Friday, 15 January 2016 08:29

Netflix to block proxy users – geo-blocking to be enforced

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Netflix services about 190 nations. It has announced that it will prevent VPN/proxy users from circumventing country-based content licencing restrictions.

In a blog post titled ‘Evolving Proxy Detection as a Global service’ David Fullagar, Netflix’s VP of Content Delivery Architecture, said, “We are making progress in licensing content across the world… but we have a way to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere. For now, given the historic practice of licensing content by geographic territories, the TV shows and movies we offer differ, to varying degrees, by territory. In the meantime, we will continue to respect and enforce content licensing by geographic location.”

“Some members use proxies or unblockers to access titles available outside their territory. To address this, we employ the same or similar measures other firms do. This technology continues to evolve and we are evolving with it. In the coming weeks, those users will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are. We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies.”

Netflix’s terms of use forbid the use of proxies or other bypass mechanisms. “You may view a movie or TV show through the Netflix service… only in geographic locations where we offer our service and have licensed such movie or TV show.”

That has not stopped tens of millions of ‘international’ consumers using proxies to access Netflix’s full catalogue (usually US content that has recent full seasons and twice as much content than its neighbour Canada).

The move by Netflix to rigorously enforce geographical content-licensing rights indicates that it’s responding to studio and content partners concerned that viewership of movies and shows via Netflix from non-licensed territories will impinge their other distribution deals in those areas. The company may also be seeking to limit account-sharing among subscribers.

A study in January 2015 by GlobalWebIndex showed at that time 21.6 million proxy users were in China alone (Netflix does not provide a service there). In Australia the number of proxy users (with an international account) is unknown but estimates range from about 300,000 to 700,000 on top of the legitimate users.

Netflix does not reveal subscriber numbers. So let’s rewind 12 months when Roy Morgan Research stated that long time pay TV monopoly Foxtel had about 2 million users. Since then many have either added Netflix (or Stan etc.) or gone over solely to Netflix (cut the cable).

According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in June 2015 Australia had around 2.5 million legitimate SVOD (streaming video on demand) users. A proportion of those are ‘free trial’ users but the take up rate is high.

The Netflix effect is credited with massive increases in internet traffic - at last count up to 50% - in Australia and importantly across the submarine links to the USA where local users use VPN/proxies to access US content.

How Netflix plans to block proxy users is unknown but recent Australian reports indicate that those using a Chromecast dongle (or similar) have not been able to access the service.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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