Keen TV watchers forced to lie

IAN STEWARD
Last updated 05:00 09/03/2014
House of Cards
Reuters

SOUGHT AFTER: Hit shows like House of Cards drive Kiwis to sign up to Netflix.

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Kiwis wanting to keep up with the global streaming TV revolution are forced to use the back door.

The increasing number of New Zealanders using digital back doors to services like US internet television provider Netflix proves we would pay for content if the right stuff was available at a good price, experts say.

Netflix, which has thousands of on-demand TV shows and movies, is not officially available in New Zealand.

With a small amount of tech knowledge, however, New Zealanders can use any number of "virtual private network" (VPN) providers which make your computer look as though it's in the US, allowing them to access a service that would otherwise be blocked.

No numbers are available on how many Kiwis use the service but a Google analysis of New Zealanders searching for the company reveals search volumes quadrupled in the past year.

The trend is borne out by internet provider Orcon which has a page on its site walking users through the Netflix set-up. It has seen a quadruple jump in streaming video use in the past year.

The drawcards are the price of just US$8 a month ($9.55) and the quality - with hit shows, big movies and exclusive content like the Netflix-funded, critically-acclaimed series House of Cards.

Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) chief executive Paul Brislen said the trend showed people wanted to move away from bundled take-it-or-leave-it services offered by providers such as Sky.

"There's a lot of stuff I don't watch and won't watch but I'm forced to pay for it," Brislen said of Sky.

A Netflix spokesman said usage from outside countries was a violation of the service's terms of use.

"Because of licence restrictions on the movies and TV shows on Netflix, we are required to employ industry standard technology to prevent cross-border use of Netflix."

Brislen said for those who wanted to be up to date with programmes, the decision came down to piracy versus lying to Netflix.

"You're having to tell lies in order to give them money," he said of Kiwis who used VPN services.

Orcon chief executive Greg McAlister said using Netflix from New Zealand may violate Netflix's terms and conditions but Orcon far preferred that people pay for content rather than pirate it.

"Customers do this stuff. The old geographical boundaries just don't fit the current internet world."

McAlister said the audio world had "moved on" with services like iTunes and Spotify but movie and TV studios had yet to catch up.

Orcon put up a how-to guide to getting Netflix in response to customer demand.

McAlister said Orcon's internet traffic statistics showed video streaming had risen four-fold in the past year.

Peer-to-peer sharing with torrent sites - networks where users exchange files such as music and movies - was still the biggest segment of their traffic but video streaming was a solid second.

Another indicator was that 70 per cent of new connections were going on Orcon's uncapped, unlimited plan which now represented a third of their customers.

McAlister said he had Netflix at home and his house had gone from using 60GB a month to about 180GB per month.

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Brislen said a Netflix executive had given a talk in New Zealand last year and was asked what the barriers were to Netflix entering the New Zealand market.

The executive said there had to be customer demand, access to subscription video on demand (SVOD) rights and robust telecommunications structure.

It was reported last year that Netflix accounts for about a third of all US internet traffic.

Brislen said his home Netflix account "works OK" on his copper line connection but when the rest of the family began using their devices at the same time the service became slightly patchy.

HOW TO DO IT

1. Make Netflix think you're in America There's a couple of ways: Google "VPN" (virtual private network) and sign up to a VPN which funnels your internet traffic through a computer overseas and makes you look like you're there. VPNs are a bit more old-school and can affect download speeds so many people now sign up to a DNS service like UnoTelly.com which will make your computer look as though it is overseas without the speed problems. UnoTelly costs about $5 per month.

2. Sign up to Netflix Go to Netflix.com and sign up for an account. Reports suggest that a New Zealand credit card will work – just put an American zip code into the sign-up form (eg 90210). If you want to be extra careful you can use a service like Entropay.com which gives you a virtual credit card that is not from any particular country. It charges you 5 per cent when you load money onto the card but with Netflix only US$7.99 per month, you don't need much to keep you going for ages.

- Sunday Star Times

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