My endeavor to try and obtain access to the American Netflix all started a few weeks ago when I had learned about the British show called Downton Abbey which has been dubbed as both crass and dapper in one neat package starring Maggie Smith. Unfortunately it had been aired at odd hours on PBS up here in Canada, most of which I had missed. A lot of the good torrent websites I used to use had curled up and died in recent weeks so I figured I was out of luck.
However a quick google search told me that Downton Abbey was available on Netflix… US Netflix, that is. So what is a Canadian (who hates buying and activating Vanilla MasterCards) to do?
Much like my fellow Gizmomash writer, Hugo, I too am a Canadian Netflix subscriber. Unlike Hugo, I’ve always been slightly disappointed by what they had to offer to us Canadians. Not to mention, my favorite television shows would just disappear from the lineup before I had a chance to finish watching them – I’m looking at you Catherine Tate!
So I heard about this service run by a few software developers just outside of Toronto called Unblock-US which would make it look like your IP address is coming from somewhere in the States. The service had been around for a bit and was fairly easy to setup. However there was still one major hurdle – how the hell did you buy a US Netflix account?
Well, you had to go buy a Vanilla MasterCard from Shoppers Drug Mart and activate it with a US Address, then plug it into a US Netflix account. Sigh… so many extra steps just to access a bigger Netflix selection. It was easier just to download the torrents of your favourite shows and movies.
A few months ago, things got less complicated, and your Canadian Netflix account now allows you to access Netflix content from within the country you’re currently located in. So you could easily access the US Netflix with your Canadian account so l0ng as you were accessing it from an American computer.
So this is where Unblock-US comes in – it’s a simple, cheap, and easy service allowing you to convince the Netflix servers that you’re actually streaming in content from an American IP address.
How simple is it? Simple enough that you’ll be accessing the US Netflix within 2 minutes of signing up. You can set up the service on nearly any device that can run Netflix within a matter of seconds, all with really simple instructions. You see, all you have to do is add in 2 DNS servers (which are assigned uniquely to you when you sign up) and the setup page shows you how to do it for nearly every device you can think of. iPads, iPods, Tablets, PS3s, Xboxes, Wiis, PSVitas, Nintendo 3DSs, Laptops, Desktops, Macbooks, anything!
The service only costs a measly $5 a month (on top of your Netflix account, of course) and you can easily sign up for a one week trial just to see how things go. Also, since you’re spoofing an American IP address, you’ll also have access to all the American content on websites like Comedy Central, CBS, MTV, and you can even buy a Hulu account too, though you will need to do the Vanilla MasterCard thing.
So once that’s all said and done, how is the US Netflix? Well the selection of shows and movies are nearly endless. Yes, there is Downton Abbey and also Doctor Who, but there’s also the trashy Jersey Shore, Keeping up with the Kardashians, and a slew of TLC reality shows such as Strange Sex. I was also pleasantly surprised to see How It’s Made and Mythbusters on there too, as they were on the Canadian Netflix for a while but had been taken down recently with a bunch of other Discovery channel stuff. Most big network television series are on Netflix, usually with episodes available up to the end of the previously aired season. Some big ones as 30 Rock, Greys Anatomy, Glee, Parks and Rec, and South Park. They even had every episode of Lost. Sadly there aren’t many challenge/game related reality TV shows like Survivor, The Apprentice, Amazing Race, America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway… The only thing comparable to the last two that’s on Netflix has to be RuPaul’s Drag Race.
There are some complete collections of older television shows from Fox like Malcolm in the Middle and Married with Children, but I couldn’t find ones from any other network like Golden Girls, Full House, Who’s the Boss, or any other ABC and NBC sitcoms from the late 80s/early 90s.
The movie selection is a step up from the Canadian Netflix but there were still some oddities due to licensing – like why is there the second Ghostbusters and Narnia movie, but not the first ones?
Another bump in the road, which I’ve experienced, has been with my PS3 is that it’s nearly impossible to connect to Netflix with the device during prime time hours. This means I can’t easily access Netflix on my PS3 between the hours of 6pm til 10pm. I’m not sure why this is because the service still loads up fine on my iPad and desktop computer during those hours.
All in all, if you’re a Canadian Netflix subscriber, you really have nothing to lose by giving Unblock-US a try and checking out what the American Netflix has to offer. At least give the free trial week a try.