Netflix is a lot better across the pond in the US than it is here with load for content. So, here's how to get American Netflix in the UK. PLUS: how to get US Netflix on Xbox, PlayStation, Apple TV, iOS, Android and other devices. Updated 8 January 2015, to include details of the Netflix VPN ban. See: 31 new Netflix films and TV shows for February and Netflix Original series list for 2015.
One of the most common complaints from Netflix customers here in Blighty is that we don't have access to the same amount of content that US-based users do – especially films. Competing streaming services such as, Amazon Prime Video, Sky's Sky Store and Now TV have swept up the rights to many films exclusive – including the whole of Warner Bros' new releases. See also: The 80 best movies on Netflix UK
Netflix US also gets TV shows earlier than we do here in the UK. You can watch cult favourites such as Mad Men and American Horror Story on Netflix US – but not on NetFlix UK. Sometimes this is linked to content deals between US producers and UK TV channels that mean you can't see episodes until after they've debuted on UK – sometimes the reasoning behind this is unclear (like much of international content licensing). See also: Netflix vs LoveFilm Instant (Prime Video) comparison review: What's the best streaming service?
The oddity of licensing – coupled with that you essentially have an international subscription to Netflix rather than to Netflix UK – means what affects what you have access to is based on where you are, not where you signed up. This was brought home to me on a recent trip to the US. I opened my laptop in a hotel room in New York, logged onto Netflix and was greeted with a warm message welcoming me to the US and letting me know that things are different over there – though it mainly concentrated on ratings differences, which is good if you've got kids like me. A quick scroll down the homepage made what those changes were obvious – a heck of a lot of films that aren't available now I'm back in the UK. Bummer.
Well, kind of. It's very easy to get your hands on browser plugins that let you pretend you're in the US – which means you get the US Netflix content instead. This is officially naughty and almost certainly against Netflix's T&Cs, which says "You also agree not to: circumvent, remove, alter, deactivate, degrade or thwart any of the content protections in the Netflix service" – and could get you banned.
However, assuming you're comfortable with this, this is how you do it. It only works on PCs, Macs and Android Tablets – not with the iPad, iPhone, PS3 or TV sets or services. Read: How to watch US Netflix on an Android smartphone or Tablet: Use a VPN to view US programs on you Android devices.
How to get American Netflix in the UK: Netflix's 'VPN ban'
Update: Recently, some Netflix users noticed difficulties getting the Netflix for Android app to work over VPNs and Domain Name System (DNS) services as we outline below. VPN provider TorGuard also reported receiving complaints about Netflix VPN blocking in December 2014. Internet rumour suggests that this may be the early stage of a planned all-out attack by Netflix to stop people viewing content in places for which Netflix doesn't own the rights. This is likely because the legitimate content licencees are complaining: if Sky has paid for the UK rights to a movie you are watching on Netflix, Sky isn't happy.
Contrary to the rumours, Netflix recently told Engadget that it has not changed the way it handles VPNs. Our sister title PC World asked the company for further clarification, but has heard nothing in return. We have had no problems using a VPN as outlined below to access US Netflix from the UK. Indeed, it seems unlikely that it could successfully block VPNs for any length of time. The nature of the tech is not to reveal that you are spoofing your IP, after all. So for now, the tutorials below should work fine. Do let us know in the comments below if you have any problems, however. - Matt Egan
How to get American Netflix in the UK: Hola unblocker plugin
First off you need to download the Hola unblocker browser plugin, which works with Chrome, Firefox or the Android OS. Here we've used Firefox.
Go to hola.org and click on Download. Install the plugin. If you're using Chrome, click on options (the three horizontal bars) then Extensions. In the Chrome web store, search for Hola Unblocker, and then click the Free button in the Extensions (NOT Apps) section of the results.
Go to Netflix. Chance are, the plug-in will notice and either offer to switch you the US – or have done it automatically. Either way, you'll soon see a whole bunch of content that's technically off limits to those of us in the UK. If the connection doesn't work, click on the little icon at the top of your browser window and there should be an option to try another server.
If you want to go back to the UK Netflix – for example, to watch BBC content that's not available in the US – just switch off Hola and reload the page. Voila.
How to get US Netflix on Xbox, PlayStation, Apple TV, iPad, Android and more
If you want to get US Netflix on your Xbox or PlayStation then you will need to fiddle with some DNS settings. If you head to the network settings of the console/device and manually configure the settings then you can enter a primary and secondary DNS (Domain Name Servers) numbers.
You can search the internet for these (they change fairly regularly) and DroidKit has a good list which you can try. They are free but get easily clogged up and slow and occasionally send you to someone's own site rather than Netflix in an attempt to sell you VPN software or worse.
If you fail to get any of the free ones working, or don't like the sound of it, then you can use a paid for service called Unblock Us. It costs $4.99 Canadian dollars per month but there's a free trial so you can test it out before committing fully. The server numbers you need are 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52.
Unblock Us is compatible with various devices including games consoles, media streamers, Android, iOS and more. The site has good guides on how to change your DNS settings on specific devices. If you encounter any problems try a simple reboot of your device which normally fixes things. See also: Netflix tips & tricks