In recent years, VPN usage has rapidly grown in popularity, and it’s little wonder why. Adding an extra layer of encryption to your internet traffic, your online presence is kept more private and secure from prying eyes when using this software. But one of the most exciting reasons to use a VPN is for streaming.
Able to hide your real IP address and 'spoof' your global location, the right VPN can enable you to bypass commonplace limitations that can come with streaming, such as geo-blocked content and bandwidth throttling. This promises the possibility of more flexible streaming, as well as getting the most out of the platforms you already pay for.
If you love to watch online content and want to find out how a VPN can broaden your streaming horizons in more detail, then read on as we explain the key benefits that a streaming VPN can unlock.
Our number #1 rated streaming provider is ExpresssVPN
From Netflix to Disney, HBO Max to Hulu, BBC iPlayer to ITV, and pretty much every other streaming service around the world - ExpressVPN consistently finds a way around the geo-restrictions these services put in place. And you can try it risk-free thanks to its 30-day, no quibbles money back guarantee.
1. Access geo-restricted services like BBC iPlayer
Due to the competitive nature of securing licensing agreements across the globe, geo-blocked content is an unavoidable feature of all the main streaming services - such as BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, and Hulu, where the former is only available to those based in the UK, and the latter two for those in the US. As a result, you might be unable to stream your favorite movies and TV shows while abroad or find that certain overseas content is blocked at home.
While Hulu titles usually find themselves dropping on services such as Disney Plus in other regions, for example, there are also platforms like Paramount Plus that don't have direct partner services elsewhere around the globe. Where can you watch exclusives like the iCarly revival, then?
The good news is that a great streaming VPN (such as ExpressVPN) can bypass these blocks by making it appear like you’re accessing region-restricted content from an approved location. This is achieved by redirecting your internet traffic, via an encrypted tunnel, to a suitably placed server elsewhere.
If you're abroad and want to catch up on the latest BBC historic drama then, or keep up with Eastenders, you can hop on a UK server and watch BBC iPlayer as if you were right at home. You can even watch Love Island on ITV Hub and keep up with your reality TV fix while sunning yourself outside of the UK.
What’s more, these VPNs provide a multitude of server locations, which means you can consistently bypass restrictions and enjoy fast connection speeds - no matter where you’re streaming from.
2. Watch exclusive titles on Netflix around the world
Following on from the above, it's also worth noting that streaming platforms and their libraries of content differ from region to region, including on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. For those based in the US with a Netflix account, you won't be able to watch Friends in its entirety, or Rick and Morty when you search for it. Instead, you'll be faced with related titles that just won't cut it.
Of course, it goes both ways. Netflix has a global market with each country awarded its own exclusive titles, with TV shows and movies on Canadian Netflix not necessarily available on Japanese Netflix, and so on.
Luckily, the best Netflix VPN will allow you to make the most of your subscription, with our tried and tested recommendations opening the gates up to Netflix libraries in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and Japan. From here you can watch region exclusive titles like Sesame Street, Radium Girls, and Green Street.
It's just worth noting that using a VPN when watching Netflix is a direct contradiction of the streamer's Ts&Cs. We've never heard of anybody having their subscription suspended before, but it's worth knowing the risk.
3. Get front row seats to live sports
Much like TV shows and movies, sporting events may be broadcast by set channels - and, in some instances, there won't be broadcasting options at all. Whether you're into a niche sport or have a preference when it comes to the coverage you like to watch and its commentary, you may struggle to tune into certain live streams. Whether this is down to being out of the country or missing out on a regional broadcast altogether, you'll likely come face-to-face with geo-restrictions.
However, with the right VPN, you can catch every last moment of a match, race, or tournament. Looking to watch Euro 2020 on Sling TV with your Sing Orange package while outside of the US? No problem with the right VPN.
You can also use a VPN when it comes to streaming to secure better prices and free trials for particular services. DAZN for instance, is cheaper in certain regions. In the UK, it only costs £1.99 a month, while Canadian customers can benefit from DAZN free trial of 30 days. Meanwhile in the US you'll pay a steep $20 a month, with no free trial in sight.
Of course, it's also worth noting big global events like the aforementioned Euro 2020 tournament, as well as Wimbledon are free to watch in certain regions including the UK across BBC and ITV. With a VPN, you can appear as if you're in that region and not have to pay a thing for the coverage you want.
4. Tune into live TV
Plenty of streaming platforms now offer the ability to tune into TV airing in that moment. You can benefit from Hulu and its Hulu + Live TV package. Sling TV hosts 50+ US TV channels as an alternative to cashing out for extortionate cable packages, allowing you to tune into NBC, BBC America, E!, ESPN Plus and many more.
Services like Paramount Plus, as well as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub allow you to watch TV live on smartphones, tablets, media streamers, consoles, and so on. Much like their on-demand libraries, however, these are geo-locked. Trying to access them outside of the US or UK is futile.
Much like with sport events, though, a VPN allows you to watch TV live no matter where you are and no matter what device you're on.
5. You can securely stream on public Wi-Fi networks
Anything to ration the sacred monthly data allowance on your phone, you've likely found yourself connecting to public Wi-Fi where you can - especially when it comes to streaming, which eats up mobile data. Whether you've found a moment to yourself in a café and fancy catching up on some TV, or you're killing in time waiting for boarding at an airport terminal, then, you'll want to use a public Wi-Fi network to stream.
That being said, public Wi-Fi networks are often not secure, making them a perfect place for hackers and snoopers to target unsuspecting users and steal sensitive data. Therefore, it’s essential that you use a VPN with high-level encryption, and handy security features like a kill switch, so you won't be left vulnerable if and when connection drops.
Although any responsible streaming service will encrypt their platform/website with a secure HTTPS extension, you should still add a secondary layer of VPN protection so your user account(s) and login details for streaming remain out of the harmful reach of cybercriminals.
Fortunately, many of our top VPN recommendations for unblocking streaming platforms also sit in our most secure VPN best list, including NordVPN.
6. You can avoid buffering issues
Buffering might be a problem you rarely encounter when streaming. But it’s irritating when it happens. Thankfully, a decent streaming VPN can help to reduce the chances of buffering occurring.
As streaming is an online activity that can take up a lot of bandwidth, your internet service provider (ISP) may try to counteract potential network congestion by reducing your connection speed.
The result? Lagging pages and the dreaded buffering screen, meaning you may have to succumb to a stop-start viewing experience, or have to pause and wait for whatever you're watching to completely load before proceeding. Not ideal. This is known as bandwidth throttling which, when applied, can cause prolonged buffering issues.
Thankfully, the encryption you get with a good-quality VPN keeps your internet activity effectively hidden from your ISP. As a result, you’re much less likely to experience bandwidth throttling when streaming with a VPN. It's also pretty handy when it comes to things like gaming, too, with a whole host of VPN for gaming options out there.
7. Stream across multiple devices with a VPN
Let's face it, very few of us are that precious these days about the art of watching
a movie anymore. Once upon a time - a long, long time ago - a TV was the symbol of family time, all gathering around the bulky set to watch the evening broadcast. Nowadays, we'll squint down at our smartphone while watching another episode of The Office on the commute to work, or lug an iPad to catch up on our favorite reality TV, sitting poolside on vacation. But what does that mean in terms of why a VPN is great for streaming?
Well, most VPN providers offer simultaneous connections for one subscription, meaning you can stretch your five connections available with an ExpressVPN plan across five different devices. So whether you're balancing your laptop on your knees with Netflix in bed, or you use your gaming console to give your TV smart functionality, you'll be able to install your VPN and make the use of its geo-unblocking (and security) benefits across devices.
Feeling generous? You can even share your VPN login details with your household to reap the benefits of a VPN subscription - making it that bit better value for money. Some VPNs even offer up to 10 connections, such as Private Internet Access, or unlimited connections with Surfshark.
Considering a VPN for streaming?
If you’re the sort of person who loves to stream, it's definitely worth considering opting for one of the best streaming VPN services, as you’ll be able to significantly enhance your content viewing experience.
With a VPN, you can access geo-blocked content on your favorite streaming platforms, no matter where you are around the world. You can also reliably evade bandwidth throttling and maintain swift connection speeds, bidding farewell to buffering. Of course, a decent VPN will keep your internet data safe if you choose to stream on public Wi-Fi networks.
Regarding the law and whether using a VPN to stream is legal, it’s understandable if you’ve been a little put off. However, rest assured, most countries permit using them for this purpose - you'll just want to take a look at what individual streaming platforms say and use at your own risk.
- Outside of the UK? Check out the best iPlayer VPN
- Back to basics: what is a VPN and what do they do?
- Select from the best Netflix movies you can stream right now