Netflix VPN Ban Disproportionally Targets Asian Users

Michael From our Perspective

Netflix, one of the biggest streaming services in the world, has always been applauded for its largely pro-customer approach. Ever since its launch, the entertainment company has allowed users to share their login details with family and friends.

In fact, they introduced a profile feature so that the content viewed by other users has no impact on the recommendations or viewing history of the primary subscriber.

Desiring Full Access

They never cared about customers accessing Netflix from different parts of the globe. Who, in fact, for years, spoofed their actual locations with the help of a virtual private network, or VPN.

Asian users spoof their IP so they can access region-specific content not available in their country.

Recently, pressure from Hollywood has forced Netflix to start cracking down on location spoofing.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that Netflix pays licensing fees based on region. So if Netflix licenses a movie for viewing by US members, Netflix is not paying the owners of the content for Asian views. The argument is they cannot afford to license content globally.

This is why they have resorted to preventing subscribers from using VPN services to access content in other regions. Asia seems to be the most affected by this shift in policy.

Most countries in Asia have a meager selection of content available. Lack of available content is not just true for Netflix, but for other global services as well. So, it makes sense that people from this part of the world would use VPNs a lot more to stream content.

An Unhappy Business Community

If a VPN service allows users to expand the number of available options, why not? After all, they are paying customers; they are not pirates. The more you look at it, the more it seems like a ploy by content owners to carve the entire world into distinct geographical regions to maximize their profits.

So these regional licensing businesses are taking up arms against VPN services claiming they undermine their business model and damage their credibility.

Another unintentional but alarming side-effect of the new VPN ban from Netflix is the way it shines an unfortunate spotlight on the inequality of Netflix’s global pricing policies.

Yes, it’s true that consumers do not always play by the rules. Minutes after an episode of a popular television show is out; pirates share it online. That is not helpful to the show’s actors/actresses, producers, and other stakeholders. However, the blame does not lie with the consumer; it lies with the regional content licensing companies and Netflix. People expect to pay for the entire Netflix experience, not just a hand-picked selection of movies and shows.

The truly sad thing is the amount of content in Asia is limited but Netflix’s subscription price is more or less on par with its US counterpart. However, all this has not deterred entertainment lovers from getting their fix. Every time Netflix comes up with a new way to block VPN users from watching their content VPN services figure out new ways to circumvent the block. The entire situation has become sort of a cat-and-mouse game.

Why VPN Services are so Popular

In Asia the circumstances are different – VPN technology is more common in Asia than anywhere else on earth. Many Asian countries have a heavily censored Internet. They need VPN services more than anyone. With such a highly censored Internet, is it reasonable to ask them to turn off their VPN in order to watch content? Netflix seems to think it is, and maybe that is true in other countries. But in Asia, almost half of the population uses a VPN on a daily basis. Why should they have to turn it off to access Netflix?