There are so many streaming services now, and since you're reading this, you probably subscribe to at least one of them. Either that or you stream catch-up TV from local providers, but the problem is that you can't stream from these services just anywhere.
They all use region blocking to ensure that those movies or TV shows can only be watched by people in certain countries, and that's because of licensing. You can't watch HBO or Hulu if you're in the UK, for example, nor can you access BBC iPlayer from outside the UK.
However, you can use a VPN to get around that and watch content that's not currently available in your country, or stream TV shows from your home country when you're abroad.
Do bear in mind that accessing any of these services from another country could violate their terms of service, and you risk losing your account, so proceed at your own risk.
What makes a good streaming VPN?
If you’re looking for a VPN for streaming, there’s probably one thing on your mind: speed. That’s what you need to make sure you can watch films and TV from anywhere in the world in crisp HD - or even 4K - without worrying about intollerable buffering.
Beyond that, you’ll want reliability so that the connection doesn’t drop just at the moment of the big plot twist, a wide range of server locations to make sure you can access all the content you want, and quick server updates to try and keep up with Netflix and other platforms' attempts to limit access from abroad.
A wide range of supported devices will also help, as you’ll probably want to watch from your laptop, phone, games console, streaming stick, or something else we haven’t thought of. Some services offer specific streaming modes which basically select the most appropriate server for you.
If a VPN doesn't sound like the right option for you, it's worth considering the StreamLocator Hub. Instead of connecting to different servers, this Hub projects its own Wi-Fi network which you can connect to, and bypasses geo-blocked content automatically.
Not all VPNs unblock all streaming services, but we've ranked here what we consider the best options overall for watching TV and films online.
Best streaming VPN 2020
Currently sitting at the top of our overall VPN chart, NordVPN is also our top choice for streaming thanks to a high server count, steady speeds, and wide device support.
With more than 5,000 servers around the world you've got great odds of finding a fast connection in your country of choice. NordVPN also reliably unblocks Netflix in various regions as well as lots of other streaming services.
NordVPN apps are available for just about any device you could ever want to use for streaming, and there's the useful built-in ad-blocker and malware protection in case you're trying to stream from any dodgy, less-than-legal sites (not that you should be doing that, of course).
Based in Panama, NordVPN is also great from a privacy perspective, even if that isn't the biggest concern for streaming, but it also offers impressive speeds (thanks to Wireguard), good customer support, and a very user-friendly interface.
All you need is a NordVPN account, which is available for as little as £2.68/$3.49 per month at the time of writing.
Surfshark is another excellent choice for streaming as it unblocks 15 Netflix regions and lots of other services besides.
Speeds are not the fastest out there, nor are there as many servers as some rivals. Don't be put off though, because they're still more than quick enough for streaming and all the key regions are covered. Plus, Surfshark allows you to use an unlimited number of devices simultaneously and is also cheaper than those rivals.
This is why it's such a good choice for many people: the two-year subscription works out at just £1.95/$2.49 per month.
Read our full Surfshark review here.
ExpressVPN is another great VPN for streaming thanks to its combination of simple setup, speedy servers, and broad coverage.
There are more than 3,000 servers across 94 countries, so you should have no problem finding one in whatever location you want. Even better for HD streaming, there's a built-in speed test tool that will recommend the best locations and servers for you based on speed. The tool takes a few minutes to run, but that's worth it for avoiding the trial-and-error of picking a server.
You can install ExpressVPN on a range of devices, including Amazon Fire TV, or even directly onto a router to cover all of your internet access in one go.
The price is the only downside, as you'll pay a little bit more per month than with some rivals. Luckily we have a special offer to get 15 months for the price of 12.
CyberGhost is one of the services that has the dedicated streaming mode we mentioned at the top, which automatically gives you the ideal connection for accessing your streaming service of choice.
The 'Unblock Streaming' mode lets you pick the exact service you want to use (HBO Now, for example) and then chooses a server to suit. Alternatively, you can manually choose from more than 6,000 servers across 90+ countries, and those numbers are constantly growing.
There are apps available for just about every device, too.
At the time of writing, the best deal was CyberGhost's 18-month plan which cost just £2.15/$2.75 per month.
Read our CyberGhost review.
PureVPN is a great all-rounder that has one big selling point: servers in more than 140 countries.
That means you're almost guaranteed to be able to find a server that will let you connect to your streaming service of choice with decent speeds, with a total of over 2,000 servers to choose from.
Perhaps best for streaming users, it's another service which has a dedicated streaming mode in its apps. And that means you're much less likely to run into problems when trying to watch videos from Hulu, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, HBO and others, as the best server is chosen automatically.
Like several other VPNs, PureVPN has just introduced a 7-day trial for 99 cents (about 75p) so you can check if it will reliably unblock and stream the services you want to use.
After that, we've arranged a special deal for Tech Advisor readers that discounts the service from the normal £8.40/$10.95 per month to just £2.22/$2.88.
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