With a credit card, a broadband connection, some (usually) simple instructions, and using one or more of a selection of clever applications or browser plug-ins, South Africans can subscribe to US video streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu and music services like Pandora.
Netflix and Hulu present a major challenge to cable TV providers in the markets in which they operate. Rather than paying substantial monthly fees for hundreds of channels, many of which subscribers don’t want, people in supported regions can pay less than US$10/month and watch as many TV series or movies as they like.
Although these services aren’t yet available in South Africa — at least not yet — the good news is that it’s possible to fool them into thinking you live in a supported territory.
There are a few ways to do this, some more tricky than others, but the principle is the same. Usually, it involves using a virtual private network, or VPN, to make your Internet protocol (IP) address appear to be in another region, such as the US.
Getting consoles or mobile devices to work requires some trickery, with third-party services and changes to domain settings, but the by far the simplest method is using a streaming service on a laptop or PC and hooking it up to a TV using HDMI, DVI or VGA cables. A dedicated media computer — an Apple Mac Mini or even a cheap PC — is ideal for the job.
The easiest way to stream to a laptop or dedicated PC is to use a browser plug-in that allows you to sign up for the services as if you were in the US. Neither Hulu or Netflix mind where your credit card is registered, so once you’ve signed up, paying the monthly subscription fee is no obstacle. For music fans, Pandora also doesn’t require a US billing address, but it’s worth noting that music streaming service Spotify does and thus won’t work here unless you can supply appropriate billing information.
Media Hint makes you appear to be in the US, while Hola Unblocker allows you to choose from a number of regions, including the UK, which may be useful for those wanting to make use of the BBC’s iPlayer service.
Once installed, signing up is as simple as visiting the Netflix or Hulu websites. Netflix offers new customers a month free, while Hulu offers a week — more than enough time to decide which is best for you. It only takes a few clicks to cancel your subscription before the end of the trial period.
An alternative method is to use a standalone VPN application like TunnelBear, which achieves the same thing, but offers a wider selection of countries. TunnelBear offers users 1,5GB of free data a month, while unlimited data costs $4,99/month (or $49,99/year).
Other services such as Tunlr, HideIPVN and UnoTelly allow you to route your traffic through their servers to the same end. One of the perks of these services is that they provide instructions for connecting almost everything you can think of: Macs, PCs, Linux boxes, Apple TVs, iOS and Android devices, and gaming consoles like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
There are plenty of good reasons, beyond the costs, of using streaming services. One is that you get the latest shows and movies as they’re released in the US. Another is that both Netflix and Hulu learn from your viewing patterns and recommend content based on what you’ve already watched. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media