What is Geofencing in Online Streaming? How Does a VPN Help?

3 min

It’s Friday evening and the last day of your tour abroad. You sit down in your hotel room and open your laptop to catch some good comedy on Netflix. You open your browser, log into Netflix, choose a comedy show, and there comes a response: Lost your way? Error Code NSES-404. The dreaded message shows up because you are accessing the content from a country other than your home country.

All of us have experienced something like this before. Almost all streaming platforms in the world have restrictions to their regional content catalogs. This IP-level restriction is called geofencing, and it has changed the way streaming works.

Here’s a quick primer on geofencing and how you can bypass it.

What is Geofencing?

Geofencing, aka geo-block or geo-restriction, is a filter set up by streaming platforms to restrict non-local users from accessing their local content catalogs. Streaming websites auto-detect a user’s IP address to establish their physical location and block access if they are from outside of the regional perimeter.

For example, American users may be blocked from viewing some of the UK’s local content if they access it using their own from within the UK. Such a filter is enforced to maintain licensing and partnership, more of which we will discuss in the section below.

How Does Geofencing Work?

When you visit a website, it identifies your location using your IP address. For a geofence, a streaming platform sets up IP filters that block users from accessing local content of other countries. All users with IP addresses originating from outside that country are blocked, effectively creating a perimeter.

To put this into an example, assume you live in Canada. You have a subscription to Prime Video that you use to stream movies and shows. When a friend suggests you catch an Indian web series that’s available on Prime Video. With a geofence in place, you won’t be able to stream the series despite it being available on the platform. In other words, as a Canadian user, you are blocked from viewing local content of India.

Why Do Streaming Platforms Geoblock?

Geofencing helps streaming platforms stick to their license agreements. Such websites have partnerships with distribution channels to get content into their library. However, distribution channels have partnerships with several streaming platforms, including both global and local ones for each country. So, while one streaming platform may have the license to show a movie in the US, the rights may be with some other website for the UK and Ireland, for instance.

Distributors may do this for several reasons, including monetary advantages. For streaming platforms, they have to honor their licensing contract to ensure fair play. For example, if Netflix pays for a movie’s right to show it in the UK, it contractually cannot show it outside the UK. Some other websites may already have a contract to do so. Without a geofence, these distribution nexuses will not function properly. 

A geofence, therefore, enables a website to fulfill the licensing contract legally. Even if a user bypasses this restriction through any means, the site will not be held accountable. That is where a VPN comes into the picture.

Even though some platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Apple TV+ enforce strict geofencing, there’s something called global content that is accessible from anywhere in the world. For instance, you can use your US Netflix account credentials to access globally available content when you are in the UK, a European country, or Japan, for instance.

How Does a VPN Unblock a Geofence?

As we have noted above, geofencing is executed at the IP (internet protocol) level. A streaming platform will block you if it detects that you are accessing its content from beyond the regional perimeter. Theoretically, this can be fixed using an IP switcher.

All you need to do is switch your IP to show that you are accessing the content from within the perimeter. And as we know, VPN is the best way to do that. A VPN routes your request (to access the website) to a server-based in that country. So, when the website detects your IP, it perceives you as a local user, thereby giving you full access to the regional content library.

A VPN is the easiest way to bypass geofencing because all you need to do is choose a server in a country whose content you want to stream. You can do so in a matter of minutes.

However, the recent crackdown on VPN IPs by mainstream platforms like Netflix has made it a tad difficult for VPNs to unblock geo-restrictions. This is where TuxlerVPN’s residential IPs help. A residential IP mimics a domestic user’s location (as opposed to that generated by a server or datacenter), which can even bypass these VPN blacklists. 

If you are someone who uses a VPN chiefly to unblock streaming sites, TuxlerVPN is your best bet. Download today!

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