Netflix was a real game-changer in the streaming TV landscape – with thousands of movies and TV shows, they changed TV markets all over the world – as well as in the UK. However, even though Netflix’ UK content library is impressive – American Netflix subscribers get a better deal, with thousands of movies and TV shows that aren’t available on our side of the pond.
Which is why so many people want to know whether they can watch US Netflix in the UK on their tellies and other devices. The short answer is Yes. With one of our recommended VPNs that still work with Netflix – but it’ll cost you, and it’ll take some tinkering – because Netflix really doesn’t want its subscribers to virtually hop between different countries.
In this guide and review, I’ll explain – step by step – how to access American Netflix from the UK, plus I’ll review some of the better VPN services that make that possible – and one unique hardware solution.
Table of Contents
Why Is American Netflix Better?
Netflix is available in over 190 countries – but you don’t get the same content in every country. Due to legal issues and rights agreements, some movies and shows are only available in certain countries.
- Also see our guide on how to unblock additional US streaming services like Hulu, Tubi and more
In recent years, Netflix has been spending a lot of money on “Netflix Originals” – TV programmes and movies that are produced (or co-produced) by Netflix. The shows that are wholly owned by Netflix – like Stranger Things, The Crown and many others – are available everywhere for Netflix subscribers. But shows and movies produced by other companies are not.
So, for example, Netflix has most of the CW shows available for streaming in the US – Arrow, Supergirl, Supernatural, etc’. In the UK, on the other hand, Supergirl and Arrow are NOT part of the Netflix library, because the UK rights belong to Sky (so they’re available on NOW TV). And Supernatural is available on Amazon Prime Video.
To be fair, it also works the other way around for some shows – Star Trek: Discovery, for example, is available on Netflix in the UK, but in the US it’s only available on a separate pay-TV service (“CBS All Access”).
If we look at the numbers, American Netflix definitely has the upper hand. As of 2018, according to data published by Finder, Netflix in the US had 4,052 films, vs. 3,616 films in the UK version of Netflix.
As for TV shows, the US had 1,580 shows, and the UK had 1,436 TV shows.
Again, it’s important to remember that this is not just a numbers game – the selection of shows and films is also quite different.
Can I Watch US Netflix in the UK?
So what’s the trick for watching American Netflix in other parts of the world?
It starts with one important Netflix feature: the content you can watch on Netflix, has nothing to do with where the subscriber LIVES – instead, it has everything to do with where you are RIGHT NOW.
So let’s assume you’re a UK Netflix subscriber. Whenever you’re at home, here in the UK, you’ll see the UK catalogue when you connect to Netflix. However – let’s say you travel for a holiday in New York. While at your hotel, you connect to Netflix with your regular UK-based subscription, and… surprise – you’re now seeing the US Netflix library.
So during your stay in the US – you’ll see content from the American Netflix catalogue. (And the same applies to any country – if you travel to Australia, you’ll see the Australian Netflix catalogue…)
By now you can probably guess the rest – if, while still in the UK, you can make Netflix “think” you’re in the US – you’ll be able to watch the full US Netflix catalogue. And how do you do that? That’s where a VPN comes in.
Using A VPN To Watch American Netflix In The UK
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network – it’s a popular type of service that has many uses (it’s not just for watching Netflix). The good ones cost money (and the free ones have some issues) – but let’s start by explaining what a VPN does.
What Is A VPN And What Does It Do?
In very simple terms, a VPN lets you create a secure connection between your device (PC/phone/tablet/etc’) and another computer. Then, you use THAT computer (or Network) to browse the internet – so for all intents and purposes, it’s as if you’re sitting next to that other computer – wherever in the world it may be – and using IT for your internet browsing.
The best VPN services also safeguard your privacy – so websites won’t be able to trace and track your browsing: Every time you browse the internet, you get an IP address, which is a unique number that serves as your computer’s address, of sorts.
When you’re browsing the internet without a VPN, websites can save that IP, and it can give them information about you – such as where you are in the world. Plus, as long as your IP stays the same, they can theoretically track you across the internet. Additionally, while an IP address is anonymous, your Internet Service Provider (Virgin Media/Sky/BT/etc’) can make the connection between your IP and you – and in essence, see ALL your browsing history (even if you use ‘Private Browsing’ mode).
VPNs have many uses, such as:
- Hiding your browsing history – Do you really need your broadband provider to see all those… “adult” sites that you might be visiting?
- Maintaining a secure connection while you’re on public WiFi – that’s important when you’re with your laptop/phone in a coffee shop/hotel: without a VPN, it’s rather easy for some people to see what you’ve been doing – and even steal your passwords – from the public WiFi you’re connected to.
- Bypassing Censorship: Some countries (such as China) don’t allow browsing to certain websites. (Even in the UK there are blocked websites – such as torrenting sites). By using a VPN, you can often bypass those roadblocks.
- Bypassing Geo-Restrictions: This is where Netflix comes in – if you connect to a VPN server in the US, Netflix (and other Geo-Restricted sites and services such as Hulu, Pandora, and even certain YouTube videos) will think you’re actually in the US – and will show you the US catalogue. However – Netflix is actively trying to prevent VPNs from doing that.
Why is Netflix Blocking VPNs?
If it were entirely up to Netflix, their library of films and TV shows would look the same everywhere in the world. But since they buy a lot of content from other companies – they rely on these companies’ terms and restrictions.
So when ABC (an American TV network) sells Netflix the rights to show Grey’s Anatomy in the US – it might get a better deal in the UK from Sky. So in the UK, Netflix WON’T get Grey’s Anatomy, because Sky (and NOW TV) paid more for it (presumably). And in yet a third country – a different local company also paid more than Netflix for Grey’s Anatomy, so THEY get it – and the list goes on.
During Netflix’ early years, bypassing Geo-Restrictions was fairly easy. It WAS against their terms of service, but in practice, Netflix wasn’t doing much to fight the minority of users who were actually doing it – and there were lots of services out there offering this service.
Then, in 2016, with growing pressure from US content production and distribution companies, Netflix upped their game and started a real fight against Geo-Bypassing services and VPNs. Many services that promised to bypass Netflix restrictions became obsolete overnight, and some parts of the internet were quite enraged.
Netflix’ ban of VPNs was so broad, that even people who were using VPNs for other purposes – such as protecting their privacy – were unable to watch Netflix (even their local one) while their VPN was on. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wasn’t impressed with the uproar, as The Independent reported at the time, saying “It’s a very small but quite vocal minority. So it’s really inconsequential to us.”
Since then, Netflix and the VPN services have been playing a game of cat and mouse. The best VPN services for Netflix do manage to bypass Netflix’ restrictions – even today – but it’s patchy at times, as Netflix might find – and block – a server, and you’ll have to wait for the VPN provider to fix the issue. Rinse and repeat.
Important Note: While bypassing Geo-Restrictions is not against the law, it is against Netflix’ terms of service. And while they haven’t been known to ban users for this (other than just trying to actively block them from doing it), it’s theoretically possible they’ll start doing that one day. So proceed with caution…
Watching US Netflix In The UK: What Do I Need?
One of Netflix’ major selling points is that it’s so easy to use. You can watch it on your Smart TV, or via a streamer. You can also watch it with an app on your phone or tablet. And of course – on your PC.
However, watching American Netflix while you’re in the UK is a bit more complicated. You’ll need:
- A Netflix subscription
- A paid VPN Service that still works with Netflix (see my recommendations below)
- A VPN App, or special WiFi router settings, that will let you use the VPN on your device (TV/phone/etc’).
If you want to watch American Netflix on your computer or phone, it’s rather simple – you just download and activate an app from your VPN service (see my guide below). However, if you want to watch on your telly, things get a little more complicated.
The easiest solution for watching American Netflix on your TV is to use a streamer – such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick. All the recommended VPN services I mention here have dedicated apps for the Fire TV – so it’s a breeze to connect. (However, US Netflix doesn’t always work on the Fire TV, even with the best VPNs – so keep that in mind.)
The two other popular streaming devices – Roku and Google Chromecast – don’t have direct support for VPN apps, unfortunately.
Are There Free VPNs That Work With Netflix?
For the most part – no. While there are a few free VPN services out there, they’re problematic in many ways: They often don’t really protect your privacy (some are “free” by selling your information), they don’t keep up with the endless Netflix cat-and-mouse game so they quickly get blocked, and their speeds aren’t sufficient for TV streaming.
Some VPN services do offer a free trial – usually for a few days – which you can sometimes use to test out their Netflix capabilities. Even better, the recommended VPN services for Netflix all have a generous Money-Back guarantee – so while that doesn’t mean free, it does mean you’re not risking your money, in case you find out the service doesn’t work for you.
Choosing The Best VPN For Netflix – Things to Consider
As mentioned, Netflix is at war with the VPN services, as it doesn’t want you to bypass the Geo-Restrictions. Therefore, many VPN services that were able to offer US Netflix in the past, no longer do.
Some questionable VPN services, unfortunately, still DO promise the ability to watch US Netflix – without delivering. Whenever you try to watch something, you’ll get the dreaded “You’re using a proxy” warning from Netflix.
Fortunately, some VPN services still manage to pull this off (at least for the time being). Here are a few important things to consider when you’re choosing a VPN service for Netflix:
The best VPN services will cost you. Some are cheaper than others, yes, and prices go down considerably if you’re willing to buy a 2 years subscription in advance – our Editor’s Choice, NORD VPN, is considerably cheaper if you get the 2-years subscription.
Some VPN services (and some coupon and deal sites) offer “Lifetime Subscriptions”. While these seem like a good deal, you should be wary of these – running a good VPN service costs a lot of money, and Lifetime Subscriptions don’t really make sense for the business.
So either the service will disappear after a few months (so that’s a very short “Lifetime” for you), or they won’t have money to spend on better infrastructure – so their service might deteriorate quickly.
Although we’re here to mainly talk about US Netflix, the premium VPNs have locations all around the world – not just for Netflix.
So, for example, if you need to “pretend” you’re in Canada (because of a website or service that’s only available to people in Canada), a VPN server in Canada is needed. Or if you want to digitally “visit” Japan. You get the point… So when you check a VPN out – make sure they have servers all around the world.
They should also have good servers in the UK. Remember – a VPN is also used to protect your privacy, so you’re going to want a fast server which is geographically close to you, for those Secure WiFi sessions (or for browsing, ehm, “embarrassing” websites.)
In addition, some people use a VPN to watch other US streaming services as well – so that’s another reason to look for a VPN with strong servers.
Keep in mind, though, that even the VPNs that offer to bypass Netflix Geo-Restrictions, only offer that service in SOME of their worldwide locations – mostly to access American Netflix. You won’t get Netflix to work on ALL the servers the VPN offers. (Some do offer additional – but still limited – Netflix locations – such as Canada, Japan and the UK.)
VPN Speeds And No. Of Servers
Netflix streaming uses a lot of bandwidth. an HD stream uses up to 3GB per hour, and 4K streams use up to 7GB/hour. This means that if you’re watching an episode of Stranger Things in 4K, your TV would have to download almost 7GB of data
Streaming TV is being downloaded to your device in real-time. In order to prevent disruption in the middle of the programme/movie you’re watching, a small portion of it will be preloaded into your device. Then, while you’re already watching, the device will keep downloading the next chunk and the one after that, with you still watching the previous chunk that was already downloaded.
Therefore, high broadband speeds are important. However, when you’re using a VPN – you’re also dependant on the speed between the VPN server you’re connected to and the internet/Netflix.
So even if you have a 100Mbps Broadband connection at home – if the VPN server you connect to in the US can only handle 20Mbps – then that’s the speed you’ll get, and Netflix streaming might begin to stutter.
Of course – all VPN services will tell you they have “Amazing Speeds” – but in reality, that’s not always the case. The only way to test these speeds yourself is to, well, test them out for yourself – but as a general rule of thumb, the recommended VPNs that cost a little more will usually offer better speeds.
The number of available servers in each location is also an important factor. If the VPN service only has one Netflix-compatible server in the US, for example, then thousands of users are going to bang on the doors of that one server – which will likely hurt its speed.
VPN Apps and Compatibility
If you want to use the VPN on multiple devices – you’ll need apps and software that support your devices.
So for a laptop (both PC and MAC), you’re going to need an app – or at least a browser extension – that can connect your computer to the VPN service. You’ll also need an iPhone/Android app if you want to use the VPN on your phone.
If you want to watch US Netflix on your TV, using a VPN, things get a bit more complicated. As mentioned above, the easiest way to do this is with an Amazon Fire TV Stick – all my recommended VPN service have compatible apps that make it super easy with a Fire Stick, but even then you won’t get 100% success on a Fire Stick.
If you want to watch American Netflix on a gaming console (such as a PS4) or perhaps directly on your Smart TV – you’ll have to change some settings on your broadband router.
However, some UK broadband providers (Virgin Media, for example), have routers that don’t support VPNs – in which case you’ll need to buy an external router and connect THAT to your Virgin Media hub which will then be used only as a modem.
Since that’s a complicated process – I won’t cover it here. However, the VPN services in this review all offer detailed instructions on how to do this, if you’re still interested.
- For a hardware-based solution to geoblocking, see our review of StreamLocator
- Netflix Locations: US, Canada, Japan, UK, Netherlands
- Unblocks: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, YouTube, Peacock and others
- Apps: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Fire TV
- Simultaneous Connections/Devices: 6
- P2P (Torrenting) Supported: Yes (on some servers)
NordVPN - My Opinion
NordVPN is one of the most well known VPN services out there – and for good reason. For a reasonable price, you get a robust VPN service that does everything right – including smooth (in most cases) US Netflix streaming.
Watching American Netflix with NordVPN on your desktop or laptop is a breeze, with Windows and Mac apps, as well as a Google Chrome extension. Hopping between countries is very easy, with a couple of clicks in the app.
They also have a fairly easy to use app for the Amazon Fire TV – so that’s your best bet for watching US Netflix on your telly (but with the ongoing Netflix cat-and-mouse game, the Fire TV app doesn’t always work with Netflix US, so keep that in mind.)
Speed is usually very good, with thousands of servers around the world – and plenty in the US. I say “usually”, because I did notice some speed bumps while watching Netflix – but it was a rare occurrence, and switching servers fixed the issue promptly. In addition, NordVPN recently launched their “NordLynx” technology, which improves speeds even further.
NordVPN also ticks all the boxes as a “regular” VPN service – they don’t keep any logs, so your privacy is ensured, they work in restricting countries (such as China), and they support Peer-to-Peer torrenting on some of the servers.
NordVPN is not the cheapest VPN out there, especially if you only want it for a short period of time – in which case you’ll pay more for a single month. But if you subscribe for 2 years upfront, the price goes down considerably.
The best deal (again, if you’re willing to pay upfront) is the 2-year subscription, where you get a 68% discount compared to a single month.
Update: At the moment, NordVPN is running a Spring Promotion with a special offer – buy the 2-year subscription, and get up to 12 months free.
All in all, if you’re willing to jump in with the multiple years deal, NordVPN is an excellent VPN that will – most likely – serve your Netflix and VPN needs for years to come.
- Netflix Locations: US, Canada, UK, Netherlands
- Unblocks: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, YouTube, The CW and others
- Apps: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Fire TV
- Simultaneous Connections/Devices: 3
- P2P (Torrenting) Supported: Yes (on some servers)
ExpressVPN - My Opinion
You can’t really go wrong with ExpressVPN – they have more than 2,000 servers around the world, their speed is top-notch so Netflix streaming is usually a joy, and they support Netflix Geo-Unblocking in four countries (as of now) – The United States, Canada, United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
So why are they in second place, after their big rivals, NordVPN? Simply because they’re more expensive. The best deal is the annual plan, where you pay for 12 months in advance. It then comes down to £6.33 per month.
Also, keep in mind that you can only use ExpressVPN on up to 3 devices at the same time – so if you have a big family, you’ll need to pay more (or look elsewhere).
On the plus side, installing and using ExpressVPN is incredibly easy, with apps for all the major platforms out there, including the Amazon Fire TV – which is the easiest way to watch US Netflix on your telly.
During my personal testing, ExpressVPN had excellent Netflix speeds, so the streaming was always smooth without any buffering in sight. If you’re willing to pay a little extra – you’ll get A LOT out of ExpressVPN.
- Netflix Locations: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Korea, Brazil and Mexico
- Unblocks: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, YouTube, Peacock and others
- Apps: Works with any app/device (once you change the WiFi on that device)
- Simultaneous Connections/Devices: Unlimited
StreamLocator - My Opinion
While the other services in this guide are VPNs, the StreamLocator is a very different type of solution – it’s a WiFi hub (similar to the one you get from your internet provider) that connects to your existing router, creating its own WiFi network at your house.
Then, you pick the devices where you want to geo-unblock Netflix and connect those devices to the StreamLocator’s WiFi network.
And that’s it – the hub then does its magic, and you can pick (via their website) which Netflix country you want to “go to” (as always, you still need a Netflix subscription, of course).
The big plus here is that you don’t need a separate app for the unblocking to work – so ANY streaming device that connects via WiFi can be unblocked – mobile phones, tablets, Roku/Fire TV sticks, Smart TVs, etc.
The price is pretty similar to the VPN services (currently £61.40 for 12 months, and you get the hub with that), but it’s not a VPN, so you don’t get the privacy features of a true VPN.
All in all, this is a great solution, but one that requires additional hardware to be installed, which might not be for everyone. Once the hub is installed, though, it’s super-easy to unblock Netflix (and other streaming services). Check out my full StreamLocator review here.