Watch TV online from other countries
What is geo-blocked TV?
There are many ways to view video content online these days. TV web sites like NBC.com offer catch up services to full episodes of many of their shows. All the American TV networks have web sites which offer catch up episodes. CBS, ABC, Fox, the CW are some examples.
But don’t get too excited!
Before you can watch anything on the iPlayer or catch up with the latest episode of Saturday Night Live, there is one condition to be met. Your computer, and so, by association, you must live in the region which you want to access. Fortunately for Australian consumers, there are other options that allow you to navigate your way around invisible boundaries to access more content and cheaper prices. All you have to do to bypass a geo-block is to fool the streaming video site into thinking that you live in the same home country where the streaming video website is located and hosted.
Your computer has an identity on the public internet which tells other computer servers what country you are “calling from”. This is called an IP address and consists of 4 sets of numbers. For example: 126.96.36.199. Any internet communication initiated by your computer’s browser will have the IP address encapsulated in the packet of information. Your IP address is provided by your ISP eg Telstra, Optus and will be unique to you.
So, if I want to watch this episode of Graham Norton, located on the BBC iPlayer and I’m accessing this show from Australia, I get this message.
How to watch region-blocked (or geo-blocked) TV
To access content from America, your computer, phone or iPad must have an American identity - in other words, an American IP address. Similarly, if you want to access content from the UK, your computer, phone or iPad must have a British identity - in other words, a British IP address. There are many options available to counteract this problem.
Basically a VPN creates a connection between your computer and a server in a host country, which will assign you an IP and route all Internet traffic through that connection. This means your actual IP will be hidden and to any site you visit it will look like the request originated in the host server country. Click here for an explanation of a Virtual Private Network.
Most VPNs offer some level of encryption for added privacy and security and some offer a choice of server locations; so if you want to watch Hulu, for example, you can connect to a server in the US. Switch to a UK server and you can access BBC’s iPlayer.
- Access and stream from any region-blocked website.
- Encrypted connections, better privacy overall.
- Few free options available, with speed and data limitations.
There are free VPN providers - An example is called TunnelBear. It works with a standalone app on OS X or Windows and it’s extremely easy to use. There’s no configuration involved, just install it and sign up for an account. Within the TunnelBear interface you’ll be able to turn the VPN connection on or off with a single click and switch between US or UK servers just as easy. The only problem is that you are llimited to 500mb per month on the free account. This is certainly not enough once you get going.
Virtual Private Networks also act as middlemen, with the added bonus of encrypting all your traffic. You’ll find free VPN services such as Hotspot Shield and VPNBook, along with paid services like WiTopia and StrongVPN. Once again you’re at the mercy of the speed of the VPN.
Proxies are okay for getting around region blocks occasionally but they are far from ideal if you want permanent, reliable access to media streaming services from your computer -- plus they only work with applications that actually support proxies, like browsers. There are many free proxy servers: here's a link to a list of them.
Unfortunately content providers are cracking down on proxy servers, plus smooth streaming video relies on the speed of the proxy server’s connection. Another shortcoming is that you can’t enter the proxy server details into most of the devices you’ll want to use to watch internet video on your television.
An easier way is to use browser extensions. Hola.org. Once installed in your browser, you can watch the most popular media sites without configuring anything. However, it does not work on the iPad. Read the Gizmodo article on Hola.
From the magazine: Techlife Australia - March 2013: How to watch region-blocked TV
How to watch region-blocked TV on an iPad
This video looks at how to use the DNS redirector service called unotelly. This is a subscription based service but there is a free trial period. Basically, you change your DNS server settings on any device and you can watch geo-blocked TV from many countries - simultaneously and without changing settings. If you change the DNS settings on your router, every device in your network can access unblocked region content.
This video will show you how to change to the UK iTunes store and download a free app: the ITV Player. This app provides access to on demand streaming content from the UK ITV channels. To use it, you need to be in the UK. The app will look at your iPad's IP address and if it does not originate from the UK, you will not be able to view the content. You can browse but not watch anything. The rest of the video looks at how to turn on your VPN setting and use a VPN server - if you have subscribed to one; eg strongvpn.com or use a DNS redirector like unotelly.com to spoof a UK IP address. It will show you the possibilities.
Create an iTunes account without using a credit card
To watch TV on the iPad, you need to get the mobile apps for each of the services. You will need to have an iTunes account for the UK and a separate iTunes account for the US. You can create these accounts without a credit card. All you need to do is download a free app and sign up with payment method as None. Here is link to an Apple support article on how to create a iTunes account on the computer and on the iPad. The only time you will use these accounts is to download free apps and when you need to update those apps.
Download the mobile apps
On your iPad, from Settings, iTunes & App Stores, sign out of the Australian iTunes store and log into the UK iTunes store. Login to the US iTunes store using the same method. Do a search for TV. This will provide you with many of the apps you will need. Remember: even with the apps installed on your devices, you still can’t play videos or watch TV until you cloak your location - using any of the methods described above.
From the UK iTunes store, download these apps.
From the US iTunes store, download these apps. There are more ....Do your own search.
DNS-Based Geo-blocking Service
The rise of DNS-based geo-dodging services such as Unblock US, UnoTelly and the free Tunlr have made things a lot simpler. Unblock US lets your devices bypass geo-blocking by simply changing their DNS settings – something you can easily do on almost any internet-enabled device. It also works at the router-level to cover your entire home. UnoTelly is even more flexible if you’re interested in countries outside the US and UK.
The ease of use and universal compatibility of DNS-based services makes them the method of choice. They don’t actually reroute your traffic, so you don’t encounter a performance hit. If your ISP offers unmetered browser-based access to Australian content such as iView, check whether changing your DNS settings causes it to be metered.
To change your DNS settings on a Mac, go to System Preferences, Network, Advanced and the DNS tab. On Windows, open Network and Sharing Centre from the Control Panel, click Change Adaptor Settings, right-click on the adapter you’re using to connect to the internet and choose Properties. Right-click Internet Protocol Version 4, choose Properties and then alter the DNS settings.
Changing DNS settings using unotelly
From Settings, Wi-fi, select your network and then the i button. Get the DNS settings from the service provider's website. Unotelly provides you with a map of the Global DNS clusters. Simply select the DNS servers closest to your geographic region. **Record your original DNS settings so you can reverse this process at a later date**
Changing the DNS settings on an individual device - like the iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, or computer will allow you to access geo-blocked TV on that device. However, changing the DNS settings on your router will allow all devices in that wireless network to access geo-blocked content at the same time. Unotelly have instructions for the different types of routers and once you sign up, you can access instructions for a whole range of devices. This is how you do it for an Apple Airport Extreme router. I am using the Airport Utility app on my iMAC to do this.
Preparations for watching region-blocked TV
- Get a new email address which you can use for signing into online web sites, subscribing to on demand services etc. Use gmail. It's easy to create and it allows you to have mulitple email addresses.
- Organise a VPN or DNS redirector site.
- Create an Tunes account for each country whose content you want to access. If you want to watch TV on your iPad, you need to download the mobile apps. ***Make sure you are logged into the relevant iTunes store.
- For a US iTunes account, follow the directions in this link: How to open a U.S iTunes account without a credit card. You will need a US address. Google a Macdonalds store in Oregon or Delaware. These states don't charge sales tax which will save you money especially if you subscribe to Hulu Plus.
- For a UK iTunes account, it's the same process as for the US account except you will need a UK address - Google a Macdonalds store somewhere in England.
- If you want to subscribe to US content such as Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, you will need credit. You cannot use your Australian credit card. Luckily, there are sites that can help.
- buyfrompowerseller.com. you can get a US iTunes gift card by email, a pre-paid card which will provide the credit to subscribe to Hulu Plus, Amazon, Netflix. I've used this site and was very happy with the service and products. They provided detailed instructions and the codes / card were emailed promptly.
- US Unlocked. Apply for a virtual debit card with your own US billing address. You can also shop in the US online stores.