It has happened to everyone. You are about to watch a video, but you see the sentence, “Content is not available on your site”. Here’s why this happens.
What is geo-blocking?
Geo-blocking, also called geo-filtering or area locking, occurs when a company restricts which sites a user can view a piece of content from. All types of content can be geo-blocked, including articles, websites, and services, but it is most prominent for videos. Virtually every live streaming site and video sharing service, from Youtube to Hulu, has some form of geo-blocking enabled. Even if you don’t have content that is explicitly prohibited from viewing, it is possible that you will still encounter some form of geo-blocking.
Businesses can apply geofilters to countries, states, cities, and even smaller locations such as buildings and offices. Implementation varies from service to service. Some will allow you to browse the content but prevent you from continuing to watch it. Other websites will completely hide blocked content, so you won’t know what’s available outside your area. Netflix is a prime example of this.
Related: How to access region-restricted websites from anywhere on Earth
Why Geo-Block Services?
The most common reason for geo-blocking is licensing or copyright. To legally distribute a certain portion of the Content in your region, the Service must own the rights to distribute in that particular market. For many shows, it is common for a streaming service to hold distribution rights for some markets but not others.
For example, some famous franchises like friends And Harry Potter Available on Netflix Canada and Netflix UK, but not Netflix US. Many of these shows are distributed exclusively in the US by other streaming services, such as Hulu or HBO Max. This is the case with Youtube videos. For example, you may come across a clip of a movie that is geo-blocked in your country. This is likely because the uploader of the content, which is usually a movie distribution company, does not have the right to distribute the movie or its clips in your area.
Another reason for the occurrence of geo-blocking is the segmentation of different markets. Some markets may have different prices, languages, and preferred content, so the streaming service will tailor an experience to a specific region. It’s also the reason that some services are completely unavailable in certain countries. For example, many countries in Asia have local streaming services that are not available in the United States.
A strange example of this practice occurs in sports broadcasting. Many sports streaming services, such as NBA League Pass, prevent viewers from streaming home games that are televised in their state or city. This is done because traditional media such as local sports channels often pay broadcast rights to show the match exclusively in their local area. It leads to a strange situation where the only people who can’t watch a live Utah Jazz game live in a League Pass in Utah.
Related: How to stream American sports for free online
How does that happen?
Companies can opt out of a variety of sources to locate you. The apps will use your IP address, GPS location, or custom location settings to determine where you are. If Netflix has access to your location information, it will determine where you are when you open the app. When you travel to a different country, you will notice that the movies and shows you can access on Netflix will change.
Aside from restricting movies, geolocation has some interesting uses. For example, Snapchat implemented a feature several years ago called “geofilters”. These were custom Snapchat filters that users could only activate in a specific area. Geofilters often appeared at special events such as concerts, sports games, and weddings, or in small communities such as college campuses. Marketers also use geofilter to create “highly specific” ads for people in a small geographic location.
Related: How do IP addresses work?
How to get around geoblocks
We know it can be frustrating to have so much content restricted to you, especially if you run out of things to watch. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can bypass geo-blocking on streaming services.
The most common solution is to turn on a VPN or “Virtual Private Network”. It is a service that redirects your internet traffic through a different third party IP address located in a different country. For example, if you connect to a server in Japan, you will suddenly be able to access Netflix Japan. This method doesn’t work for every streaming device or service (some will try to block your VPN), but it’s a great way to expand your streaming library.
If you want to learn more about VPN usage, you can read our basic introduction to VPNs. When you’re ready to try one of them, consider our recommendations for the best VPN services available.