Streaming services may not be a novelty anymore, but it’s no secret that the industry is definitely a lot more different than it was when it first started a decade or so ago. Hence, while it is true that you have access to a lot more content today than ever before, it is also true that you are pretty much forced to juggle multiple subscriptions in order to watch your favorite shows.
As such, Netflix is no longer the only game in town when it comes to movies and TV shows, and the same goes for a variety of other services, including things like music streaming and sports streaming. New services pop up all the time, and their goal is to sell their own content instead of allowing Netflix to provide it to its users.
Because of this, you now have competing services like HBO Go, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer, each one of which requires a separate subscription. Not only that, but they also lock certain shows or movies depending on the country you happen to be in, which means that even if a movie is available to US viewers, it may not be available to you in a different part of the world.
Not only that, but certain services do not even allow you to sign-up for a subscription in the first place, which makes it impossible for you to watch something, even if you are willing to pay for it.
Thankfully, there are solutions to these problems. One of these solutions is to make use of a VPN in order to mask your real location, which allows you to unblock the desired content regardless of where you are on the globe.
Naturally, there are some drawbacks, and it’s worth pointing out that not all VPNs are good enough to fool streaming services. In fact, some of them can detect that you are using a VPN and deny you access, which is why our article will focus only on the VPNs that are capable of bypassing these restrictions.
What makes a good VPN for streaming?
To begin with, you must first be aware of the things you have to research before picking the best VPN for unlocking streaming websites. Some of them are more important than others, but there are a few things you should keep in mind while making a choice, especially if you also want to use the VPN in question for other things, such as torrenting, or general web browsing.
Hence, the first and most important thing is to make sure that the chosen VPN is actually capable of unlocking the service you are interested in. Some may work for Netflix but not so much for HBO Go, while others are better when it comes to sports streaming. Thus, you should first check the VPN’s official website and see whether it provides you with access to the desired streaming platform.
After that, you should also keep in mind the fact that a good connection speed is important when it comes to streaming, especially if you want to watch movies at very high-quality settings. Hence, the bit rates for 1080p and 4K are pretty high, and if the VPN server is not able to match that speed you will experience a lot of buffering and lag. In fact, it can even be impossible to stream something in 4K if the VPN is not able to provide you with the necessary bandwidth.
After that, you should also make sure that the VPN is available for the platform you want to use for watching the desired content. Thankfully, most of the VPNs on our list provide support for a variety of devices, including things like smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, and even routers.
How to choose a VPN for streaming
After you learn what makes a VPN good for streaming, it’s time to make a choice, and we have a bit of advice for you in this regard as well.
First off, you should read the VPN’s terms and conditions and make sure that the service is not against region unlocking. As you might suspect, this is actually one of the selling features for most VPNs, so most services actually market the fact that they can provide you with unrestricted access to websites like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Secondly, you should also watch out for any bandwidth limitations, because streaming high-quality content usually amounts to a hefty amount of data transferred every month. Most VPNs do not put a cap on your connection, however, so it shouldn’t be an issue regardless of what service you decide to go with.
In order to avoid detection, a good VPN will also include obfuscated servers as well, which allow the app to make your traffic look like regular traffic to any website. This prevents platforms like Netflix from detecting that you are using a VPN, which is obviously a great feature to have under the circumstances. Naturally, you should take into consideration the fact that this type of protection can slow down your connection quite a bit.
Furthermore, it’s also wise to check how many devices can VPN support at once. Since you are very likely to share a Netflix account with your family – not to mention the fact that you may also be using multiple devices at the same time – you need to make sure that the VPN does not interfere with your activities by blocking some of your devices.
Lastly, a good split-tunneling feature would also be useful if your only goal is to use the VPN to unlock streaming services. Thus, if you are not worried about the rest of your Internet activity and you do not want to slow down your regular web use, then a split-tunneling feature allows you to white-list certain apps in order for them to take full advantage of your regular connection, without being slowed down by the VPN.
The best VPNs for streaming in 2020
As you might suspect, there’s definitely more than one option to go for if you are looking for the best VPN in this category, which is why we provide you with five different choices that we think are best suited for streaming. Since we go in quite a bit of detail for each pick on our list, you can save some time by using the links down below in order to jump from one VPN to the other.
In order to assess all the VPNs on our list at a glance and take a look at their features, you can compare them using the table below.
Given the fact that ExpressVPN does so many things right, it’s no surprise that the VPN is also very good when it comes to unlocking streaming content on a variety of websites. Not only that, but ExpressVPN also allows you to get access to a variety of other extra features that come packed with the app. Thus, you do not have to compromise your security or your anonymity just to be able to watch a movie.
To begin with, the fact that you get access to servers from every continent is definitely a huge advantage, especially if you are trying to unlock regional content in a less popular country. This is a godsend for people trying to watch sports streams, because it’s usually pretty difficult to find a VPN with enough servers around the world in order to cover certain regions.
However, that’s not to say that you don’t also get access to popular services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. In fact, ExpressVPN is more than capable to bypass region restrictions on every major streaming platform, and the best part is that you do not have to do anything too complicated while you’re at it. Hence, a simple click on the desired server is all you need to do in order to gain access.
As mentioned before, however, ExpressVPN is a lot more than a simple Netflix unlocker. Thus, besides the obligatory kill switch to protect your identity in case of a server failure, you also get a split-tunneling feature. In case you are not familiar with the concept, split-tunneling allows you to manually disable the VPN rerouting for certain apps, which comes in handy if you want to play online games without the added VPN latency.
Furthermore, the VPN is also quite generous in terms of protocol choices. Although you can keep it on automatic and let the app choose the best solution, you can also manually set it to UDP, TCP, IKEv2, and L2TP IPsec. Keep in mind that these protocols have specific uses, however, and not all of them are particularly helpful with streaming.
In terms of bandwidth, ExpressVPN does not impose any kind of limit on your connection, which means that you are free to watch as much content as you wish. Not only that, but the download and upload speeds are great as well, which allows you to easily stream movies at high resolutions without worrying about buffering or video jittering.
+ Great selection of servers all over the world
+ A good choice for all kinds of streaming preferences, including sports
+ Multiple protocols to choose from
+ Amazing download speeds, which allows for high bit rates when streaming videos
– Does not come with dedicated servers for specific streaming platforms
– Can be a bit expensive
Even if you are not an advocate for Internet privacy, it’s difficult to imagine that you haven’t heard of NordVPN yet. This is mostly because the company behind the service spent a lot of money on marketing and advertising, which allowed NordVPN to become almost synonymous with VPN in the last couple of years. Thankfully, the service itself is very good in every regard, so you are not being fooled by the ads in any way.
In fact, NordVPN does almost everything right, which includes the ability to unlock content on a variety of streaming platforms. Thus, you can easily use the massive list of servers to change your IP location to whatever country you wish, which allows you to get access to content available only in countries like USA, Canada, UK, or many other European countries.
One of the VPN’s greatest strengths is perhaps the incredibly intuitive user interface because you can visually see the location of the chosen server on the world map. Not only that, but you can easily switch servers with a simple click, which is a lot easier than scrolling through lengthy lists. Furthermore, the VPN also automatically searches for the best server for your connection, which helps a lot in terms of speed and latency.
Speaking of which, the high-quality servers provided by NordVPN allow you to watch your favorite streams in pretty much any resolution you want without experiencing any lag or long buffering times. To make things even better, there are also no bandwidth limits to worry about, which means that you can binge your favorite shows for hours on end without keeping track of any traffic quotas.
As far as extra features are concerned, NordVPN comes fully packed with a variety of other tools and options that improve your online experience. Among them is also the CyberSec feature, which is a kind of anti-malware add-on that keeps you safe from various threats you might be exposed to while browsing the web.
In addition, you also get access to a couple of cool specialty servers, including a handful that are dedicated to P2P traffic. Not only that, but you also have the possibility to use a double VPN option, which makes you even harder to track, although this also takes a toll on your connection speed, which means that it’s not recommended for streaming purposes.
+ More than enough servers and locations to satisfy everyone
+ Specialty servers for a variety of purposes
+ Great speeds that facilitate video streaming
+ Very intuitive user interface
– No split-tunneling abilities
– A pretty high monthly subscription price
CyberGhost is one of the three leading names on the VPN market, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you will find it on most of our lists as well. In fact, CyberGhost is one of the best VPNs you can get for streaming, especially since it provides you with a variety of advantages when it comes to unblocking regional content in a multitude of countries and on a plethora of streaming platforms.
To begin with, the list of dedicated servers has a Streaming section, which is populated with more than enough options to satisfy every need. Thus, you can even unlock Netflix depending on the country, which means that you can view content from France, UK, USA, and a few other locations. Not only that, but the same applies to platforms like YouTube Red, ESPN+, Pandora, Amazon Prime, and a hefty selection of sports channels.
In order to help you organize these servers even more easily, CyberGhost also allows you to add them to a list of favorites. Thanks to this, you do not have to go through the long list of all the options every time you want to switch from one to the other, which saves you a lot of time.
Speed-wise, CyberGhost is definitely more than able to handle whatever you throw at it in terms of resolution and bit rate, even if the service sometimes struggles with direct download speeds. Thankfully, the dedicated streaming servers are optimized to provide you with a smooth viewing experience, so it’s highly unlikely that you have to deal with nasty buffering issues or dropped connections.
When it comes to pure VPN capabilities, CyberGhost can wrestle with the best of them, especially in terms of protocol support, kill switches and smart app control. Thus, besides the fact that your Internet connection is automatically disabled whenever the VPN server goes down, you can also choose which websites to be exempt from the VPN routing. This allows you to avoid unnecessary lag on certain websites if you are not worried about privacy while browsing them.
Speaking of which, malware protection is embedded in the app as well, given the fact that there are multiple optional features that can be enabled in order to avoid attacks or scammers. In fact, there is even an integrated ad-blocker, which means that you do not have to rely on your browser extension anymore, especially since this will also work inside other apps as well.
+ Great selection of dedicated servers for streaming
+ Good streaming quality without too much buffering
+ Integrated ad-blocker and anti-malware protection
+ A very generous list of servers spread all over the globe
– Although a kill switch option is present, it cannot be deactivated (although this may be a good thing)
– Download speeds are pretty slow when you are not streaming
– Does not come with obfuscated servers
Surfshark is one of the friendliest VPN alternatives for newcomers, especially since it allows virtually anyone to quickly get started in terms of online privacy and anonymity. However, that doesn’t mean it’s less powerful than its competition, because it offers a very attractive feature package that includes everything you could want from a good VPN.
Naturally, this includes good streaming capabilities, which is why it’s on our list as well. Thus, besides the hefty collection of servers to choose from, Surfshark is also able to fool almost every streaming platform out there, which allows you to watch region-blocked content on Netflix, HBO Go, and a variety of other services.
Unfortunately, you do not get access to dedicated servers for this purpose, so you will have to manually browse the server list in order to find the one you are interested in. On the other hand, the good news is that everything works as intended once you are connected, which means that your VPN will not be detected by the websites you are trying to access.
As far as speed is concerned, Surfshark is more than able to carry the weight of high bit rates and provide you with crystal-clear streams, even if you have to switch continents in order to access the desired content. This is true regardless of the platform you are using to watch your favorite content, so it doesn’t matter whether you are using Netflix, Disney+, or something like Amazon Prime.
Since a good VPN should be able to do more for you than unblock streaming services, Surfshark also comes with a great selection of advanced settings and options. Thus, you get the trusty kill switch that protects you from server outages, as well as a split-tunneling feature that helps you avoid slowing down apps in which privacy is not a concern. Not only that, but you even get the option to white-list certain IP addresses, which is not something most VPNs allow you to do.
Another interesting feature is the possibility to use a static IP. This won’t be of much use for the majority of VPN users, but it’s definitely something that some people are looking for. If you are not familiar with what a static IP is, the short version is that the VPN allows you to keep the same IP address for as long as you want, which allows you to host websites and do a variety of other things that are not possible on a regular VPN connection.
+ Split-tunneling for apps, websites and IP addresses
+ The option to use a static IP address
+ Successfully unblocks the majority of streaming services on the market
+ Very intuitive user interface
– You don’t have access to a dedicated list of servers for streaming
– Not as many servers and locations as you would get from other VPNs
IVPN is one of the other major players in the VPN business, which means that you get all the guarantees that come with the brand’s prestige, including the security of knowing that the service will be around for a long time in the future. However, IVPN is also a very fast and reliable VPN on its own, so you do not have to worry about losing out by going with it instead of the other popular services on the market.
In terms of streaming and unlocking blocked content, IVPN is definitely able to work with services based in the US, such as Netflix and Amazon, but it may run into trouble with platforms based in other countries, such as BBC iPlayer. Thus, keep that mind when making your choice, especially if you want access to streaming services that are based in the UK.
In terms of servers, you get access to hundreds of them to spread all over the world, which should allow you to also watch certain country-specific streams. The download speeds are also on par with the competition, which makes for great stream quality and no connectivity issues while trying to watch something at high resolutions.
On the other hand, it’s worth pointing out that you shouldn’t use the Multi-hop feature while watching videos online, because your traffic is being rerouted through multiple servers. This puts a significant strain on your connection, and it can make it next to impossible to enjoy a movie without lengthy buffering periods. In fact, the videos may not even start playing if your speed drops below a certain threshold.
IVPN has more to offer than a decent streaming quality, however. One of the more interesting features is the AntiTracker, which is designed to help you stay hidden from Google and Facebook tracking. Not only that, but you also get an included firewall extension, which can block malware threats and prevent hackers from gaining access to your computer if you happen to land on a sketchy website.
Lastly, IVPN does not provide you with a list of dedicated servers, unfortunately, so you have to manually pick the desired location in order to unlock services based in that country. This is not a huge problem, but it would definitely be nice to have more tailored options when it comes to servers specifically designed for Netflix, YouTube, and various other services.
+ Includes a firewall and an anti-tracker feature that keeps you safe from attacks and malware
+ The multi-hop feature comes in handy if you ever need extra security
+ The streaming quality is very good, thanks to the great servers
+ Supports both OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols
– No dedicated servers for streaming services
– Does not seem to work with BBC iPlayer
All things considered, 2020 is a great year for streaming enthusiasts, especially since VPN services have gotten a lot better when it comes to unblocking content and bypassing restrictions. Our picks are some of the best in the industry, but the truth of the matter is that many other VPNs are also capable of this, which means that it’s not difficult at all to find something that does the job.
On the other hand, our picks also guarantee the fact that you will be able to watch the desired content without connectivity or buffering issues, which is not something most VPNs can do. Thus, it’s up to you to make the final choice, while keeping in mind what you learn from our article.