Friday, 17 January 2014

To Netflix the Glory

A few months ago I used this forum to inform you why I, an Australian user, have found Netflix to be rather “meh”. Between its demands on my Mac, the poor picture quality and the uninspiring catalog I was of the opinion that even though Netflix clearly signals where our future lies it is yet to be worthy of my $8 (USD) a month.
Yet here I am again to tell you I have changed my mind about Netflix.

It started from the ongoing comparison between Netflix and its equivalent in the field of audio, Spotify. It occurred to me the main benefit of Spotify is its usability, including the instantaneous nature of its operation. I was wondering whether I was trying Netflix out through the wrong use case, going as I did for the Mac/PC instead of the more accessible options. So I spent some time contemplating how to best recreate the Spotify circumstances on video using Netflix, particularly given the geo-blocking restrictions that are there to prevent Aussies from using Netflix.
If it's not the PC that I should use then the next option, the far more casual one, is the iPad. There are a couple of advantages to iPad Netflix consumption: the "closed garden" environment means less effort needs to be spent on DRM, and unlike my Mac I do not expect to have my iPad huffing and puffing when playing Netflix vids. All the while I could still have whatever movie I’m watching playing up on my big TV using an Apple TV.
So I went and explored how the iPad option can be implemented. The Netflix iPad app is unavailable in the Australian iTunes shop, which required me to create an American iTunes account. That turned out to be quite feasible, for free, as long as one has access to American VPN servers (or other geo-blocking countermeasures): follow the instructions here on how to “purchase” the Netflix app for free and you’ll get there, too.
After a short ceremony, during which I reactivated my Netflix account, I tried Netflix on the iPad for the first time. Lo and behold!
First, as expected, there was no huffing and puffing coming from the iPad. Not even mild heat when I went for Apple TV airplay. Second, the picture quality was good; it varied as it went along, but it was never bad and occasionally clearly of HD grade. Third, there were no buffering pauses whatsoever; playback started quickly, unlike iTunes, and never missed a beat. And fourth, mirrored through my Apple TV to our home theatre, the results were spectacular.
Not only did I get the usability experience I was after (bear in mind, I did have to keep my iPad running on VPN throughout), one of my other problems – picture quality – was effectively solved. I was so happy I was willing to forget the quality of Netflix’ catalog and remind myself there’s so much stuff in there I’m bound to find something to watch whenever I feel like.
I love Netflix.

So there you have it: the future in the here and now.
All one needs to do now is take a moment to reflect why us Aussies are unable to access services of such quality, services our American brethren have been taking for granted for several years now. I suspect the reason for this state of affairs is best summed up in one word, starting with Mur and ending with Doch, but I will let you form your own opinion up.

Image copyrights: Netflix


James Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Brown said...

So when you were accessing Netflix using an American VPN, did you also see more streaming content? How do you use the VPN on your ATV?. As for as i know, you can't set up VPN on ATV. I am currently using DNS unblocking services ( such as tunlr on ATV to get around this. But the websites supported by DNS unblocking services are limited. Thanks

Moshe Reuveni said...

1. In Australia, one cannot access Netflix at all without VPN. I chose to access it through an American VPN but never tried other countries under the assumption you get more in the USA (which I know is the case through British users).
2. I did not set VPN up on the Apple TV. I simply access Netflix through the iPad app, with the iPad running on American VPN; then I AirPlay the iPad to my Apple TV (mirroring set to off). Because the Netflix app is set for Apple TV usage, it works well.
3. For what it's worth, I'm using Witopia VPN ( They're excellent for the purpose of Netflix consumption because of their relatively high speeds.

Moshe Reuveni said...

P.S. At the risk of stating the obvious, you can use VPN on your Apple TV if you do it at the router level.