‘Content Unavailable in Your Location’ for Netflix, Hulu, & More—What To Do
Streaming video over the Internet has become one of the most popular methods for watching TV shows and movies. Still, the rise of this technology has also meant occasional encounters with a strange and confusing error message: “Content unavailable in your location.” What does this message mean, and what can you do about it?
The good news is that it isn’t a problem with your computer, internet connection, or the streaming service. This message indicates that things are working the way they’re supposed to. But, why does the error message pop up? The unavailability of a stream is usually determined by location rights, although there are other possibilities too.
Why does Netflix say not available in my location? (Netflix error code 22004)
Unavailable content almost always boils down to one thing: content licensing. When a movie studio or production house creates a film or TV show, they own the rights to that content. Most studios rarely sell all of those rights at once to the same buyer. Instead, they prefer to sell those licenses on a country-by-country or region-by-region basis. The reason is simple; they usually get more money for their content if they split up license rights to several media providers. Content distributors like TV channels or streaming services like Netflix would prefer to get one license at a significant discount. In contrast, the studios would rather sell lots of smaller ones and make more revenue. You’ll see an error when trying to download or stream a show, and the content isn’t licensed yet for that region.
License issues aren’t Netflix’s, Amazon’s, Google’s, Disney’s, or Hulu’s fault. Streaming providers want to show you “Orange Is the New Black” in New Zealand. Still, they’re not legally allowed to offer the video in that location. Much of the world has moved on and embraced globalization, but the creative industries haven’t. Networks and movie studios hold firm on keeping total control over the content they own. However, some countries regulate media options too, which prohibits viewers in that area from seeing specific content. Rather than sell a global license to Netflix or Hulu, studios negotiate license rights with each territory. There are considerable variations in the types of content available in each region outside the US. For example, the US version of Netflix has over 6,000 titles in its library. Yet the UK version has around 4,000 titles and Australian Netflix only 2,400.
Why is my show unavailable on Hulu?
If you use a streaming service like Hulu, how does it know what titles you can view? When you log into Hulu, it checks your account to see what level of service you have, and it will verify your IP address to see where you are. IP address ranges have geographical links, so an IP address range in the US will differ from any available in the EU, UK, or Australia. Hulu then compares your location to the licensing database that tells the service what content to display. Geo-location control is a relatively unsophisticated system, but it works. As usual, it is the consumer who loses out.
How can I hide my region online?
If a streaming service checks your IP address to see where you are, you need to acquire an IP address that makes it look like you are in a territory for the content you want to see. Usually, that is the US, as the US has the broadest range of titles, simply because most license holders are based here and start their license sales efforts here too. Europe comes next. Australia and the Pacific countries usually trail behind, and the rest of the world waits patiently, or not so patiently in some situations.
There are two ways to change an IP address: a proxy or a virtual private network (VPN)
Change IP Address using a Proxy
Proxies are dedicated servers that fool programs into thinking the IP address is different than it is. A proxy is useful for avoiding regimes that don’t allow creative freedom, and it is also helpful for security purposes and file sharing. They are not very practical for video streaming, though, as the streaming media providers know about proxies and actively block most. New proxies spring up regularly, but a new video streaming proxy’s useful lifespan is pretty short. For the most part, the streaming providers have the upper hand in this contest.
Change IP Address using a VPN
The other option is a VPN. VPNs are a great technology, not just because they let you watch “Picard” from Ohio. VPNs allow you to put a protective cloak of confidentiality over your internet activity. Even if you are beyond reproach and have nothing to hide, that doesn’t mean third-parties should be able to track everything you do online, and a good VPN helps to maintain your privacy.
For more detailed background information about VPNs, read ‘What is a VPN Tunnel and How Does it Protect Your Data?’ or ‘How to Set Up a VPN in Windows 10’.
What to look for in a VPN?
A high-quality VPN has several features that are non-negotiable, especially when using it for Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, and more.
Top 5 Features a VPN Should Have for Streaming Services
Feature #1: Ensure No Logging Occurs
No logging means that the VPN provider will not keep activity logs for users. Even if they receive a court order or subpoena, they have no way to tell a court what you do online as there will be no record of what you did. This scenario refers to activity logging. A different type of log, ‘connectivity logging,’ is usually enabled, but only to help troubleshooting and quality. No identifiable data gets contained in connectivity logs.
Feature #2: Look for Multiple Destination VPN Servers
To circumvent geoblocking, you will require a destination VPN server in the territory you need. For example, to gain access to the full range of Netflix titles from Europe or Australia, you would want a service with multiple US IP addresses to access the broadest possible content range.
Feature #3: VPN Should Have Good Encryption Levels
Encryption isn’t particularly crucial for accessing streamed content for which you are paying the subscription fee but is an added benefit for all browsing activities. Anyone watching your connection will not be able to see what you are doing or where you go. Acceptable encryption protocols include OpenVPN and WPA-2, but there are more options available.
Feature #4: VPN Should Work with Netflix or Other Streaming Apps
Netflix and other streaming services are fighting hard against VPNs. They get forced to do so by their license holders. Even if you’re not using Netflix, selecting a VPN provider that works well with the app is wise. The VPN service is aware of potential issues with Netflix. Therefore, it actively changes the IP addresses so they can’t get blocked. Some VPNs specifically mention working with streaming apps, which is a better match.
Feature #5: A Good VPN Should Include Regular Updates
Regular updates refer to the VPN client, protocols, encryption methods, and IP address ranges, as mentioned above. As bugs and weaknesses get found, a good quality VPN provider will fix them immediately to keep users safe. Not all providers do this, so look for ones that do. Update frequency indicates how the provider values its users, and that’s also reflected elsewhere in the product.
If you would like general recommendations on VPN services, read ‘What is the Best VPN Service?’; check out our article on the Best VPN Services [October 2019] for our viewpoint on the currently-available providers. Research each one and make a choice using the criteria above and whether they work with your streaming service or not.
Do you use a VPN? Have any recommendations for one that circumvents ‘Content unavailable in your location’ messages? Tell us about it below if you do!