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Why It Just Got Harder to Trick Netflix

If you’ve been using a proxy to watch Netflix’s catalog in other countries, sorry: The free-for-all is over

If you’re among those Netflix customers eager to stream “The Jungle Book” and other Disney movies the moment they’re available, you’d better not book a lot of trips abroad.

The company says that in the coming weeks, it will change its treatment of VPNs or proxies — sometimes referred to as “unblockers” — that keep the company from tracking where viewers really are.

Proxies act like middle men between Netflix and the person clicking play. They can make it seem like you’re in a different country, which lets you watch shows unavailable to Netflix users in your region.

But the wild times are over. No more tricking Netflix into thinking you’re in the US when you’re traveling in Mexico, vacationing in the south of France, or sitting at on a couch in South Korea.
But wait, you say: Why can’t I watch whatever, wherever?
Because old habits are hard to break, especially when they rake in cash. Most companies that make TV shows and movies cling to release standards that unlock content in one region at a time, even on Netflix.

Thursday’s move is one side effect of Netflix’s expansion into 130 countries last week, and it underscores how the company’s agenda sometimes runs into awkward gaps.

Case in point: the company’s landmark deal with Disney, which this year will give Netflix users access to Marvel and Pixar films — but only if they live in the U.S. Netflix made the Disney deal in 2012, before its ambitions were global.
Netflix’s ultimate goal is to grow so powerful that regional distinctions will become a thing of the past.

Netflix is the first and biggest content-rights buyer asking to play video in every territory at the same time. Ted Sarandos, the company’s head of content, noted last month that studios’ licensing operations aren’t even structured to handle that request.

“It’s something all of our studio partners are struggling with,” he said, speaking at an investor conference.
So how long will it be before you can stream anything, anywhere?
People who live or travel outside the US will have the longest to wait before the full scope of Netflix’s catalog is available to them.
People in the US are fortunate, in that Netflix’s license deals with top studios and programmers tend to prioritize availability inside the US earlier than in other markets.
Superfans of Netflix’s originals are in luck, too. One of Netflix’s prime motivations for its aggressive $5 billion original content budget is global licenses. The company’s recent originals have had global licenses baked in.