The best VPNs for streaming

If the government pushes forward with plans to force local content quotas and TV licence collection mandates onto streaming services like Netflix, more South Africans could soon be using VPNs.

In a recent presentation to parliament, chief of broadcasting policy at the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) Collin Mashile said that local content on streaming services should be “enabled” by further policy interventions within the audiovisual broadcasting space.

“Where video-on-demand subscription services come and operate in South Africa, everything that they show to South Africans in terms of their catalogue – 30% of that catalogue must be South African content,” Mashile said.

The department has also filed a proposal to broaden the definition of a “broadcasting service” to include online broadcasting services.

This is contained in the Draft White Paper on Audio and Audio-visual Content Services Policy Framework: A New Vision for South Africa 2020, which seeks to amend the Broadcasting Act.

If this proposal goes through, it means that people will require a SABC TV licence to watch streaming services like Netflix, Apple+, Showmax, and Amazon Prime Video.

Unintended consequences

While it remains to be seen how streaming providers like Netflix would react to these regulations, there are several possible consequences that could greatly limit these services in South Africa.

Given the current content make-up of international streaming services, which consists primarily of Hollywood movies and shows, it is unlikely they would be able to meet the local content quota even if they poured millions into producing or acquiring the rights to South African entertainment.

One option would therefore be that they cut their regional libraries to a fraction of the current size in order to meet the 30% requirement.

This would mean South Africans are left with a far smaller catalogue of movies and shows to choose from.

It is also possible that companies would prefer not to be mixed up in the quagmire of South Africa’s TV Licence regime, which could mean that in a worst-case scenario they may withdraw from the South African market entirely.

Agreeing to become an ally to the SABC’s revenue collection efforts could drive customers away, as many may feel it is unfair to be paying this fee without using the public broadcaster’s services.

The solution

South Africans who either want to avoid paying the licence fee or want to continue accessing the full libraries of these services, may find a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service could be the solution.

VPNs mask users’ IP addresses by redirecting network traffic through a server which could be in a number of locations.

This would make it impossible for any ISP or the government to monitor a users’ online traffic, meaning it would be unable to prove a user accessed a streaming service and has to pay a TV Licence fee.

Aside from providing additional security from snooping service providers, government entities, or malicious parties, VPNs can also allow users to access the unique streaming libraries of other countries.

Provided that your chosen VPN supports the feature, you can select a server in a country in which the Netflix library carries a movie or show you would like to watch.

Choosing a VPN for streaming

When it comes to a VPN that is best suited for video streaming services, there are several important attributes to consider.

These include the following:

  • Geo-unblocking capabilities – The ability to access video streaming services and libraries which aren’t available locally.
  • Widespread footprint – Servers in a higher number of countries ensures access to more libraries.
  • Number of servers – In general, more servers increase network performance and capacity.

With the above features taken into consideration, we’ve compiled a list of several of the world’s top-rated VPNs for streaming.

All of these VPNs are able to bypass geolocation blocks for at least Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

We’ve ranked them according to how many countries they provide IP addresses for.

It would be best to strike a balance between the number of servers and available countries, as the former is also important in ensuring reliable and fast network performance.

VPN Servers Countries Unblocked streaming services Price per month
ExpressVPN 3,000 94 Netflix
Amazon Prime Video
Hulu
HBO
Sling TV
Starting from $6.67 (R101.80)
CyberGhost 6,000 88 Netflix
Amazon Prime Video
Hulu
HBO
Sling TV
Starting from $2.25 (R34.35)
Hotspot Shield 3,200 80 Netflix
Amazon Prime Video
Hulu
HBO
BBC iPlayer
DAZN
Starting from $2.21 (R33.74)
VyprVPN 700 70 Netflix
Amazon Prime Video
Hulu
HBO
BBC iPlayer
DAZN
Starting from $1.66 (R25.34)
Surfshark 1,700 63 Netflix
Amazon Prime Video
Hulu
HBO
BBC iPlayer
DAZN
Starting from $2.21 (R33.74)
NordVPN 5,507 59 Netflix
Amazon Prime Video
Hulu
HBO
BBC iPlayer
Sling TV
DAZN
Starting from $3.71 (R56.64)
ProtonVPN 1,050 54 Netflix
Amazon Prime Video
Hulu
HBO
BBC iPlayer
Starting from €8 (R147.47)

Now read: TV Licence fees must become compulsory in South Africa – eMedia CEO

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The best VPNs for streaming