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The best VPNs for streaming: Unblock Netflix shows and more

Some VPNs can unblock streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu. Here's our pick of the best streaming VPNs to try, but depending on the device and where you want to stream, it may not be straightforward.

There are times when you might want to use a VPN to watch a movie or video. If you're traveling, you can VPN back to your home country and use your local streaming service account to watch your favorite show, for example. That said, at best, it is a legally gray area when you aren't in your typical location.

This can be a controversial topic, as owners of entertainment content and intellectual property go to great lengths to control the distribution of their wares, especially when it comes to international markets for movies and TV shows. Even if you have a legal right to content at home, there might be issues regarding a streaming service's terms and conditions when you are elsewhere or masking your original IP address.

Controls tend to tighten even further for sporting events, such as highly-anticipated matches. In contrast, VPN vendors go to great lengths to make the case that their services can be used to bypass restrictions, including content blocks based on location.

VPNs, set-top boxes, and streaming sticks don't always work together well. The exception to this are products such as Fire TV Sticks. Otherwise, you might be forced to jump through hoops such as setting up your router to distribute a VPN to all your devices for blanket coverage, or connecting your TV as a client to your Mac or PC and using that machine's VPN-protected network.

If you want to watch streaming TV through a VPN, picking up a VPN-supportive device such as a Fire TV stick or a router with a VPN enabled is one of the easiest pathways. 

In any case, below are our top picks for VPNs suitable for streaming in 2023. 

Also: The best travel VPNs 

Pros & Cons
  • Huge server network
  • Compatible with an extensive list of devices
  • 24/7 live chat support
  • Transparent privacy policy
  • Expensive
  • Only five connections at once
More Details

ExpressVPN features: Native Streaming Apps: Fire TV, Android TV, Nvidia Shield TV | Simultaneous Connections: 5 | Kill Switch: Yes | Platforms: A whole lot (see the full list here) | Logging: No browsing logs, some connection logs | Countries: 94 | Locations: 160 | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

ExpressVPN supports a vast number of platforms and devices and has an exceptionally large network of servers, making it an ideal VPN for streaming. With ExpressVPN, you can access a host of streaming services, including but not limited to Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Spotify, HBO, and Amazon Prime Video.

During testing, I found that ExpressVPN is fast enough, with a low download speed reduction that is unlikely to impact streaming. Therefore, you should not experience buffering issues while watching your favorite shows.

That is why a paid subscription is generally a better choice when using a VPN for streaming. Free or basic options will often either prevent streaming from popular services entirely or restrict speeds to the point where streaming becomes a frustrating experience reminiscent of the days of dial-up.

At the time of writing, a subscription to ExpressVPN costs $9.99 per month for six months or $12.95 for a month of access. However, you can also take advantage of a sale if you sign up for a 12-month contract. ExpressVPN is offering customers a 49% discount, lowering the cost to $6.67 per month, and three months of free access have been thrown in as a bonus.

Review: ExpressVPN review: A fine VPN service

Pros & Cons
  • Great download speeds
  • Extensive server network
  • Easy-to-use apps
  • Only six concurrent connections
More Details

NordVPN features: Native Streaming Apps: Fire TV, Android TV | Simultaneous connections: 6 | Kill switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV, Chrome, Firefox | Logging: None, except billing data | Server locations: 50+ | Servers: 5,000+ | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

NordVPN has the performance you need to stream your favorite content. During testing, I found that NordVPN consistently performs well in terms of speed and stability. The VPN also has exceptionally fast connection times.

NordVPN works with all major streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, and the DAZN channel for live and on-demand sports streaming.

Also: How does NordVPN work? Plus, how to set it up and use it

FAQ articles are available that detail how to securely stream with most of these services. If you run into problems or are unsure which is the best server to connect to for unlocking a specific service, live chat and email support are available.

A tip is to use the "quick connect" function when streaming, provided that the country you're streaming from has geographical access to the content you want to watch. This function will select the best server available for speed.

Prices for NordVPN start at $4.19 per month on a two-year standard plan and go up to $15.49 per month on a complete, one-month subscription.

At the time of writing, NordVPN is also running a birthday promotion for its plans. The promotion was launched on February 8 and is available for one month. New users can subscribe to a two-year plan -- standard, plus, or complete -- and save up to 59% via a gift promotion. Random users will receive either three months or one year free, which will be added to the length of the contract.

Review: Our NordVPN review

Pros & Cons
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Wide range of useful features
  • Affordable
  • User-friendly
  • Slower download speeds
More Details

Surfshark VPN features: Native Streaming Apps: Fire TV, Android TV, Nvidia Shield TV | Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited | Kill Switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Firefox, Chrome | Server locations: 100 | Logging: No activity logs | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

Surfshark is one of the cheapest VPNs on our list, offering a solid product at an excellent price.

In ZDNET's Surfshark VPN review, we found no DNS leaks, and the service has a strong security focus. However, you may trade streaming speed for affordability. Our recent tests have shown midweight performance when it comes to speed and download speed reduction.

Also: ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark vs. NordVPN: Which is best?

Surfshark should work with all of the most popular streaming services, such as Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, DAZN, and Disney+. The company attempts to disguise your VPN traffic as regular traffic to circumvent geolocation blockers. Just keep in mind that if you're having trouble streaming, you may need to try a different server.

Surfshark is also one of our top choices for affordability. At the moment, the VPN provider's two-year subscription is only $2.30 per month, with two free months added to the length of the contract.

Review: Surfshark VPN review

Pros & Cons
  • Unlimited connections
  • Ultra-fast connection speed
  • Very flexible product, with a wide range of protocols as well
  • No two-year plan, price increases after only a year
More Details

IPVanish VPN features: Native Streaming Apps: Fire TV | Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited | Kill Switch: Yes | Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chrome, plus routers, Fire Stick, and Kodi | Logging: No activity logs | Servers: 2,000+ | Locations: 75 | Money-back guarantee: 30 days

For those folks who love the Kodi media player, IPVanish is the VPN for you. IPVanish has full, detailed setup guides for using Kodi with many of the more popular streaming devices. IPVanish works well while accessing popular streaming services such as Netflix, too, and based on customer feedback, it appears the company has improved its streaming capabilities of late for US customers. However, you might need to configure split tunneling to view Hulu (if it is possible).

IPVanish is a highly configurable product. Its native apps are intuitive, and the user interface has excellent performance graphics. It's easy to see the current status of servers, so you can connect to locations where the server load is less likely to impact your streaming experience.

In terms of performance, IPVanish had fast connection speeds in our most recent testing. However, download speeds tended to lag behind other VPNs, and you may struggle with high-resolution streaming.

At the time of writing, IPVanish is running a promotion for new subscribers. You can sign up for a two-year plan for $3.33 per month, rising to $4.50 per month for a year's worth of access. A one-month subscription will cost you $11.99. Keep in mind that, as with all VPN services, you might have to pay tax on top.

Review: Our IPVanish review

What is the best VPN for streaming?

My best VPN for streaming is ExpressVPN. It has top-tier speed, a massive global network of servers, and supports an exceptionally large number of devices. Regardless of what you're streaming on and where you want to stream, it's likely that ExpressVPN will have you covered.

VPN for streamingPriceServer CountriesNative Streaming AppsSimultaneous ConnectionsLoggingLocationMoney-back guarantee
ExpressVPN$9.99 per month for six months, $12.95 per month for one month, or $6.67 per month for 12 months (with discount)94Fire TV, Android TV, Nvidia Shield TV5No browsing logs, some connection logs16030 days
NordVPN$4.19 per month for two years, up to $15.49 per month for one month50+Fire TV, Android TV6None, except billing data5,000+30 days
Surfshark$2.30 per month for two years100Fire TV, Android TV, Nvidia Shield TVUnlimitedNo activity logs-30 days
IPVanish$3.33 per month for two years, up to $11.99 per month for one month75Fire TVUnlimitedNo activity logs2,000+30 days

Which is the right streaming VPN for you?

To find the right VPN to meet your streaming needs, you'll need to do some hands-on testing. Sometimes only specific servers can unlock certain services. You want to be sure you can stream where you want to stream and you can stream through a VPN server that has the performance to support video. 

Choose this VPN for streaming...If you want...
NordVPNTo unlock Netflix. It consistently works with the streaming platform and is one of the few VPNs that can bypass its strict geo-restrictions. NordVPN has a massive server network and fast connection speeds, making it an ideal choice for streaming high-quality video.
ExpressVPNNative device support and a huge server network. It offers a wide range of native apps for streaming devices, including Fire TV, Android TV, and Nvidia Shield TV. Additionally, it has a massive server network with locations in over 94 countries, making it easy to find a server that can unblock your preferred streaming services.
SurfsharkThe most affordable option. Despite its low price, Surfshark offers a range of features such as unlimited simultaneous connections, fast connection speeds, and support for a wide range of streaming services. Surfshark is also one of the few VPNs that offer native apps for Fire TV and Android TV, making it easy to stream on your preferred device.
IPVanish or SurfsharkUnlimited connections. IPVanish is a great VPN if you are looking for unlimited connections. It allows you to connect as many devices as you want simultaneously, making it an ideal choice for larger households or for those who want to share their account with friends and family. Surfshark is another great choice for those looking for unlimited connections. The VPN allows you to connect an unlimited number of devices simultaneously, making it a great option for larger households or those who want to share their account with friends and family. Despite its low price, Surfshark offers fast connection speeds, a range of native apps, and support for a wide range of streaming services.
IPVanishKodi compatibility. Additionally, IPVanish is compatible with Kodi, making it an excellent option for those who use the popular media player to stream content.

How did we choose these VPNs for streaming?

In addition to having the capability to unlock streaming services, each VPN on our list has to meet certain security and privacy standards.

All of these VPNs are secure and do not track your browsing activities. They also have useful features, such as kill switches, that cut off your internet connection if the VPN connection drops to prevent you from accidentally connecting to an unencrypted, less secure access point. This ensures that your connection is never accidentally exposed without your knowledge.

Lastly, a useful VPN for streaming must have a minimum level of performance. After all, there's no point in using a VPN while streaming if your connection continually drops or lags, making it intolerable.

What is a VPN?

VPN is an acronym for Virtual Private Network. These services allow users to browse the internet privately and securely connect to open or public Wi-Fi networks. VPNs provide users with the ability to change their virtual location by redirecting their connection through one of the VPN servers located around the world. Furthermore, a VPN will encrypt all of your traffic, ensuring that you're hidden from hackers, your internet service provider, and governments.

However, if a government is monitoring your online activities at the ISP level, they may still recognize the signature of a VPN in use, even if what you're doing is entirely hidden.

VPNs are beneficial in unblocking geo-restricted content and can be a crucial tool for accessing information in countries with oppressive governments. Additionally, they are vital services for anyone seeking to maintain a high level of safety and privacy online. However, because VPNs are anonymous (or at least should be), they can also be used to hide illegal online activities, such as pirating content.

How do you use a VPN with streaming services?

Using a virtual private network can allow you to unblock streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu -- simply by changing your IP address and making it appear as if you are located in a different region. This is useful because many streaming services restrict access to their content based on your geographic location.

In general, here are the steps for using most VPNs with your preferred streaming service:

  1. Choose a VPN provider. You need to choose one that has servers in the region where the streaming service you want to access is available. Our list above has some great options. 
  2. Download and install the VPN software. Follow the instructions provided by the VPN provider to get the VPN actually up and running on your device.
  3. Connect to a server. Once you have installed the VPN, open it and follow the on-screen instructions to choose a server. Pick one in the region where the streaming service you want to access is available.
  4. Log in to the streaming service. After connecting to a server, log in to the streaming service. It should now see you as located in the region of the VPN server you connected to -- thus allowing you to access any content in that region (which would normally be restricted to you since you don't live there).
  5. Start streaming. Voila! Easy right?

Keep in mind using a VPN to unblock content restricted in your region may violate the terms of service of the streaming service. Also, some VPNs do not work with all streaming services. 

Do you need a VPN for streaming?

A VPN is not required for streaming movies, games, or TV shows, however, it can change your location to unlock certain services or products in other countries. The tradeoff is that a VPN will likely slow down your connection -- and especially so if you opt for a free plan. In saying that, many free VPNs will prevent you from streaming or will have a strict data usage limit. 

This is because the distance to the server, encryption process and protocol can create a lag in your internet speed.

If you find that streaming with a VPN is unbearably slow, try connecting to a different server or you may need to try a different VPN service altogether. Lag can oftentimes be unnoticed with better VPN services.

Which set-top devices have native VPN apps?

Basically, Android TV is a version of Android. That means most apps in the Google Play store will run reasonably well on Android TV -- including VPN clients. Most VPN vendors slightly recode their Android handheld apps to have a wide-screen UI for the TV and put those apps into the Play Store. Since Amazon's Fire TV is basically a skinned version of Android TV using Amazon's app store, VPN vendors didn't have to do too much technically to make it work -- and Amazon is, of course, a huge market. So you just go to the app store and install the app. Easy peasy.

Unfortunately, there aren't native VPN apps for Apple TV, Chromecast, or Roku devices. You can still take advantage of a VPN security, but you'll need to set up a VPN on your router or PC network. The same process applies if you want to stream with Xbox, Playstation, or Switch.

Will a VPN slow down your streaming speed?

It's possible that using a VPN could slow down your streaming speed, but this depends on a variety of factors such as the quality of your VPN, the location of the server you're connected to, and your internet connection speed. However, some VPNs are optimized for streaming and offer fast and stable connections -- such as the ones listed in this guide. 

Are there alternative VPNs for streaming worth considering in 2023?

If our best VPNs for streaming aren't the best choices for you, no problem. There are other secure and reputable services that could meet your needs, as shown below.


Best price

ProtonVPN - Free or paid subscriptions

Focused on security and privacy with end-to-end encryption, highly secure, and with a no-logs policy

View at ProtonVPN

Best price

Private Internet Access VPN - $2.11 monthly, three months free

Private Internet Access VPN has a large server network spread across many countries

View at PIA
CyberGhost VPN

Best price

CyberGhost - $2.11 monthly, three months free

CyberGhost focuses on ease of use and affordability and has a large server network

View at CyberGhost
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