Netflix offers a wide range of content for South Africans, delivering far more series and movies than competing platforms.
However, the availability of content is dependent on your region, meaning that there is a selection of Netflix content which is available in the United States but not in South Africa.
The US version of Netflix offers a much bigger selection of shows, and for this reason, many South Africans use virtual private network (VPN) programmes to spoof their location and access the US library of content.
Netflix has cracked down on many VPN servers, however, making it difficult for local users to circumvent its region locks.
The problem surrounding Netflix’s blocking of VPN services and limiting of content depending on region is complex. Netflix acquires broadcast licences for certain regions and not others, meaning that users paying a subscription in South Africa should not have access to content exclusive to the US version of the platform.
However, if a South African travels overseas and attempts to access their Netflix account, they might find that they are unable to access their favourite domestic content due to regional restrictions in the country they are visiting.
One could argue that these subscribers should have access to South African Netflix shows regardless of their physical location.
We have outlined potential freeways this region locking could be circumvented below, although it is a lot tougher to reliably bypass than one might initially assume.
Last year, Opera launched a version of its browser with a built-in VPN that could be toggled on or off at will.
When enabling the free VPN, users can opt to select one of the following three regions: Americas, Europe, or Asia.
Like all free VPNs, Opera’s browser-based service does not offer complete anonymisation and protection, but it does allow you to select one of three regions to route your traffic through – Americas, Europe, or Asia.
Through a fair amount of luck, you can get the United States as your VPN server location and use the browser to access and stream the US version of Netflix.
Speed can be limited when routing traffic through a VPN, but online tests using Opera’s platform show that you should be able to stream with no problems at the lower resolution options on Netflix.
Trial and error
If Opera’s browser-based VPN isn’t working for you, the selection of free VPNs which actually work with Netflix are remarkably slim.
Netflix has effectively blocked most free servers from accessing its platform, and this means that you might need to shell out for a VPN subscription to access the US content library.
Some free platforms might work with Netflix occasionally, but these also include monthly data usage limits which range from 500MB to around 10GB – limiting your potential watching time.
The best VPNs for Netflix – according to rankings by VPN Lab – include the following:
These VPNs all require monthly subscriptions to access, although some other platforms include free trials which opportune viewers could try to take advantage of.
However, it is important to note that free VPN tiers are temperamental at best, and completely unusable at worst.
For this reason, it is often an easier option to simply subscribe to a VPN service – especially if you plan to watch a lot of US-based Netflix content.