth contacting a provider’s support to find out if there is a particular server you should connect to for Netflix access.

Above, you can see the standard Netflix proxy error warning. If you see it, your first port of call should be to contact your proxy or VPN provider.

Please check out our 5 Best VPNs for Netflix page for a detailed look at VPNs that should still work for Netflix. We do always strongly recommend, however, taking full advantage of any free trials and money back guarantees on offer to check for yourself that you can access Netflix without problems.

Given the volatility of the situation, it is also worth considering paying for a VPN one month at a time, rather than taking out long-term subscription.

Can I get blocked by Netflix?

Here’s the thing. Netflix itself has never really been bothered about people using proxies and VPNs to access its services from different regions. Indeed, for a long time did nothing to stop it, and its own content is equally available in all markets.

The content producers it licenses from, though, are not so open-minded. They make handsome profits from striking exclusive deals with regional networks in markets around the world. If people in those regions can just access their content on Netflix, then such deals are worthless

Netflix introduced the proxy and VPN blocks in order to keep its content producers happy, but has declined to close a big stable door. It could require that any account be registered to a physical address in a particular country, and have payment details belonging to a bank in that country in order to access content for that country. But it doesn’t.

If you can bypass its proxy and VPN IP blocks, then you can login and watch programs using your regular Netflix account. It doesn’t matter if you are a UK subscriber, and Australian subscriber or a German subscriber – all of the extra content will be made available. Yay!

Conclusion

To get sensible access to the full library of Netflix content (or to access regional content from elsewhere) you are going to have to pay for it.

VPNs offer by far the best value for money in this regard. In addition to accessing Netflix, they will protect your privacy, prevent hacking on public WiFi networks, help evade censorship, and allow you to torrent safely.

Just be sure to check that the service can be used to bypass the Netflix proxy ban before handing over your hard-earned cash.

Image credit: By Ink Drop/Shutterstock.