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Why Do Streaming Services Block VPNs?

Updated on February 24, 2020
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CEO at VPN. We help millions of consumers and businesses filter hundreds of VPN providers to find the best VPN for their needs.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) allow you to create a secure connection when using the Internet, but they are also commonly used to unblock regionally restricted streaming content.

The rapid rise of streaming services has resulted in complex licensing deals between platforms and content providers. These agreements restrict certain programming from being accessible to users depending on their geographical location.

While some VPNs can bypass these restrictions, most of the major platforms have security measures in place to stop unauthorized access to their content. But why do streaming services block the use of a VPN? Today we will take a closer look at the reasons why services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus are serious about protecting their online content.

Which Services Block the Use of a VPN?

There are currently more than 200 streaming services. The major platforms that block the use of a VPN include:

  • Netflix

  • Amazon Prime Video

  • Google Play

  • HBO Now

  • Hulu

  • Sling TV

  • YouTube TV

Why Do Streaming Services Block the Use of VPN?

Licensing Deals

Streaming services block the use of a VPN mainly because of licensing deals. A streaming platform has to negotiate an agreement with the owner of every TV show or movie that is available in their catalog. A licensing deal is rarely global in scope, which means there are different agreements in place for different areas of the world.

The entire video streaming market is estimated to be worth $124.57 billion by 2025, but not all content has equal value. The more popular a program is in a particular region, the higher its value is in that specific territory. Deals are structured around popularity so that content providers can feel confident about their payout from streaming services. Often, the two reach an agreement for a higher payout in areas where a specific piece of content will be viewed more frequently.

When you use a VPN to access content that has been restricted, it makes it harder for studios and TV networks to negotiate the amount a streaming service should pay them. Unblocking content essentially nullifies a license agreement.

To combat these issues, streaming services block the use of a VPN to geo-restrict content. As more companies decide to launch streaming services, rules around who can access what content will only increase.

Streaming services are also contractually obligated to keep the content on their servers secure. The failure to do so can result in legal implications and the removal of content from their platforms by the provider.

IP Tracking

Streaming services block the use of a VPN so that they can track the IP addresses of people who use their platform. Your IP address is a form of identification and when a VPN is in place, the true origin of your IP address is masked to protect your privacy.

When a service doesn't know your actual IP address, they are unable to send you targeted ads or personalized recommendations. They also are not able to filter the content available to you based on the country you live in.

How Do Streaming Services Block VPNs?

IP Blocking

Many VPN services have a certain number of IP addresses under their control so when you use a VPN server, your new IP address is shared with other users. An IP address with many users is a sign that a VPN is in use. Streaming services search out these IP addresses and place them on a blacklist, blocking access to their platform.

Port Blocking

Streaming services also engage in port blocking to prohibit access to restricted content. A firewall is set up to block ports that are commonly used by VPN protocols.

While IP and Port Blocking will prevent many VPNs from operating effectively, many of the biggest providers have been able to bypass these restrictions.

Wrapping Up

Streaming is big business and companies want to protect their assets. While a VPN can provide you with access to content that is blocked due to your geographical location, it can also violate the terms of service for the platform you are using.

Video streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer have valid reasons for stopping access to their content. Some VPNs can work around these restrictions, but if you live in a country where VPNs are banned, or where there are strict censorship regulations, you will likely not have access to certain content.

Check with your VPN provider to see which platforms they work with and be aware that changes are constantly being implemented by streaming services to block the use of VPNs.

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