How to Stream U.S. TV Abroad?
If you’re a resident of the United States who regularly travels outside of your home country, a fan of American television who lives outside the U.S. or a U.S. expat, you may have found you have some issues accessing your favorite television shows online.
Many U.S.-based television networks and content creators restrict the viewing of their television shows to inside the borders of the United States. This makes it difficult for U.S. TV fans to keep up with the antics of their favorite on-screen characters.
While blocked access to U.S. TV can be frustrating, fear not, as there are ways to get around this international roadblock. Perhaps the best way to break through is to use a service you might already subscribe to: a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
About U.S. Television
The United States television industry is perhaps the best-known industry in the entertainment world. In the U.S., television programs are transmitted over the air for free, and via satellite and cable for a monthly fee. In the last few years, a new way of receiving channels has become popular: via the internet.
All major television networks, as well as many smaller networks and television stations, now provide their content via streaming apps and websites. This method has become popular among “cord cutters” who are taking steps to rid themselves of cable and satellite television providers.
A number of new streaming services have sprung up in the last few years, offering “skinny” packages of popular broadcast and cable networks. The services also offer live local channel streaming as well as major sports and premium networks, like ESPN and HBO.
Streaming providers such as Hulu and Netflix have also become popular during this decade, providing original television content, in addition to rerunning series episode from broadcast television.
Why Do U.S. Streaming TV Providers Ban International Users?
Television content distribution contracts are still stuck in the stone age. Ignoring the worldwide nature of the internet, most content distribution contracts severely restrict which countries the licensed content can be distributed in.
Such restrictions cause streaming providers to block viewers attempting to access the shows from outside of the United States, even if the viewer subscribes to the streaming service in question.
How Do They Ban Viewers From Outside the U.S.?
Every internet user is assigned a unique IP address when they log on to their Internet Service Provider. This address is used to identify the user and their activities.
To get an idea of how IP addresses work, just think of your street address. That address is how the post office knows where to send you your mail. An IP address lets internet servers know where to send the information and content you request, such as a television episode.
Streaming television providers can tell which part of the world a request for content originates from by looking at the IP address it was sent from. United States-based providers can then block any request from IP addresses outside of the U.S. This prevents users from outside of the country from viewing U.S.-only content.
How Can I Watch Blocked U.S. Television Content?
The easiest way to access blocked content from United States-based streaming TV providers is to make it appear as if you are located within the U.S. The easiest way to do that is to use a Virtual Private Network to change your IP address to a U.S.-based address.
While there are other ways to change your IP address, such as proxy servers, a VPN is the most reliable way to do so. When a user logs in to a VPN server, their internet connection is assigned a new IP address, making it appear that the user is located somewhere else, be it a different city or halfway around the globe.
In this scenario we are discussing the user would log in to a server located in the United States, their internet connection is assigned a new address, making the user’s connection appear to be originating from the U.S. This opens up the blocked content, as the streaming provider sees the connection coming from inside the U.S.
In addition to IP address “spoofing,” a VPN offers other features that make your travels on the internet much safer, making it a great weapon to keep in your online security utility belt.
Not the least of a VPN’s safety features is its ability to encrypt your connection, keeping your personal information safe from prying eyes. This allows laptop and mobile device users to connect to unprotected Wi-Fi hotspots, like those found in coffee shops, hotels and other locations, with no fear of prying eyes.
Which VPN Is Best for Streaming U.S. TV While Abroad?
While there are a number of options available for Virtual Private Network services that can open up streaming of United States-based streaming television content, I’ve found that one provider in particular does an excellent job.
#1 - ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is a reliable VPN provider that does an excellent job of unblocking almost any kind of streaming content, no matter where it may originate from. The VPN offers fast connection speeds without compromising security, comprehensive global server coverage and excellent multi-platform support. (Full review available here.)
For any type of streaming content, connection speed is of utmost importance. This is especially true of today’s 1080p and 4K HDR content. I’ve found that ExpressVPN provides a fast connection, usually ranking in at around 84% of my unprotected, ISP-only connections.
Most streaming video providers offer native apps for all of the popular desktop and mobile device platforms. In addition, most streaming services can also be accessed via web browsers, game consoles and set-top streaming boxes.
ExpressVPN provides native apps for the macOS, Windows, Android and iOS platforms. They also offer a browser extension for the Safari, Chrome and Firefox platforms.
Gamers and streaming video set-top box users will appreciate ExpressVPN’s support for PlayStation (3 and 4) and Xbox (360 and One) game consoles, and Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV via ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer service.
The provider allows up to 3 concurrent connections to their servers through a single login. If you need more than that for your family or small business, a decent number of wireless routers can be set up to connect to ExpressVPN, protecting all of your connected devices.
For those who don’t dig the whole do-it-yourself thing, pre-configured routers can be purchased from FlashRouters.com.
While I wouldn’t wish a technical or billing issue on any VPN user, there’s a fairly good chance that you’ll need to contact your VPN provider’s customer support agents at one time or another. When you need assistance, you’re going to want it to come fast and be accurate.
ExpressVPN’s customer support department provides an excellent level of assistance, offering a trouble ticket submission form, live chat support and an easy-to-use self-service option via a searchable support library.
Global Server Coverage
While accessing streaming television content that’s normally only available in the United States only requires your VPN provider to have servers located in the U.S., selecting a VPN service with comprehensive global server coverage will pay dividends down the line.
The more servers available around the world, the better access to blocked music and video streaming content you’ll have.
ExpressVPN has 1,500+ servers, located in 94 countries around the world. This means the provider will do a great job of unblocking content just about anywhere in the free world.
While ExpressVPN can’t be considered a low-price leader among VPN providers at $12.95 per month, $59.95 for 6 months and $99.95 for 12 months, they do provide a good bang for the buck. The provider offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Stream a Little Stream With Me
If you’re currently outside of the United States and want to keep up with your favorite television series, you might find yourself blocked at every turn. By using a VPN provider like ExpressVPN, you’ll be able to open up the streaming viaducts and douse yourself with all the U.S.-based content you’d like.