The Lifehacker Guide To Streaming Blocked Overseas Content

Region-blocked content is annoying — and avoidable. Whether you want Hulu on demand, instant access to the BBC iPlayer or a dose of iView when you're working overseas, here are the best (and easiest) ways to get that content.

One of the main challenges with streaming content from overseas is that the landscape for doing so constantly changes. Historically you've needed to set up a virtual private network (VPN) to access content from overseas, but these days often all you need is to choose the right extension or web service. First, we'll look at our favourite (and simplest) way of getting to region-blocked content, then check out some of the alternative possibilities.

The Easiest Method: Hola Unblocker

The previously mentioned Hola Unblocker extension for Firefox and Chrome is the simplest way to reliably watch the bulk of streaming content no matter where you are. You can get access to Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, BBC iPlayer and many other services using just the extension. You can also add extra services, including AETV, Google Play, Syfy, YouTube and others using the Windows client. All you need to do is install the extension, and Hola Unblocker does the rest. It's incredibly simple.

If all you need to do is access a few streaming services, Hola Unblocker is the easiest way to do it because it doesn't interfere with any other settings (or your overall internet access speed). That said, it doesn't support every broadcaster out there. For fuller access, you need to dig a little deeper.

Alternative Methods

If you're looking to watch videos or listen to music from other services, here are a few more useful options.

  • Unblock.Us: Unblock.Us is one of the simplest ways to get around region-blocked content, blocks from your ISP, or any other restrictions you run into. You get a free week-long trial, and it's $US4.99 a month after that. For a free alternative, check out Tunlr. Both services also support set-top boxes such as the Apple TV and Playstation 3.
  • Use Any VPN You Want: Another option is to set up a VPN to reroute your traffic through servers in other counties. Any VPN will do (although you might want to stick with one of these five). If you subscribe to a Usenet service such as GigaNews, you may get a VPN for free as part of the package. This keeps your data more private than some of the easier-to-use services, but it may slow down your connection.
  • Tunnelbear: If you want an incredibly easy-to-use on-off switch, Tunnelbear works wonders. Simply download the software, flip the switch to the location you want, and you can start streaming immediately. When you want your normal internet back, turn it off. The free version will only get you 500MB of data for the month (probably less than an hour of streaming); $US4.99/month gets you unlimited access.
  • Set Up A Proxy Server: If a browser extension is more your style then using a proxy service is an easy option. The speeds won't be fantastic, but it's easy to shut off when you're done. You can also try the Tor browser for more proxy-related options.

Comments

    Great piece.

    Can you do one on how to play IP Blocked games as well? I'm assuming that the methods are roughly the same but it would be good to have a quick reference specific to gaming.

      There are probably gaming-specific methods, but the ones in the article that definitely apply are 'use any vpn you want' , 'tunnelbear' and 'unblock.us', which are VPN services underneath anyway. Tunlr may or may not work for gaming, but it can't hurt to try.

      The caveats:
      -Make sure the VPN is located in the country you wish to 'appear' to be from. So if you want to play US servers, get a US-based VPN service (or something like tunnelbear that lets you pick the country)
      -The VPN will probably increase your pingtime and decrease your total throughput. Try out the free trials first to make sure it's still useable.

      if you want to get more hands on, you can buy any bit of server space in another country and turn it into a self-run VPN, but it rarely comes out much cheaper than paying for an existing service.

        I use HideMyAss https://www.hidemyass.com/vpn/r20533/ for Hulu, ABC iView and Netflix in other countries. Great reliable service and only costs me $6.5/month for a year... Cheapest I found when I was looking and does the job.

        Last edited 02/06/16 2:34 pm

    +1 for Unblock-us, I don't mind paying $5 a month for a reliable service. Works on the iPhone & iPad too.

      Yeah I've had Unblock-us and Netflix going for a bit over a year now. $13 in total it costs for both services - bargain.

      Pretty much works on anything really that I've found, as long as you can manually specify DNS servers.

      I access Netflix from my Xbox 360 (living room), Apple TV (bedroom) and laptop. No issues with Unblock-us on any of these.

    the easiest way is bittorrent

      Great answer, really helps with the streaming content problem.

        it doesnt thats the point
        mpaa plz focus on streaming sites and leave bt alone kthnxbye

    I would like to know why we don't already have services like this in Aus. I'm sure there reason is to do with copyright, but is it up to the local TV stations, or the content owner, or are the local advertisers just not willing to jump on board? It just kind of boggles me that we have commercial free-to-air TV, and yet somehow having that same model but delivered through the net (albeit 'on-demand') is somehow stupidly difficult to arrange (well, either that or someone in the chain is being a cock-blocker, so to speak).

      I think a big factor would be lack of infrastructure.

      Then also we have less competition for the networks and cable. So less pressure?

      Although Foxtel has some proper ondemand service I believe, although to be honest i've never really looked into it as I don't have that room of my house cabled. I believe you plug the box into your network and use your internet. Really I blame foxtel for not really pushing this. Although maybe they are working on developing it and then rolling out something better in the not to distant future.

        More like licensing and agreements. Infrastructure probably doesn't matter - they can keep their servers in the US and just remove the region lock, clearly streaming solutions work well enough with current workarounds. It's more likely that they can't get content partners to agree to allow streaming here in Australia, because they've got to have more money.

    I recently discovered a chrome extension called Media Hint.
    Simple and easy, seems to do the job. Haven't tried Uk content yet but works for Hulu and Netflix.
    No setup required, you don't have to add any websites or anything like that.

    That being said, after hearing people go on and on about Netflix and Hulu, I don't see what the fuss is.
    I had a bit of a look around last night (need to do more research and testing), intial impressions are "meh"
    Most of the content I tried out so far is not HD and looks horrible. Netflix also doesn't have current seasons of TV shows, so it's good for catch up. I need to delve deeper into the streaming services but I'm not overly impressed with the quality. I shouldn't have to be subjected to 320p rubbish for a paid service (netflix).

    But I also think that if you're paying for an unblock service you better be getting something super special because the free versions seem to do the trick perfectly.

    Try http://tunlr.net/
    Its a free DNS-only workaround.

    Love Hola, although I wish there was a free way to VPN my PS3. I don't use it for games anyway, so having Hulu and Netflix would top it off with PlayTV and Bluray.

    Next article please: How to get your p2p/bittorrent traffic overlooked by your ISPs throttling/blocking mechanism =D

      Will the method mentioned quickly in the article under "Alternative Methods --> Use Any VPN You want" work for my question above?

        Should do. There's still the risk of throttling further upstream, but the VPN means your ISP won't be able to recognise the traffic as P2P and therefore can't throttle it.

        Though if you're doing that, you may also be interested in the concept of a 'seedbox': http://whirlpool.net.au/wiki/Seedboxes

        Last edited 14/02/13 3:19 pm

          Sincerest thanks for the info! You've just helped me out of a massive bind. I convinced my dad to change ISPs last week and we found out (too late) that they throttle P2P to 32kbit. He'll be very pleased to know that it might only cost an extra $10/mo to remedy.

    If you want to use VPN on PS3, get a DD-WRT compatible router and configure the VPN directly there. We can help (www.happy-vpn.com) to access blocked content. Just please don't come to us with the intention of using torrents, we don't allow those.

    This will do it!
    Thank you for making my day :D

    I'm using SmartDNS, provided by a company called OverPlay. I've been using them for several years: http://overplay.net/?a_aid=OVRPLY

    SmartDNS is DNS tunnelling technology that replicates many of the traditional VPN features, but without any loss of speed. You don't even need to dial into a VPN connection. The initial setup is super easy, and then you just browse/watch as normal.

    Last edited 01/07/15 9:45 am

    I'd recommend UnblockUs: http://www.vpnworld.org/unblockus
    It's faster than a VPN, and there's no software to install. Just follow the instructions on their website to make a small change to the DNS settings on your computer or router or whatever device you will be watching on, and that's it.
    They offer a 7-day free trial with the simplest of sign-ups, just put in your email address. Once your free trial expires, then you can decide to pay $4.99 a month.

    I've tried/paid several providers, and I can say that UnblockUs offers the fastest streaming connection of them all. Just remember, it's not a real anonymous VPN, it's a DNS tunnelling connection, so it's perfect for unblocking geo-restricted streaming content and websites such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO etc. If you need privacy for browsing and downloading, get a real VPN service.

    Last edited 24/06/15 11:12 pm

    I have installed hola for chrome. It works the first few days and now no matter what, i can no longer access www.hulu.com. Is hola now being blocked by hulu.com? Any advise?

    Thanks a million.

    That’s a good review Thorin. I personally prefer UnoTelly. It’s similar to SmartVPN but they offer a DNS server close to physical location and I can achieve better performance.

    I have dd wrt firmware running on my router that uses private internet access as a vpn. I use getflix to unblock hulu plus and I use chromecast for netflix, plex, hulu plus, bbc iplayer. They all work fine.
    My problem is I can't access iview as it thinks I am in the US, is there a way around this.
    I am think of setting up another router without VPN connected to the VPN router and getting my TV to access this. Does anyone know if there is another way to allow iview connection when using a vpn on the router.
    Pretty much everything else works ok ie. banking etc, I uses Hola on browser to access stuff that doesn't. Also when a VPN and smart DNS is used and the iview app is replaced because it thinks TV is in US the smart TV's downloads netflix, hulu plus etc is it possible to have the iview app as well.

    I have hola on my iPhone but would like it on my iPad. Unfortunately I have the old iPad and it says I can't download it, is there any other way around it?

    I've read a few reviews on Hola. Does anyone know if it works with an iPad? I use it on my PC which runs on Windows 7 and it's fine but I'd like to purchase a tablet knowing it will work on one. I watch BBC and ITV in the UK.
    Thanks

    Legal issues aside, if you are not afraid for roll up your sleeves and dive into Linux and The Cloud, this guide shows how to implement a solution to get around BBC iPlayer geo-restriction in Australia:

    http://blog.belodedenko.me/2014/12/watch-bbc-iplayer-in-australia-for-free.html

    Also, having a few friends share a solution like this is significantly cheaper than individually paying $5 a month for a commercial service.

    -- ab1

    I am now using http://kukinoid.mobi/kuku/ , for my cell phone and my tablet. it has a free version, does not share my personal information and my connection data and does not include advertising.It also save up to 70% of data-usage, saving me some money.

    Personally, I always preferred to host my own smart DNS/proxy and selectively forward DNS requests for sites like Hulu, Netflix, etc. to it. Traditional VPNs (if you respect the terminology) are not the right solution for streaming video since they essentially proxy everything by routing all traffic to your VPN server.

    Ideally, you want to proxy only the web/application traffic via another location and leave the video/audio traffic to be delivered to you from the closest CDN PoP, which certainly won't be the case if you try to access the likes of akamai.com from the UK via your US server.

    Anyway, I've spent some time recently trying to get Hulu Plus going in the UK, but this should work on any geo-blocked site in theory.

    In case anyone is interested the full write-up is here:
    http://anton.belodedenko.me/watch-hulu-plus-outside-of-the-us/

    Good luck!

    Thanks for this amazing post, you know specially in this christmas, i got to know about the new collection of movies on Netflix auzzi, brazil and Canadian version but due to limited access i could not stream the other region collection, unless i knew about vpns
    Right now im using Purevpn but i dont mind switching to any free service soon

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