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Netflix plans to block VPNs out of Australia

Netflix has warned that it will be cracking down on customers using proxies or unblockers to access its global catalogue, because it wants to make the content available itself.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Netflix has announced that it is planning to prevent customers from using service unblockers and VPNs as it cracks down on those who fool the streaming platform into thinking they are in a different location. For more context on VPNs, you can check out our VPN guide

In a blog post, vice president of Content Delivery Architecture at Netflix David Fullagar shared his utopic vision of a platform where all of Netflix's content is globally available, saying that if this were the case, there would not be a reason for members to use proxies or unblockers.

"In coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are," Fullagar said.

Fullagar said that the platform is making progress in licensing content across the world, but admitted that there is some work to be done before it can offer all customers access to the same television and film catalogue.

"Over time, we anticipate being able to do so," he said. "For now, given the historic practice of licensing content by geographic territories, the TV shows and movies we offer differ, to varying degrees, by territory.

"In the meantime, we will continue to respect and enforce content licensing by geographic location."

Fullagar said Netflix will be addressing this by employing the same -- or similar -- measures that other firms do.

"We look forward to offering all of our content everywhere and to consumers being able to enjoy all of Netflix without using a proxy," he said. "That's the goal we will keep pushing towards."

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) released a snapshot report of the streaming industry in November, reporting that 3.2 million Australians, or 17 percent of the population, had consumed streaming services during the six months ending June 2015.

Of these 3.2 million, the ACMA found that 2.5 million were already users of Netflix Australia.

According to research by Roy Morgan in May, 1 million Australians were using the service. Should these numbers have been accurate, Netflix gained 1.5 million customers in Australia within one month.

Netflix graced Australian shores with its presence in March last year, but punters were not so pleased with the restricted range of content. It was estimated that 20,000 Australians were already accessing the United States version of Netflix before it launched here.

Consumer advocacy group Choice conducted a survey of 1,010 people from July 2 to July 15 that found 30 percent of Australians still downloaded, streamed, or consumed pirated TV shows and movies online.

"This doesn't make piracy excusable, but it sure suggests that the best way to battle online piracy is to start making content more available and less expensive," Choice said.

The ACMA report also found that YouTube dominates total online video viewing, with Netflix Australia following it up. Those using Netflix US through a VPN also outnumbered the other Australian streaming services: Fetch, Stan, Presto, and Quickflix.

Prior to Netflix's Australian arrival, Presto's director Shaun James said that many consumers would not realise that a local Netflix wouldn't have the vast library of its US counterpart because of those content deals signed by Foxtel and others to lock up the content.

"When Netflix comes ... for the consumer that has used it, and Netflix has a phenomenal brand awareness in this market, it will be an inferior local service because of the rights that currently sit with Seven, Nine, Ten, the ABC, Foxtel, and they've looked at this market and have seen that. So that's a challenge as they look to other markets," he said at the time.

Last week, Netflix announced that it is now available in 190 countries, with Singapore and India among the audiences to have a local version of the platform.

While speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said that in the time that he had been on stage, the Netflix service had gone live in nearly every country in the world, except China.

Netflix, according to Hastings, is now a "global television network", with the service adding Arabic, Korean, and Simplified and Traditional Chinese to the 17 languages it already supported.

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