If you’re a resident of the U.S., I don’t have to tell you how great some of the content on the “vast wasteland” of American television really is.
Unfortunately, if you’re a U.S. expatriate or a U.S. citizen visiting abroad, you’re likely missing out on that wealth of entertainment.
U.S. television fans outside of the country have likely come up against virtual roadblocks when they’ve attempted to connect to the U.S. version of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video or any other stateside-based streaming service.
Netflix and other streaming services – including those run by the major U.S. networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX) – restrict access to their servers to only those users inside the borders of the United States. The networks’ contracts with television and movie producers restrict where a show or film is available.
This means that American television fans who are missing out on episodes of their favorite shows can’t get a quick fix when they’re traveling or residing outside U.S. borders.
Or can they? Yes, yes they can – thanks to a handy tool called a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
A VPN is the best way available to provide access to streaming services located inside U.S. borders while you’re outside of those borders. A VPN opens access to U.S. content by making it appear as if you’re stateside, no matter where you really are.
A VPN “spoofs” your location by assigning your device a new, temporary IP address located inside the United States. As far as the rest of the internet is concerned, you’re using the internet stateside.
In this article, I’ll provide information about the 5 best VPNs for accessing U.S. streaming television services when you’re outside U.S. borders.
How to Watch U.S. TV Abroad by Using a VPN
When you’re looking to unblock U.S. television streams, follow these steps:
- Subscribe to a VPN service with servers located inside U.S. borders. (My VPN of choice is ExpressVPN.)
- Install your provider’s app(s) on your device(s).
- Log into the VPN service.
- Select a server located in the United States.
- Connect to your favorite network’s streaming service.
- Enjoy the show!
Best VPNs for Watching U.S. TV Streaming Services From Abroad
After putting my top VPN providers through rigorous testing, the following 5 VPNs have earned a place in the top 5 VPNs to open up U.S. streaming television content for your viewing pleasure:
- ExpressVPN: This provider delivers the most reliable access to U.S. streaming providers of any VPN I’ve had the pleasure of testing. The provider’s fast download speeds, excellent U.S. server network, and top-notch security and privacy protections add up to the top VPN for accessing U.S. streaming television services.
- NordVPN: This provider’s low price might be the bait that lures you in, but their reliable unblocking powers and top-notch security and privacy protections will keep you renewing your subscription.
- CyberGhost: This provider should prove to be a draw for first-time VPN users looking for an easy way to open access to U.S.-based television streams and to protect and enhance all of their other online activities.
- PrivateVPN: Despite its small global server network, this no-logs provider does an excellent job of unblocking content in the U.S. and other locations. Fast connections mean HD and 4K streams will play back smoothly.
- Surfshark: This provider will be an attractive option for users looking for a reasonably-priced way to protect all of their devices at once. Plus, the provider’s above-average connection speeds will stream any type of content.
When ranking the best VPNs for U.S. streaming services, I considered the following factors:
- Reliable server network, with servers inside the United States
- Reliable access to U.S.-based TV streaming services
- Fast connection speeds with no data caps
- Top-notch security and privacy protections
- Comprehensive native app support
Here are the top 5 best VPNs for expats who want to access streaming TV providers based in the United States.
ExpressVPN is the best way to gain reliable access to television streaming providers based in the United States.
The provider has over 3,000 servers stationed around the globe, covering 94 countries. Many of those servers are based in the U.S., in 28 locations around the country. Those servers provide reliable access to multiple streaming television providers, including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube TV, ABC Go, ESPN and many more!
ExpressVPN’s connections are reliably fast, providing more than enough bandwidth to handle the HD and 4K streams that most streaming providers offer. The provider never imposes data caps or bandwidth limitations on their customers.
ExpressVPN protects your online activities with government-grade encryption, kill switch protection, and IPv6 and DNS leak prevention. Plus, a strict no-server-logs policy and a Bitcoin payment option help keep your privacy protected offline as well.
Native apps are available for the Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, Linux, Chromebook and Amazon Fire device platforms. Browser extensions are available for Chrome and Firefox browsers.
The provider’s MediaStreamer DNS service opens access to U.S. content for Apple TV and other streaming devices, like gaming consoles and smart TVs. However, MediaStreamer doesn’t encrypt your internet connection like the provider’s VPN service does.
If you have other devices that need protecting, or if 5 simultaneous connections aren’t enough, use the service’s excellent router compatibility to protect all of your devices via a single point of access.
- Comprehensive server coverage in the USA
- Reliably unblocks U.S. streaming television content
- HD- and 4K-capable connection speeds
- Comprehensive privacy and security protections
- Top-notch native app support
- More expensive than many of its competitors
BEST VPN FOR VIEWING U.S. TV STREAMING SERVICES:ExpressVPN is the top option for U.S. expats looking for a VPN to view U.S. streaming services from outside the U.S. The provider has a large number of stateside servers, and it delivers fast download speeds, which are perfect for streaming. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN should prove to be the best choice on this list for budget-minded users who would rather spend their money on streaming subscriptions than VPN service. The provider’s low prices belie their excellent service offerings.
The provider has over 5,200 servers located in 58 countries around the globe. 1,500+ of those servers are stationed in the United States, providing plenty of reliable access to U.S.-based television streams.
While NordVPN ranked 5th out of the top 5 when it comes to connection speeds, that doesn’t make them slow. HD streaming content is no issue for this provider’s connections. Plus, there’s never any worry about data caps or bandwidth limitations spoiling the fun.
This provider does a top-notch job of protecting your connection thanks to its kill switch protection, DNS leak and IPv6 leak prevention, and its ability to block ads and malware. Privacy after the fact is also not an issue thanks to the provider’s no-logs policy and Bitcoin payment option.
The provider’s app support has all of the major platforms covered thanks to apps for the Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire, iOS, macOS, Linux and Windows platforms. Chrome and Firefox extensions protect your in-browser viewing sessions.
If you need to protect more than 6 devices at once, or if your connected device isn’t on the above list, you can take advantage of the provider’s comprehensive router compatibility to protect all of your devices.
- 1,500+ servers in 20 U.S. locations
- HD-capable connections
- Tip-top privacy and security
- Bargain prices
- Kill switch protection must be enabled on an app-by-app basis
BEST BUDGET U.S. STREAMING VPN OPTION:NordVPN offers a high level of features at a budget price. This should make it attractive to users looking to save a few bucks on quality VPN service. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of NordVPN.
CyberGhost should prove to be an attractive VPN option for first-time VPN users looking for an easy yet efficient way to unblock U.S. television from outside U.S. borders.
5,600+ servers located in 81 countries adds up to comprehensive global server coverage. And, with over 1,100 servers located around the United States, the provider also delivers excellent U.S. content-unblocking power. (The provider has numerous streaming-enhanced servers located in the U.S.)
CyberGhost’s download speeds land somewhere in the middle ranks of this top 5, but that’s plenty fast. HD and 4K streams are child’s play for this provider. No data caps will ever cut off the action.
Plus, an automated HTTPS Redirect feature forces websites to serve up HTTPS versions of their web pages.
Your privacy is well protected thanks to the provider’s total no-logs policy and willingness to accept Bitcoin in return for their considerable services.
This provider’s excellent app support has you covered, with native app support for iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Linux, Android TV and Amazon Fire devices. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are also available.
If you need protection for other devices, or if you require more than 7 simultaneous connections, you can make use of the provider’s comprehensive router support.
- Streaming-optimized servers in the U.S.
- 4K-capable connection speeds
- Easy-to-use apps
- Top-notch privacy and security
- Apps lack some advanced options preferred by some users
STREAMING-OPTIMIZED SERVERS:CyberGhost’s easy-to-use apps will be an attractive option for new VPN users, especially since they connect to streaming-optimized servers based in the U.S. A 45-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of CyberGhost.
PrivateVPN delivers excellent U.S. television access, delivering content with fast download speeds and optimal security and privacy protections.
A server count of 150+ spread among 60 countries is admittedly not impressive when compared to the other 4 providers on this list. However, the provider’s U.S. servers do an excellent job of unblocking U.S. streaming services, including HBO, CBS All Access and many more.
The provider delivers connection speeds that are easily up to the requirements of HD and 4K streaming providers. And you need not worry about having the fun cut short, as PrivateVPN never imposes data caps on their customers’ usage.
Government-quality encryption protects PrivateVPN connections, along with a kill switch and DNS leak and IPv6 leak protection. Plus, the provider’s proprietary Stealth VPN protection makes your VPN activity appear to be normal browser activity.
A strict no-server-logs policy, along with a Bitcoin private payment option, ensures your privacy is well protected.
App support is solid but unspectacular, with apps for the Android, iOS, macOS, Windows and Amazon Fire platforms. If you need more than 6 simultaneous connections, or require protection for other platforms, you can use the provider’s top-notch router compatibility.
- Reliable access to U.S. streaming services
- HD and 4K streams are no problem
- Up to 6 concurrent connections
- Servers are spread thin
- Multi-platform support could be better
FAST SPEEDS, REASONABLE PRICE:PrivateVPN provides reliable access to U.S. television providers via fast and well-protected connections. The provider is also reasonably priced. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of PrivateVPN.
Surfshark offers reliable access to U.S. streaming services on an unlimited number of devices, making it attractive to users in need of numerous simultaneous connections.
The provider has 500+ servers located in 50+ countries around the globe. While that server count isn’t the most impressive one on this list, it provides sufficient global server coverage. Surfshark has plenty of servers in the U.S., based in 13 locations around the country.
Surfshark’s download speeds, while not spectacular, are still sufficient to handle the HD and 4K video streams that popular streaming services offer today. Plus, there are no data caps or bandwidth limitations.
Surfshark’s online protection delivers military-grade encryption, kill switch protection, and IPv6 and DNS leak prevention. In addition, the provider’s “CleanWeb” feature blocks ads and online trackers.
The provider never saves any logs related to your online activities, and it also accepts the Bitcoin anonymous payment option. High security marks all around.
The provider’s native app coverage delivers protection for the iOS, Android, Linux, Windows, Linux, macOS and Amazon Fire platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are also available.
Surfshark also offers a smart DNS feature that opens access to blocked content for streaming boxes, smart TVs and game consoles. However, keep in mind that the smart DNS feature doesn’t offer connection encryption like the provider’s VPN service does.
While the provider allows unlimited concurrent connections on the same set of login credentials, you may need to protect devices not on the above list. That’s when you can take advantage of the provider’s router features.
- Offers reliable access to numerous streaming services
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Top-notch privacy and security protections
- Global server coverage is a bit thin
- No streaming-optimized servers
PERFECT FOR LARGE GROUPS:Large families, small businesses and even fraternal organizations will benefit from Surfshark’s unusual unlimited simultaneous connections allowance. The provider’s speeds are well up to the task of streaming. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of Surfshark.
Can I Use a Free VPN to Watch U.S. Television Streaming Services From Abroad?
I’m not going to say using a free VPN service to watch U.S. television streaming services won’t work, I’m just going to say you probably won’t be satisfied with the experience, and you’ll certainly be putting your online security and privacy at risk.
First off, streaming providers have become adept at detecting when a viewer is attempting to connect to their servers via a VPN provider. When a streamer detects that an incoming IP address belongs to a VPN provider, they block that connection.
This means the VPN provider must then set up new IP addresses. It’s a game of back-and-forth. A free VPN can’t afford to compete in this virtual game of hide-and-seek.
Plus, when you connect a freebie VPN provider, you may be forced to cool your heels in a queue before you can connect. Once you’re allowed to connect, you’ll have a limited selection of servers to choose from. That is, if you’re allowed to choose a provider and aren’t automatically connected to a server of the provider’s choice.
Odds are, the server you’re connected to won’t do a good job of unblocking U.S. streaming content.
As for the “free” part of “free VPN,” that’s really a misnomer. A “free” VPN isn’t really free. The price you pay is that of both convenience and privacy. Sans-fee VPNs are known to throttle their customers’ connection speeds. That’s not good for streaming – or any other online activity, for that matter.
Plus, many free VPNs keep the lights on by logging their customers’ online activities, saving the information and selling it to the highest bidder.
Also, some freebie VPNs will inject unwanted ads and tracking cookies into their users’ browsing sessions. Those tracking cookies stick around long after you’ve disconnected from the free VPN’s servers.
While you may save a few bucks up front by using a “free” VPN, the unseen costs are the dearest. You can have excellent VPN service for the price of a fancy cup of coffee, so why not splurge?
What Else Can a VPN Do?
While the focus of this article has been about providing a way to view U.S.-based television streaming services while you’re outside of the country, it should be noted that a VPN can do so much more.
In addition to unblocking U.S. streaming services, a VPN can also unblock content in other countries, including gaming content, websites and other services. Just pick a VPN server stationed in your country of choice, connect, and the content becomes available.
The same encryption that prevents your ISP from detecting your online activities acts as a safety shield from less-than-scrupulous users around the net – or at the next table down at Starbucks.
There is no reason for you to miss out on your favorite shows and movies just because you’re no longer inside the borders of your homeland, the United States.
A VPN – like my pick, ExpressVPN – provides reliable access to your favorite streaming content, no matter where in the world it’s located. Plus, ExpressVPN delivers fast download speeds, as well as top-notch security and privacy for all of your connected devices and online activities.
For more information or to purchase a subscription, visit the ExpressVPN website.