One of the most popular online activities today is streaming. Whether it’s video, music, podcasts or games, most people stream something nearly every day.
Netflix had nearly 118 million streaming subscribers worldwide at the beginning of 2018. Hulu has over 28 million subscribers in the U.S. alone. (Hulu is only available in the U.S. and Japan.) The music streaming industry is led by Spotify (43 million subscribers) and Apple Music (21 million subscribers).
Now for the bad news/good news portion of our show.
The bad news: Most streaming content is restricted to certain regions of the world. So, what you can watch on Netflix in the U.S. isn’t necessarily available for viewing in other countries. Plus, in some obnoxiously restrictive countries (like China), streaming services can be blocked entirely.
The good news: There is a way to break through those geo-barriers and view or listen to whatever you want, wherever you want.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) provides the best way to access blocked streaming content thanks to its IP address-“spoofing” abilities. A VPN can “spoof” the location of a user by assigning their connected device a new, temporary IP address. This makes it possible for the user to access content that is available only in the “spoofed” location.
A VPN also provides encryption for your internet connection, preventing nosy nellies like your Internet Service Provider (ISP), the government or hackers from tracking your online travels.
Here are the 5 best VPNs for streaming to your heart’s content.
Best VPNs for Streaming
I ran all of my favorite VPN providers through an extensive battery of tests. The results proved these 5 VPNs provide the optimal streaming experience. Here’s a summary:
- ExpressVPN: This provider has proven to be among the best in unblocking geo-restricted content around the globe. Its fast connection speeds are the best on this list and can easily handle HD and 4K content. It provides optimal security and privacy protections.
- NordVPN: Another provider with proven content-unblocking power, fast connections, and excellent privacy and security protection. HD streams won’t be a problem when you’re using this provider.
- CyberGhost: This provider’s low prices will leave plenty of dough for subscriptions to your favorite streaming providers, and their reliable and fast connections will ensure an enjoyable streaming experience.
- IPVanish: Great streaming performance is just the start with this provider. The service also provides an added layer of security with its self-owned and -operated server network.
- PrivateVPN: This provider may be rather new on the scene, but it has quickly gained a reputation for offering reliable unblocking power. While its server count is well below the industry average, the provider does an optimal job of making the best of what it has available.
All of the providers on this list easily meet Netflix’s connection speed requirements for HD streaming, and 4 out of the 5 meet the Netflix 4K (UHD) connection speed requirement.
I evaluated and ranked the top streaming VPNs using the following criteria:
- Ability to unblock geo-blocked streaming content
- Global server coverage
- Fast download speeds (HD and 4K HDR)
- Strength of privacy and security protections
- Multi-platform support
- Customer support
Here’s my list of the top 5 VPNs to enhance and protect your streaming sessions.
ExpressVPN is the streaming champ. The provider’s well-protected connection speeds are the fastest on this list, and their comprehensive global server coverage offers access to geo-blocked content around the globe.
Over 3,000 servers in 94 countries around the world mean ExpressVPN delivers access to Netflix in numerous locations around the globe, as well as BBC iPlayer and U.S. streams of Hulu and Amazon Prime.
ExpressVPN’s connection speeds can easily handle the 4K streams that many streaming providers offer, and there are no data caps or bandwidth restrictions.
Those super-fast connections are protected by military-grade encryption. Privacy is also never a concern, as ExpressVPN sticks to a strict no-logs policy and offers a Bitcoin payment option.
ExpressVPN offers apps for the Windows, iOS, macOS, Android, Linux and Amazon Fire TV device platforms. Extensions for the Chrome and Firefox browser platforms are also available.
The provider’s MediaStreamer DNS service opens access to blocked content on the Apple TV, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Samsung Smart TV and other set-top streaming box and gaming platforms. (Note: this service does not encrypt your connection.)
If none of ExpressVPN’s other protection options work for your device, you can take advantage of the provider’s extensive router support to protect all of your connected devices. It also helps you get around the service’s 5 concurrent connection allowance. Pre-configured routers are available.
Customer support is well covered thanks to a 24/7 support chat offering, email support, a trouble ticket system and a searchable support library.
- Connection speeds easily handle HD & 4K video requirements
- Comprehensive app support
- Excellent security and privacy protections
- Above-average global server coverage
- Proven content-unblocking power
- Priced higher than other VPN providers
BEST VPN FOR STREAMING:ExpressVPN is my top choice to enhance and protect your streaming binges. With the fastest speeds in this roundup and wide-ranging global server coverage, ExpressVPN does a top-notch job of enhancing your streaming options. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN also provides an excellent option for protecting and elevating your video and music streaming sessions. In addition to plenty of content access power, the provider also ensures your online antics are protected and kept private.
NordVPN has the key to unlock content in most regions of the globe, with over 5,200 servers located in 60 countries. Coverage like that will open regional content to Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and plenty of other services.
No worries about NordVPN’s connection speeds keeping up with your favorite streaming service, as their speedy, well-protected connections will provide buffer-free music and video for as long as you desire. No data caps or bandwidth limitations to be found here.
Military-level encryption keeps your online activities hidden from sight, while the provider’s promise to never keep activity logs and their willingness to accept Bitcoin for subscription payments provide all-encompassing privacy protections.
NordVPN has most popular app platforms covered, with apps for the Windows, iOS, macOS, Android, Linux and Android TV device platforms. For devices that aren’t covered, or if you need more than 6 simultaneous connections, you can make use of their comprehensive router support. (Pre-configured routers are available.)
While this provider’s service is quite reliable, in the unlikely event you do have issues, their customer support department has you covered. 24/7 support chat, a searchable knowledge base and email support are all available.
- Servers in 60 countries around the globe
- Fast, well-protected connections
- Excellent multi-platform support
- Top-notch privacy and security coverage
- Apps aren’t very user-friendly
BEST FOR BUDGET-MINDED VIEWERS:NordVPN makes for an excellent option for movie and music lovers who would rather spend their money on expanding their entertainment library. Plus, the provider’s fast connections offer quick access to said content. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of NordVPN.
CyberGhost is the best option for VPN newcomers who are looking for an easy-to-use yet efficient way to upgrade their online viewing and listening sessions.
CyberGhost offers plenty of access to geo-blocked content from Spotify, Netflix, Hulu and others thanks to its global server network of 4,500+ servers stationed in 59 countries around the globe.
CyberGhost provides HD- and 4K-capable connection speeds, with no data caps or bandwidth limitations. The provider protects those connections with government-grade encryption, keeping your online activities away from sight.
Privacy is also well considered with CyberGhost, as the provider keeps no logs of any kind and also accepts Bitcoin for users who want a bit of added protection for their payment information.
Multi-platform support is plentiful at CyberGhost, with easy-to-use apps for the Windows, iOS, macOS, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV device platforms.
CyberGhost also works with a large number of router makes and models, and pre-configured routers are available, providing protection for devices not on the list. (Or for those who need more than 7 simultaneous connections.)
Live support chat, a support ticket submission form and a searchable support library have your support needs covered.
- Plenty of global server coverage
- Smooth HD and 4K streaming
- Plenty of app options
- Superb privacy and security
- Apps lack advanced options preferred by some users
BEST FOR FIRST-TIMERS:CyberGhost is the best choice on this list for streaming fans who are new to the world of VPNs. The provider offers easy, one-click connections that are well protected and offer plenty of horsepower. 45-day no-risk money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of CyberGhost.
IPVanish delivers HD-capable connection speeds, along with something no other VPN provider on this list can offer.
BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV and plenty of other streaming services are all available through IPVanish’s 1,300+ servers in 50+ countries.
IPVanish owns and operates all of those servers, as opposed to leasing them from third parties, as many VPN providers do. This ensures that third-party operators don’t have access to your precious data.
IPVanish-powered connection speeds are easily capable of delivering high-definition video, and depending on your usual connection speeds, can also deliver 4K content. No bandwidth limitations or data caps are ever placed on your connections.
Military-class encryption keeps your connection well-protected from prying eyes, while a strict no-logs policy means there are no records of your online travels to be uncovered. While this provider doesn’t offer a Bitcoin payment option, your payment information is still well protected.
IPVanish provides multi-platform support that includes apps for the Windows, iOS, macOS, Android, Linux and Amazon Fire TV platforms. If your device isn’t covered, or if the provider’s generous 10 simultaneous connection allotment isn’t enough, you can make use of the service’s wide-ranging router compatibility. (Pre-configured routers are available.)
Customer support is always available to answer your questions via their 24/7 live chat feature. You can also email any questions you have or look for answers on your own in IPVanish’s support library.
- Provides optimal security and privacy
- No third-party VPN servers
- Top-notch customer support
- 7-day money-back guarantee
- Lacks Bitcoin payment option
HIGHLY SECURE:IPVanish keeps things private with its self-owned and -operated servers. That adds up to excellent security and privacy for their customers. 24/7 customer support, but only a 7-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of IPVanish.
PrivateVPN provides fast connections well up to the requirements of HD and 4K streaming providers. Despite a somewhat stretched-thin global server network, the provider still offers plenty of unblocking power.
The provider bills itself as “The Fastest Growing VPN Worldwide.” Hopefully, that means it’ll be adding more servers. Their current server count of over 150 servers doesn’t rank among the best. However, they do an optimal job of using it to their customers’ advantage, as they have them located in 60 countries.
PrivateVPN unblocks Hulu, Sling TV, HBO, Netflix and many other streaming networks.
PrivateVPN’s military-class encryption protects their connections, which offer the second-fastest speeds on this list. No data caps or bandwidth limitations will spoil the fun in the middle of a series binge.
PrivateVPN never keeps any logs on their servers, and they accept Bitcoin, so high privacy marks all around.
While apps for the macOS, Windows, iOS and Android platforms are the only ones available at the moment, the provider does offer comprehensive router compatibility to protect your other devices. Up to 6 concurrent connections are allowed.
Customer support is average. 24/7 live support chat is available, and a “Contact Us” form is also available. However, the provider’s FAQ section isn’t searchable, which is usually a standard feature for support information.
- HD and 4K-capable streams
- Up to 6 concurrent connections
- Provides access to numerous streaming providers
- Server numbers are lacking
- Customer support lacks searchable support info
BEST FOR SPEED:PrivateVPN offers swift, well-protected VPN connections, offering a multitude of options for advanced users who don’t require much support. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read our full review of PrivateVPN.
What Streaming Services Can a VPN Unblock?
Popular video streaming providers that VPNs can unblock include
and many more.
VPNs are also capable of unblocking audio streaming providers, including Apple Music, Google Play, Pandora, Spotify and other services too numerous to name.
Gaming platforms that support streaming, like Xbox One and PlayStation 4, don’t support VPN apps. But setting up a VPN service on your router, or sharing your computer’s VPN-protected internet connection, will cover these devices.
How to Stream With a VPN
Enhancing your online viewing and streaming session with a VPN takes a small number of easy steps:
- First, subscribe to a VPN.
- Install the VPN’s app(s) on your favorite streaming device(s).
- Select a VPN server in the same region as the streaming content you’d like to access.
- Start your favorite streaming provider’s app.
- Get comfortable and start streaming!
Is a Free VPN a Good Option For Streaming?
I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of “free” VPNs due to their data caps, connection throttling and less-than-private “privacy policies.” All of that and more make a freebie VPN an especially bad choice for streaming.
Free VPN providers are known to throttle their users’ connections, slowing their internet connection. In addition, they also impose monthly data caps. Neither of those “features” are optimal for streaming music and video.
Another sad fact is that many free VPN providers keep their lights on and servers humming by tracking their users’ online travels, saving that information and selling it to advertisers and other interested parties. Many of them also inject unwanted ads and tracking cookies into users’ browsing sessions.
So much for the “Private” part of “Virtual Private Network,” eh?
Streaming aficionados who want to protect and get the most out of their streaming binges are strongly recommended to subscribe to a Virtual Private Network service.
A VPN provides access to a world of previously unavailable streaming content, and it offers protection from monitoring and tracking of all of your online activities.
ExpressVPN offers optimal global server coverage, super-fast connection speeds, top-notch privacy protections and more. The service offers access to streaming music and video content around the globe, while keeping the rest of your activities undercover.
For more information or to purchase a subscription, visit the ExpressVPN website.