Firstly, what is Netflix? Netflix is a video streaming service in the US that for a monthly fee, allows you to watch unlimited movies and tv series. The service costs $7.99 which is around R60 a month. That’s 3 DVD’s from your local video store.
The problem we have with Netflix is you have to be located in the US to use the service. In order to get Netflix to work here in South Africa, we need to actually browse and use Netflix via a server that is physically located in the US. Sound complicated? Not really. Enter the VPN (Virtual Private Network).
One thing about all of this is both Netflix and the VPN you are going to use have trial accounts. Netflix offers a 1 month free trial and the VPN has a 7 day money back guarantee. So try it out and if it doesn’t work properly or you can’t see yourself using it, cancel it all without spending any money.
How to setup a Netflix account from South Africa
To set this up, you’ll need a valid US mailing address and a Credit Card. They run automatic checks on the address to make sure its a deliverable address. Use Fake Name Generator to grab a Zip Code and State, then find the exact address of a post office in the US using USPS. Post being delivered to a post office is definitely going to work. :)
Enter your Credit Card details and your Netflix account should be good to go! (There is a Paypal option, but you most probably have a South African Paypal account, which won’t work.)
Using a VPN to access Netflix from South Africa
You going to need to sign up for a StrongVPN account. They have a number of packages and payment plans, so choose the one that suits you best. (Choose the cheapest!) I signed up for the Lite PPTP 3 month account ($21). Once you have your account setup, read StrongVPN’s How-to guide to getting your different machines or devices setup. If you having problems with setting up the VPN connection, use their live chat feature. They available for support 24 hours a day!
Download the Netflix app (iTunes link) for your iPhone and iPad in order to browse and watch movies from these devices. To connect your iPhone or iPad to your TV to watch movies, either get yourself a set of AVI or HDMi cables to connect to your TV or if you plan on getting an Apple TV, Airplay will allow you to tap a button and start watching the movie on your TV!
You can also watch movies via your web browser that has Microsoft Silverlight support. (For Mac, only Firefox and Safari has Silverlight support. Windows has support for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome.)
Some tips and observations
1: I’ve managed to watch movies via my Macbook and iPhone. With iOS 4.3 coming out, Airplay will be available to 3rd party apps. What this means is with an Apple TV (mine is on its way from the UK) I’ll be able to just tap a button on the Netflix iPhone app (if they implement the new feature) and stream movies on my TV!
2: Apple TV and my XBox 360 have Netflix integrated into them, the problem is you cannot setup a VPN connection directly on these devices. So other than hacking your router to use the VPN directly, I can’t see any other way to get the native Netflix app on the Apple TV or XBox 360 to work here in SA. But with an iPhone, you’ll be able to use Airplay to view movies on your Apple TV via Netflix!
3: When you are connected via the VPN, your browsing experience is slower (Speeds seem to vary though). You literally only need the VPN to bypass the location checking of Netflix, so once a movie gets past connecting to the Netflix server and is checking your connection speed, turn off the VPN. You’ll be watching movies in the same time as it takes Youtube to load on your connection. I also found that I only had to do this once and every subsequent movie I tried, I never had to be on the VPN to get it to work.
4: I’m still learning all the tricks of how to get all my devices working. Initially I couldn’t get any movie playing on my iPad (it would just say loading and never play), but I tried it again this morning and it’s working!
5: You can’t really start watching a movie on your iPad and then turn off the VPN. The app doesn’t have proper multi-tasking, so it cuts out and starts the movie from the beginning and does their location checks again. I did however find that once I started watching a movie on my iPhone, turned off the VPN and then started browsing other movies, the movies just worked!
6: I also managed to get Netflix to work using the Boxee app you can download for your Mac or PC. I’m not sure if it will work if you have the actual Boxee device, as it will need the ability to setup a VPN connection.