In addition to their more traditional use as online security software, VPNs have emerged as fantastic tools for people who love streaming catch-up TV and live events online.
That's because streaming VPNs allow you to redirect all your internet traffic through a safe server that's in an entirely different country to where you are. That comes in really handy if you're on holiday or working abroad and find that geo-restrictions are stopping you from watching your favorite content like you would back at home. Flick on a VPN, connect to a server in your own country and hey presto... you'll be streaming just like you were back on your own sofa.
It also means that some people use VPNs to stream shows not usually available in their home country. Like accessing the US Netflix from abroad, for instance, or streaming BBC iPlayer when outside of the UK.
Not every VPN is made equal, however, so it can take a considerable amount of trial and error to find the one that does the job in bypassing restrictions. Luckily for you we've done the hard work and rounded up the best streaming VPN options out there right now.
Today's top 3 best streaming VPNs:
1. ExpressVPN - #1 best streaming VPN
The world's overall top VPN is fast, secure, easy to use and comes with 3 months extra free with an annual plan. Get it risk-free for 30 days and try its unlocking prowess - it gets access to most streaming sites you could imagine, with regional services like Peacock, Kayo and DAZN also on the hit list.
2. NordVPN - strong, consistent unblocking
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, HBO Max, YouTube... you name it, NordVPN can unblock it! The provider really has the goods to back up its reputation, easily unblocking a whole range of streaming services from abroad.
3. Surfshark - a great option to spend less
Surfshark offers many of the great features that the above two do, just at a bit of a lower price. If you're willing to commit to a longer term, the cost comes down to less than $2.50 USD per month. That's excellent value on a VPN that's still very good for streamers.
How to choose the best streaming VPN
Much will depend on your TV streaming service of choice. Netflix is the most popular in the world, but also one of the toughest to unlock - it doesn't make it easy to watch films and shows available in the US once you've crossed the border. Prefer BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video? We'll tell you which streaming VPN unblocks which.
The highest placed streaming VPNs on the list also combine lightning fast connection speeds with watertight security. A fast and reliable connection is obviously good for consistent streaming with none of the dreaded buffering. A high server count is also a major boon in terms of finding a good connection.
You’ll also want wide support for various devices, as you may well be viewing content across multiple bits of hardware - from phones and computers, to individual streaming devices like Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. And we also favor streaming VPN providers that have fast, effective 24/7 live chat support - just in case you struggle to get things working.
Best 5 VPNs for streaming in 2022:
ExpressVPN makes your choice very easy when it comes to hunting for the best streaming VPN. It unblocks almost all of the major TV streaming services around the world and always seems to be one step ahead of them trying to prevent you watching from abroad. Netflix, no problem. Hulu, easy. Amazon Prime Video, sure thing.
You can tell that Express takes streaming seriously by the fact that it gives subscribers access to its very own MediaStreamer tool, that's been custom-made to help accessing overseas content even easier.
So whether it's movies, TV shows or sport coverage that you're trying to watch, ExpressVPN's speedy servers are well up to the task. And on those very odd occasions when we struggled, a quick word with one of Express's 24/7 live chat support staff got us connected to a server that worked in no time.
That support has come in particularly handy of late, as Netflix has really stepped up its efforts to prevent VPNs from working with its service. Of all the streaming VPNs we test, Express has been the one that has coped most admirably and you can still use it to access regional-exclusive content in most areas.
ExpressVPN boasts a 3,000 server count spread across 94 countries. In our performance tests, the service achieved consistently solid speeds without much variation throughout the network.
There’s a wide range of native clients including support for Windows, Mac, and Linux, but the service truly shines in the mobile department. There are intuitive apps for iOS, Android, and even BlackBerry, with additional instructions for a number of other devices. Another bonus is that these clients automatically connect to the optimal server to deliver the fastest speeds possible. That's really handy if you're away for business or on holiday and trying to catch stuff on a mobile or tablet.
For security purposes, the software has a kill switch, along with manual or automatic selection of security protocols (OpenVPN, L2TP, IKEv2 and PPTP are supported alongside its new Lightway option). You also get strong 256-bit encryption, zero-knowledge DNS and more. There is zero logging of network traffic such as connection times or IP addresses.
The only of Express's obvious weaknesses is on pricing, as subscriptions are somewhat expensive. That said, ExpressVPN does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. Out of the three plans available, the yearly plan offers the most value (and also gets you three months extra for free).
Get the #1 VPN for streaming with 3 extra months FREE
ExpressVPN's fast, robust connections combined with its adaptability, ease-of-use and servers in multiple countries mean it takes the crown. And it's also fantastic value as you get 3 free months added on for free when you sign up for a one year contract. Plus a year's free use of unlimited cloud backup from Backblaze.
NordVPN’s specific focus on streaming is evident through its SmartPlay technology, a secure proxy service that the provider uses to bypass the geo-restrictions of streaming websites. The feature is enabled in all NordVPN apps by default, automatically rerouting the user’s requests through an appropriate remote server.
In easier-to-understand terms, that means access to dozens of streaming services, including iPlayer, Prime Video, Hulu and YouTube. It's really upped its game on Netflix in recent months, too (after a turbulent 2021), and is generally able to get access to exclusive content on catalogs as varied US, UK, Australia and Japan.
Streaming service providers don't make the work of VPNs all that straight forward, but NordVPN has plenty of explainer guides and support articles (plus, excellent 24/7 live chat support) if you're having issues trying to access your show or TV event of choice.
During our performance testing, we witnessed above-average speeds and laudable consistency, although latency increased on long distance connections. That should mean you'll have no interruptions when you stream - assuming your broadband is up to scratch, of course.
There are around 5,000 servers at your disposal throughout the world. And if downloading a VPN means more to you than mere streaming, then you'll be comforted that this Panama-based provider does well on the security front as well: there's a Double VPN feature that encrypts data twice, sending it through two separate servers; a kill switch; no logs policy; 256-bit encryption; support for all major security protocols. You also get additional options like a dedicated IP address and Onion over VPN.
Save big on multi-year plan
NordVPN is surprisingly well priced for such an awesome piece of software. Assuming you choose a subscription of more than a year, the discounts on show come in at around 70%. And if you sign up and decide within 30 days you don't want it, it will give you your money back without quibble.
Surfshark comfortably unlocked Netflix (in the US UK, Canada, Australia and more), Amazon Prime, Disney+, YouTube, BBC iPlayer and Hulu when we tested it last - so it immediately becomes a key contender in our streaming VPN round-up.
But beyond that, Surfshark has two other tricks up its sleeve to try and make it your VPN of choice. The first of those is the price - it's no surprise at all that Surfshark lands the #1 spot in our guide on cheap VPN providers, as you can get it for an effective monthly price of less than $2.50/£2 for its multi-year plan. Look up and down this list (and any other list you care to find of VPN offers) and you'll be hard pushed to find anybody else that comes close to matching that value.
The second is that one subscription will cover you for unlimited simultaneous connections. So if you really really wanted to, you could use Surfshark to stream on your Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, laptop, Smart TV, games console, Android tablet, iPhone and more all at the same time. More realistically, it just means that you can have it set up on your devices (and those of family and friends) without ever having to worry about not being allowed.
One thing to note is that it recently came to our attention that Surfshark is having issues on Amazon Fire devices. The company knows that it has a problem in this regard and has told us that it's working on a fix. But if that's your TV streaming device of choice, then you're better off choosing an alternative Amazon Fire TV Stick VPN for the time being.
Outside that, Surfshark is really easy to use - perhaps meaning it won't have all the features some power users might require - and has really excellent live chat support if needed. A great choice.
We're really encouraged by the strides ProtonVPN continues to make in this industry, with its unlimited data, free version proving particularly eye-catching.
When it comes to testing VPNs for streaming, Proton is clearly putting in the hard yards to hang with the best of them. We unlocked exclusive Netflix content in multiple regions (no mean feat, these days), crashed through BBC iPlayer's defenses and were even able to watch geo-locked shows on the often tricky Amazon Prime Video.
It's now finally added a live chat support (not 24/7 though), and there are stacks of helpful guides on the ProtonVPN website - there's one apiece for everything from ABC through to Spotify. And if you're a streamer on the go, then you'll be buoyed to hear that ProtonVPN's Android and iOS apps are an excellent adaptation from the standard Windows client and are really a delight to use.
So if you like the look of Proton's straight and to-the-point stylings, then you can do much worse than this provider. Just note that streaming is only available with a ProtonVPN Plus plan - you won't be able to watch anything with a Basic or aforementioned Free plan.
CyberGhost isn't spooked by geo-blocking from streaming sites. It has a lovely big list of all the sites it says it can unblock right there on its website - everything from the obvious (Netflix, Disney Plus) to the more obscure (Hotstar, Zattoo, All 4).
And when we tested CyberGhost in real life unblocking, we weren't disappointed. Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and Disney+ were all grist to its mill. As a Netflix VPN however, you should note that CyberGhost is only so-so at the moment. Yes, it was able to access shows exclusive to the US Netflix catalog last time we looked, but we had no such luck with other regionalized libraries.
This provider is a popular choice for many users and there is definitely a reason behind that. It's easy to use with excellent performance, and the native clients have plenty of features for both newcomers and experts. There aren't many VPNs that can boast around 8,000 servers, either. It's not the be-all-and-end-all, but shows that CyberGhost isn't messing around.
The 45-day money back guarantee has the beating of ExpressVPN and NordVPN and its multi-year subscription is excellent value. When it comes to security, Cyberghost uses the 256-AES encryption, with support for OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP-IPsec, PPTP and speedy WireGuard protocols. The service also blocks ads and tracking and if you're the least bit concerned about snoopers, there's a strict no-logs policy in place, too.
Streaming VPNs FAQ
What is the best streaming VPN 2022?
Right now, the answer to that question is the all-round excellent ExpressVPN. According to our recent testing, it unlocks the lot: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+, YouTube...everything! That's a really impressive track record, but it also benefits from being fantastic to use and making you safer online with a litany of clever security features.
Is a VPN worth it for streaming?
The answer to that question entirely depends on what you want to stream and how often. If you're somebody who has an insatiable appetite for films and box sets and will go to any means to get all the content, then a VPN is an essential tool as it means you can start watching Netflix and Amazon Prime content that may not be available in your location.
Similarly, if you're a massive fan of a particular sport, but the coverage in the country where you live (or are visiting) just isn't up to snuff, then a VPN will help you to watch your favorite team or player with more comprehensive coverage from around the world.
But if you're quite content with watching your domestic TV networks and the streaming services you've paid for, then getting a VPN won't be off too much benefit just for streaming.
What streaming services work with a VPN?
The list is practically endless here - it would probably be quicker to list services that aren't unblockable by a VPN.
From our testing and using VPNs ourselves we've found that you can unblock Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Peacock, BBC iPlayer, Sling TV, DAZN, YouTube, Disney Plus, Fubo, All 4, ITV Hub, and a whole host more domestic networks. If you're a little unsure and don't want to commit to a service without first knowing whether it will work with your streaming service of choice, then we'd recommend going for a VPN with a free trial and put it through its paces risk free.
Can I use a streaming VPN to watch sport?
Absolutely, and over the last few years this has become a really popular reason to get hold of a VPN.
Want to watch the Super Bowl online through your usual domestic broadcaster while abroad? Or without commercials with BBC's Super Bowl coverage? A VPN is the ideal tool to help get around geo-restrictions.
The same goes if you pay for a costly Sky or BT Sport package for the football and want to watch when you're on holiday. Or Aussie cricket and footie fans who just can't get the coverage they need when not Down Under.
In our testing, we've had success using VPNs for a variety of services, including Sky Go, Kayo, DAZN, Star Sports and many, many more.
Should I go for a free streaming VPN?
We'd really advise you to avoid free VPN providers if your main purpose is streaming. They tend to come riddled with data limits and bandwidth restrictions.
Or even you considered one of our favorites - ProtonVPN - it literally won't let you stream when turned on... unless you upgrade to its premium 'Plus' plan. Really not ideal for your streaming needs.