Posted: 13 Jan 2019 08:03 AM PST
Only a few VPNs have what it takes to unblock streaming video on sites like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, BBC and others. These sites and apps block most VPNs, but we’ll show you the best VPNs for streaming that still work in 2019. Torrenters should see our separate round up of the best VPNs for torrenting.
Unblocking sites from abroad like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer is one of the most popular reasons to use a VPN. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN allows you to bypass the geographic restrictions on sites and apps like these, which only allow you to watch while in a certain country. By masking your real location with that of the VPN server, a streaming VPN makes it seem as though you’re accessing the streaming service from the US, Canada, UK, or anywhere else a server is available.
Unfortunately, many streaming sites and apps have caught on to this tactic and banned VPNs. Now, only a handful of VPN services have the resources necessary to access streaming sites and bypass their firewalls. In this article, we’ve selected the six best VPNs for streaming based on the following criteria:
Best VPNs for Streaming
We have found these to be the 6 best VPNs for streaming:
ExpressVPN is a long-running champion of unblocking video streaming services online, although it doesn’t openly advertise its capabilities. Because of that, it’s not very obvious which servers users should connect to. We won’t post them here because they occasionally change and we don’t want to draw undue attention to them. Instead, users will have to contact customer service to ask which servers to connect to for which streaming service.
Luckily, ExpressVPN has a live chat service on their website that rarely keeps customers waiting for more than five minutes. They are professional staff who know the product well. They might ask you to prove that you are a real customer and not a shill for Netflix by asking for the email address under which you signed up for an account and the last server you connected to. Once you’ve passed the test, you’ll be given a shortlist of servers that should bypass the firewall.
DEAL ALERT: Get three months free here with ExpressVPN’s 12 month plan. There is also a 30 day money-back guarantee so you can try it risk free and receive a full refund if you don’t want to stick with it beyond 30 days.
NordVPN is the only other provider to perform on par with ExpressVPN. It, too, unblocks pretty much everything but requires knowing which servers to connect to. We recommend heading to the NordVPN knowledge base and simply searching for the streaming video service you want to unblock. In the appropriate page, NordVPN maintains a list of working servers. You can toggle those servers as favorites in the app to make them easier to find later.
NordVPN is great for users who want to watch a Netflix catalog outside of the US. We’ve successfully tested it with Netflix US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Italy, India, Netherlands, Spain, and Germany.
CyberGhost recently ramped up its unblocking efforts to make more streaming services available to its users. It works with all of the websites tested. The app has a dedicated “Unblock streaming” section where you can choose a server according to the streaming service it unblocks. Not all of the ones we tested are on that page, but we were able to unblock them nonetheless. For example, Hulu isn’t listed, but the Netflix server was able to unblock it, anyway.
Things are looking up for CyberGhost subscribers, but bear in mind this is a fairly recent update, so we’ll see if it holds out. Live chat support is at customers’ disposal on the website, but only during business hours. A ticket submission system replaces it during off hours.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. You can connect up to five devices at the same time.
VyprVPN has recently re-emerged as a strong candidate for best overall unblocker. A few months ago customers had seemingly lost hope of it ever being able to unblock Hulu again. Quite recently, however, it was able to unblock everything in our tests, including the Netflix and Hulu apps. We’ll monitor it in the coming weeks to see if it can sustain its success, but for now, it stands among the heavyweights like ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
We didn’t test every server on VyprVPN, but we can confirm that the New York server was effective in unblocking all streaming channels.
PrivateVPN is a small new provider that’s making a big splash in the VPN market when it comes to unblocking Netflix. We’ve been able to unblock Netflix in pretty much every country we’ve tested so far, including the US, UK, Italy, Brazil, and France. PrivateVPN unblocks Hulu in both a browser and on the app, though the number of servers that unblock Hulu is a bit more limited. We had to ask customer service which server to connect to.
A live chat service is available, but unfortunately, it is not available 24/7. You can submit a ticket during the off hours.
PrivateVPN offers up to five simultaneous connections on a single account, making it a great bargain. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
67% DISCOUNT: Comparitech readers can get the PrivateVPN annual plan here at a third of the normal price, plus 5 additional months for free.
IPVanish seems to be struggling to unblock the most popular streaming services as of late. It failed to unblock Hulu and Netflix altogether in our tests, despite a support ticket we submitted suggesting otherwise. Still, users can still watch Planet Earth and Game of Thrones on HBO Now and BBC iPlayer. IPVanish scores highly for protecting privacy and speed so if you are interested in a VPN for torrenting or a VPN that works well with Kodi it is a very good choice.
What about all the other VPN providers?
There are of course dozens of VPN providers, but only a handful have solid track records of being able to reliably unblock streaming channels like Netflix and Hulu. For this reason, we’ve excluded VPNs that do not and probably will not feature such capabilities. This includes the vast majority of free VPNs.
However, if you subscribe to a VPN service that reliably unblocks the streaming services above, let us know in the comments and we’ll consider adding it to the article.
VPN not working? Try this…
Before you leave an angry comment saying how wrong we are about whether a particular VPN works with a particular streaming service, try the following:
When your device sends a web page request, most secure VPNs force those requests onto the IPv4 protocol. But some apps and websites can force requests to be sent on all possible channels, which results in a mismatched location exposing the use of a proxy service such as a VPN. Hulu and Netflix both use this tactic to weed out VPN users. To get around this, a simple solution is to disable IPv6 on your device altogether.
You might have attempted to access Hulu or BBC iPlayer in a web browser in the past and encountered an error due to being outside the country or using a proxy. The website in question could retain such information in a cookie or browser cache and continue blocking you even though a VPN is enabled now. If you’re connected to a working VPN but still get the proxy error message, then try wiping clean your browser cache, hosted app data, and cookies.
How to disable IPv6 on a Windows PC (Windows 10):
How to disable IPv6 on MacOS:
How to clear your browser cache, hosted app data, and cookies on Chrome
How to clear your browser cache, hosted app data, and cookies on Firefox
What’s the difference between watching Netflix or Hulu in a browser and watching it on an app?
Netflix and Hulu are less likely to be geo-blocked on a browser than in their respective apps. This is because an app can override a VPN’s DNS settings and force DNS requests to go to the nearest DNS server. When the location given by the user’s IP address and their DNS server don’t match, a proxy is detected and the video is blocked.
DNS, or domain name system, works sort of like the internet’s phone book. Every internet connected device on the internet is assigned a unique IP address. Websites and apps usually have domains, however, such as “www.comparitech.com”. Translating an easy-to-remember domain into a usable IP address is the job of DNS servers. DNS servers are usually run by ISPs and public providers like Google.
Most good paid VPN services operate their own DNS servers, which assists in location spoofing. In a browser, the Netflix and Hulu websites have no power to change the VPN’s DNS settings. An app, however, can override the VPN’s DNS settings and reveal a mismatch between the IP address location and the DNS location, indicating that the user is connected to a VPN.
Very few–ExpressVPN, VyprVPN, and NordVPN–have figured out how to combat the Netflix and Hulu apps’ DNS override mechanism.
Why only US Netflix?
We only included tests for the US version of Netflix due to time constraints. There simply isn’t enough demand for us to test every VPN with every country. We may consider adding a few more countries at some point in the future.
Netflix US has the largest catalog of new TV shows and movies that are in high demand, so it is by far the most requested country to test.
Keeping track of which servers work on which VPNs isn’t just a one-off task, either. The services in this article, including US Netflix, we check regularly. Netflix frequently blocks VPN servers, so staying up to date on multiple countries could soon accumulate to be such a huge task that it would require hundreds of hours.
Not every VPN server is suitable for streaming
Perhaps the most common questions we get at Comparitech follow the same formula: “Does X VPN unblock Y video streaming service?”
ExpressVPN, NordVPN, VyprVPN, CyberGhost, and PrivateVPN are at the top of their game when it comes to unblocking geo-locked content. They are the only VPNs we know of that can unblock Netflix US both on a browser and when using the Netflix app. They can also both unblock Hulu, which has some of the most robust anti-VPN barriers in our experience.
Do not buy a subscription and simply expect any server to work, however. The range of servers that can unblock Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Now–even in a web browser–is very limited. For example, we recommend you contact ExpressVPN’s live customer support to ask which servers currently work with the streaming site you wish to access. NordVPN users can consult the knowledge base on the company website. Typically, only a handful of servers will be able to bypass a firewall at any one time.
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