Saturday 12 October 2013

In Praise of Netflix

I didn't know how good it was going to be. I weep for the surplus I failed to obtain because I hadn't bothered setting up a very very simple VPN plug-in that would let me sign up.

Here's NZ ISP Orcon's explanatory guide. But even that makes it look too hard. Here's how you get your surplus.
  1. Install Hola. It's a Chrome browser plug-in. Just follow the directions in your browser.
  2. After installing Hola, hit the button on the Hola browser page for Netflix. You'll be signing in as American. But simply clicking the little flag later (accessed by hitting the >> symbol up at the top right of your screen) lets you be British, Brazilian, Canadian, or whatever you like.
  3. Sign up for Netflix using your NZ credit card. Put in a US Zip code. That's it. You're now a Netflix member. Because we only wanted the online version, it didn't ask for a street address.
  4. Watch Season 5 of Breaking Bad. When you want to watch Season 5 Part 2, you'll need to be British. So look at (2), above, and be British. Netflix will say "Hey! You're on holiday abroad! Content here differs." If you want to know what country you need to be to watch which content, hit CanIStreamIt
You could also use Unblock-us if you need router-level IP geomasking for multiple devices. I've had no problems with Hola, but have heard nothing but great things about Unblock-us as well.

Here's the NBR from last week:
"I got Netflix working at home last night, piece of cake, because I read an article somewhere on how to do it," the Orcon boss [Orcon CEO Greg McAlister] told NBR.

Netflix the US online service that lets you stream unlimited TV programmes and movies for $US8.95 a month. You can watch them on your regular television if you've got the right wi-fi gadget (such as Apple's $159 Apple TV box, which has both Netflix and Hulu apps if you sign in on a US account). In the US, according to Wired, the street-legal Netflix now accounts for more internet traffic than BitTorrent services, often used for shady sharing. Given the choice, it seems most people will do the right thing.

Sky TV has recently taken a front-foot approach, requesting that lines about how to connect to Netflix be removed from an Eric Crampton article.

But it might be the proverbial case of a finger in a leaking dyke.
When Green Labour* MP Clare Curran tweeted my NBR piece on getting Netflix, CEO of Copyright Licensing NZ and Chair of the Copyright Council of NZ Paula Browning jumped in. Clare pointed out, correctly, that Netflix lets people pay for content. Here's the rest of the conversation.

I didn't get any reply, so I still don't know on what basis she'd distinguish exclusive dealing rights for copyright industries from exclusive dealing rights for other industries. Parallel importation does wonders in helping to keep prices down in what's otherwise a very expensive place to live. You can arrange with Nike that you're the sole authorised retailer of their shoes in New Zealand. But if The Warehouse (our version of WalMart) can source a few containers of them from a Taiwan wholesaler, the New Zealand government doesn't see any reason to force other people to comply with whatever deal you made with Nike. If Nike wants to get mad at their Taiwan wholesaler, that's up to Nike.

I don't expect that the current situation is sustainable. Content providers who want to segment geographically are going to start leaning on Netflix to increase the barriers to folks outside the US using Netflix US. There's nothing they can do that cannot be circumvented, but anything that increases the fixed cost induces folks who need their grandkids to set their microwave clock to stick with Sky. I expect that some of Netflix's welcoming attitude towards foreign subscribers is to enhance their bargaining position in forcing that rights issues in dumb small markets like New Zealand get sorted out.

A few predictions:
  • Video rental outlets will shift towards content enjoyed by those who cannot figure out how to set the time on their microwave oven clocks. 
  • Sky will further emphasize live sport, making it even worse a deal for folks like me.
  • I will not find any adequate explanation of what makes HBO distribution rights substantially different from Nike distribution rights. 
* Egads. Error entirely mine. I'm so used to it only being the Greens who like what I have to say on copyright, that I'd just started assuming that any MP hitting me on it was from the Greens.


  1. "Video rental outlet"? So NZ is stuck in 2005.

  2. Rental places are dying, but but still around. Will bet half disappear over the next decade.

  3. Clare Curran is a Labour MP.

  4. I think that there is some legislation that for a period gave the movie companies an out on the parallel importing laws and this ends soon. I struggle to see how by-passing NZ distributors and paying a different distributor affects content creator rights. It definitely affects monopoly behaviour and if that is the right that is being protected then lets get rid of it.

    As you point out, why is the movie/TV distribution rights any different to other potentially parallel imported products. The primary reason I have heard is that it allows the distributors to time release to coincide with holidays and seasons. But having said that I also understand that some pacific islands get earlier release dates due to high levels of video piracy.

    Ultimately I believe it is about profit maximisation for the distributor and is of no benefit to the consumer. In fact as you rightly point out it encourages law abiding people to by-pass local distributors and pay, but also encourages people to by-pass and not pay!

  5. Great article Eric. The DNS option is better than using a VPN regarding content streaming because you can achieve direct connection with the media station ex. Netflix and avoid the “middle-man”. Personally, I am using UnoTelly which is similar to Hola. Perhaps you should check UnoTelly as well if you haven’t done so.

  6. Thanks for the article Eric! :) Why using a VPN when you can use a DNS service like UnoTelly? The DNS option is much faster and easier to use.

  7. When I set it up, Hola! had a really simple Chrome plug-in. It's been working fine for me; I've not noticed any speed issues. So haven't flipped.

  8. Kendra I agree with Eric, I am also using VPN which i choose from VpnRanks. The reason why i use VPN is that it not only allow me to get access of restricted websites but also provide me security.