Best VPNs for Streaming

Video streaming has been a growing internet service since Broadband was introduced. Householders across the USA and all over the world are turning to on-demand video streaming content to supplement the entertainment that they get in a cable TV package.

Cord cutters are even doing away with cable TV subscriptions and saving themselves money by switching to live TV streaming services that have the same TV channels and offer the same TV shows as cable or satellite TV.

There is a lot of online entertainment available in the world. However, almost no one is able to access more than a small percentage of all of the streaming content that has been made available.

Broadcasting rights

Both on-demand video streaming services and live TV video streaming services limit access to their streaming content based on the viewer’s location. These blocks are what the industry calls “regional restrictions.”

The limits on who can access the videos on a streaming server are a result of the traditional shape of the broadcasting industry. For decades, terrestrial TV services had to have a license to operate from the government of the country that they wanted to broadcast in. That licensing system gave each channel a near-exclusive right to broadcast entertainment over the air in a particular country or area of a country.

In many nations, most of the TV stations were state-owned and governments also made a lot of money from the licenses that private-sector broadcasters had to pay. The broadcasters paid for the exclusive right to show a production within their territories. Because of this, the distributors of entertainment organized their sales efforts into the marketing of broadcast rights per country or per region.

When video streaming services started up, the technology of the distribution network meant that they were able to deliver streaming video anywhere in the world. However, the entertainment industry was still dominated by national broadcasters and the streaming services had to fit into the regional sales model of the entertainment industry.

With the rights to broadcast a TV show or movie in just one country, video streaming services than needed to ensure that people outside of their area couldn’t get access to the video to watch it while standing in a different part of the world. This is because a different company would have the right to show the video in other locations.

Implementing regional restrictions

The unique nature of the entertainment industry means that broadcast rights are based on where the viewer is located and not where the broadcaster is based. If video streaming services don’t limit the locations that their videos can be viewed, they would be sued out of existence.

Fortunately for streaming platforms, every request for a video has to have a return address on it. The addressing system for the internet is called the IP address. Every device connected to the internet has to have a unique IP address and every IP address can be traced to a location. So, all the video streaming site has to do is check on the origin of a request and send the video stream if the request comes from the right area or send a blocking message.

Unblocking streaming servers

It can be annoying if you subscribe to a video streaming service and then find that you are blocked from watching if you go abroad on vacation. Similarly, you might hear of a really good free video streaming service but then get blocked when you try to watch videos from it.

There is a way to get around regional restrictions. You just need to seem to be in the place where people are allowed access to the videos of a streaming service. There is a type of internet service called a virtual private network (VPN) that performs this trick.

A VPN connection ties all of the internet traffic to and from your device so that it all passes through a VPN server. All requests going onward out of the VPN service has the VPN server’s IP address on it. So, customers that want to seem to be in another country just pick a VPN server in that place. When the request for a video arrives at the streaming service, it has a return address that is in the right place and the streaming server sends the video stream back. The VPN server forwards all of that traffic back to the protected device down a secure VPN connection, which is called a tunnel.

With a streaming VPN, the VPN provider expects to get a lot of volume and so will offer unlimited bandwidth and high connection speeds. The best VPNs for streaming offer a long list of server locations, a large number of servers to handle a lot of traffic, and high connection speeds. The fastest VPNs usually cost more money but they prevent breaks in the stream for buffering and guarantee a high-quality viewing experience.

ISP interference

One more problem that customers of video streaming platforms have to deal with is action by the internet service provider (ISP). Many ISPs have implemented what is called “throttling.” This is the selective slowing of certain internet connection according to the type of traffic that it is carrying.

Throttling has been particularly prevalent in the USA because many householders get their internet service from a cable TV operator. These TV systems were threatened by rival premium TV streaming services when they first started up. This is particularly the experience of Netflix. Comcast was caught intentionally throttling video streams in order to try to kill off the viability of Netflix. Even when Netflix paid a subsidy to Comcast and got the ISP to sign a contract vowing to stop throttling, the ISP just carried on with the sabotage.

VPNs solve the problem of throttling because they protect all traffic on an internet connection where it passes through the gateway of the ISP. This means that the ISP can’t tell which traffic is a video stream and so can’t target video traffic.

The best VPN services for streaming

The best VPN providers for video streaming have easy to use VPN apps, offer good download speeds, allow many simultaneous connections, a large server network, and unlimited bandwidth. We have researched the market and identified six VPN service providers that work very well for accessing streaming sites from anywhere in the world.

Here is our list of the six best VPNs for streaming:

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. Surfshark
  3. NordVPN
  4. IPVanish
  5. CyberGhost VPN
  6. VyprVPN

You can read more about each of these options in the following sections.

ExpressVPN

The best VPN for streaming

ExpressVPN is the leading streaming VPN in the world at the moment. The ease of use of its VPN app and the high quality of its customer support make VPN technology accessible to members of the general public who have no technical knowledge. Not only is ExpressVPN very consumer-friendly, but it also has very high-quality service, particularly for streaming services. 

Express VPN can get around the regional restrictions on Netflix, which is the industry touchstone. It can also unblock Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and HBO, among others. ExpressVPN has strong security features and it can slip past the internet restrictions in China and block ISPs from identifying streaming content on internet connections.

ExpressVPN is one of the few VPN services that offer a free app for routers. Although a lot of VPN providers offer the option of protecting routers, in most cases, the VPN has to be set up manually. A big advantage of installing the VPN on a router is that it covers all of the devices in the house that connect to the internet but only uses one of the account’s simultaneous connection allowance.

Pricing

ExpressVPN is the best VPN provider but it is also one of the most expensive streaming VPNs. The price per month for the ExpressVPN service is $12.95. The one year plan works out a lot cheaper when calculated per month: $8.32. Each customer is allowed five simultaneous connections with either subscription period. ExpressVPN gives new customers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Security

Security features in the ExpressVPN package prevent outsiders from spying on internet connections or interfering with them. This includes AES encryption with a 256-bit key, which is uncrackable. The AES cipher is a symmetrical system, which means that both sides have to have the same encryption key in order to communicate securely. Distributing that key would ordinarily be a security weakness. However, it is standard practice for VPNs to use an asymmetric encryption system to protect the transfer of the AES key. In an asymmetric system, each side has a different pair of keys – one is private and the other is public and they don’t both need to have the same sat. ExpressVPN uses a 4098-bit key RSA cipher for session establishment and key distribution, which is the strongest session establishment protection in the industry.

Other protection measures include IP leak protection and a kill switch in the app, which prevents other apps on the device from connecting to the internet without the VPN engaged.

VPN protocols

ExpressVPN offers the following protocols:

  • OpenVPN over TCP
  • OpenVPN over UDP
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • SSTP
  • PPTP

The default protocol setting in the app is “Automatic” which will select the strongest protocol appropriate to the connection and the VPN server chosen. The best option is OpenVPN over TCP.

Customer support

ExpressVPN is renowned for the quality of its customer support team. The help desk available around the clock, every day of the year via a web form ticketing system, email, or live chat.

User experience

The ease of use of the Express VPN app is another strong selling point for this VPN provider. The app installs itself from a downloadable wizard that is available on the ExpressVPN website. The user just needs to pick a server location from a list and press a button to get the VPN service active.

Pros

  • Gets into Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO
  • More than 3,000 VPN servers in 94 countries
  • Fast connection speeds
  • AES 256-bit encryption
  • Strict no-logs policy
  • Simultaneous connection allowance of five devices
  • Desktop VPN apps for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux
  • Mobile device apps for iOS and Android
  • Browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari
  • Apps for wi-fi routers and set-top boxes, including Kodi, Apple TV, Android TV boxes, and Fire TV devices
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Quite expensive

Surfshark

Good speeds for streaming live video

Surfshark is a competent VPN service. The VPN provider is based in the British Virgin Islands, which is also the base for ExpressVPN. Although not as well-known as ExpressVPN, this VPN service includes a lot of server locations and offers fast connection speeds. The two-year plan is particularly good value for money.

Pricing

Surfshark costs $11.95 per month on the month-to-month plan. The cheapest subscription option, when calculated per month, is the two-year plan, which works out at $1.99 per month. Each account gets an unlimited simultaneous connections allowance, which creates a very low cost per connection. Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Security

The security features of Surfshark include AES 256-bit encryption, IP and DNS leak protection, and a kill switch in the app.

The Surfshark VPN app includes an ad blocker and malware protection.

VPN protocols

Surfshark operates three VPN protocols that are applied to different device types.

  • OpenVPN on Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, and Fire TV
  • IKEv2/IPSec on Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, and Fire TV
  • Shadowsocks on Windows and Android

Shadowsocks is an encrypted proxy, which creates faster internet connections than a VPN service.

Customer support

The customer support team is available 24/7 through email or a live chat system at the Surfshark website.

User experience

The VPN apps self-install from download files retrieved from the Surfshark website or the relevant app store. When using the app, the user selects a country to connect to from a list of server locations and then presses the Connect button.

Pros

  • Gets into Netflix and other streaming platforms.
  • More than 1,700 VPN servers in 63 countries
  • Good download speeds for faultless streaming
  • AES 256-bit encryption
  • Strong no logs policy
  • No limit to simultaneous connections
  • Malware protection
  • Customer support available 24/7 via live chat
  • Desktop VPN apps for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux,
  • Mobile device apps for Android and iOS
  • Installs on streaming devices, such as Amazon Fire TV Stick
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Not one of the major VPNs

NordVPN

A great option for those on a tight budget

Based in Panama, NordVPN offers a very competent VPN service for streaming video at a low price. This VPN provider is a good choice for China because it can slip through the state-run block on international web access and VPN usage. The VPN provider has also developed a very good service for getting around the regional restrictions of streaming servers such as Netflix.

Pricing

NordVPN offers better prices for longer subscription periods than short ones.  The monthly subscription costs $11.95 per month. The 2-year plan is a much better deal because it works out at $3.49 per month. However, be aware that the subscription period has to be paid for upfront in its entirety. Each plan gets a simultaneous connection allowance of six devices and NordVPN offers new customers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Security

The VPN connection of NordVPN is protected from snoopers by 256-bit AES encryption. The VPN service also provides a private DNS system and IP leak protection. NordVPN also includes a streaming feature called SmartPlay. This is an encrypted smart DNS service that kicks in automatically when it detects a video stream. The SmartPlay system has less security than a VPN, which makes it faster. However, the service is still encrypted, so ISPs can’t see into the traffic and implement throttling.

NordVPN includes a malware and ad blocking system called CyberSec, which is free to VPN subscribers. The VPN apps include a kill switch and there is also a lighter version that operates as a web browser extension. This will be OK if you stream videos through a browser, but if you use a separate streaming app, such as the one available from Netflix, that system won’t be protected by the browser extension version of NordVPN.

VPN protocols

NordVPN includes the following protocols:

  • OpenVPN over TCP
  • OpenVPN over UDP
  • IKEv2/IPSec

The default protocol setting in the app is OpenVPN over UDP.

Customer support

NordVPN doesn’t have a live chat support facility. However, its team of technicians is available 24/7 via email and they respond to queries quickly.

User experience

NordVPN has a good-looking app that installs itself and is easy to use. The main feature of the VPN app’s home screen is a cartoon map of the world with a market in each country where NordVPN has servers. The user just needs to click on a marker to get connected to a VPN server in that location. Alternatively, users can search for server locations from a list view.

Pros

  • Gets into Netflix, the BBC iPlayer, and many other streaming sites.
  • More than 5,513 VPN servers in 59 countries
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • AES 256-bit encryption
  • Strict no-logs policy
  • Malware protection
  • Six devices simultaneous connection allowance
  • Desktop VPN apps for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux
  • Mobile device apps for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry
  • Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Some VPN servers can be slow

IPVanish

The highest speeds around for streaming

IPVanish is probably the fastest VPN available. The company owns and operates all of its infrastructures and has direct access to the Tier 1 backbone of the internet. This makes its internet connections very fast and problem-free.

Along with fast connections, the excellent masking capabilities enable IPVanish to unblock Netflix and many other popular streaming services, giving you full access wherever you are. Please note that VPNs can’t break into streaming platforms without a user account, they are only able to remove the problem of regional restrictions. You will still also need to pay for a subscription to your chosen streaming service.

Pricing

A month-to-month subscription to IPVanish costs $10.00 per month. The two-year plan is a lot cheaper and costs $3.70 per month. However, you have to pay for the whole subscription period upfront.

Each account holder gets a simultaneous connection allowance of 10 devices and IPVanish also includes 250 GB of secure storage space on the SugarSync cloud server system. All new customers of IPVanish get a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Security

IPVanidh blocks snoopers by encrypting the link from the VPN app to the VPN server with a 256-bit key AES cipher. The IPVanish VPN service includes a private DNS system and IP leak protection and also a kill switch and wi-fi network protection in the VPN app.

VPN protocols

IPVanish apps have three VPN protocol options. These are:

  • OpenVPN
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • L2TP/IPSec

OpenVPN is the best of these options.

Customer support

The customer support system of IPVanish centers on a live chat facility at the VPN service’s website. The help desk can also be contacted by email.

User experience

The apps for IPVanish are all self-installing and easy to use. The main feature of the home screen is a list of server locations. The user just needs to double-click on a VPN server to start the connection process rolling.

Pros

  • Gets into Netflix and other streaming services
  • More than 1,500 VPN servers in 55 countries
  • The fastest network available
  • A strict no logs policy
  • Account anonymity – paying with Bitcoin is possible
  • Desktop VPN apps for Windows Mac OS and Linux
  • Mobile device apps for Android and iOS
  • Allowance of 10 simultaneous connections
  • 250 GB of SugarSync secure cloud storage included
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Based in the USA where government agencies could assert pressure

CyberGhost VPN

Servers optimized for streaming

CyberGhost VPN is a very innovative VPN service based in Romania. The look and feel of the app is very attractive and would appeal to a young style-conscious audience. The company runs specialist servers for streaming and even has a page on its site with links through to all of the streaming services that it can get into. CyberGhost can get into Netflix and the BBC iPlayer, both of which have comprehensive VPN detection systems and blocks. It can also get around the regional restrictions on some of the hardest streaming services to crack, such as Sky Go. CyberGhost will get you cross-border access to HBO, Hulu, Disney+, and many other premium subscription services that you have accounts for.

As well as being a good option for accessing streaming services from overseas, CyberGhost has strong security and offers good identity protection for torrenters and those who play games online. The account creation process makes it possible for customers to set up completely anonymous accounts, paying by gift cards or cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin.

Pricing

The monthly plan of CyberGhost VPN is expensive at $12.99 per month. The company clearly doesn’t want to attract customers who just want VPN protection for one month. The monthly cost of the CyberGhost VPN service gets a lot cheaper with longer payment periods. The cheapest price, when calculated per month is with the three-year plan, which has a rate of $2.75 per month. Although, you have to pay for the entire three-year period in advance. Each account holder gets an allowance of seven simultaneous connections.

CyberGhost gives new customers a 45-day money-back guarantee. It also has a 24-hour free trial offer for those who want to get a look at the app and try it out before committing to a purchase.

Security

CyberGhost applies very strong encryption with the regular VPN traffic protected by a 256-bit key AES implementation. Session establishment is covered by 4096-bit RSA encryption. That puts CyberGhost in the top division of VPNs for security alongside ExpressVPN.

The CyberGhost VPN app includes a kill switch and the service has automatic wi-fi protection and a private DNS service built-in. CyberGhost includes malware protection and ad blockers for free.

VPN protocols

The VPN protocols available with CyberGhost are:

  • OpenVPN over UDP
  • OpenVPN over TCP
  • WireGuard
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • L2TP/IPSec

WireGuard is a new VPN protocol that is expected to replace OpenVPN. However, very few VPNs have managed to get a working implementation of it. For example, NordVPN is still trying to straighten out its own version of WireGuard, which is calls NordLynx. For the time being, most VPN services rely on OpenVPN, but CyberGhost is ahead of the competition with its WireGuard option.

Customer support

There is a live chat support facility available at the CyberGhost website for general inquiries. Deeper technical issues need to be dealt with by email. The problem with contacting the support team by email is that it breaks account anonymity. Without needing to contact the help desk, CyberGhost customers do not need to give any identifying information to run an account with the service.

User experience

The VPN app for CyberGhost is very stylish and has a lot of great technical features. It installs itself from a download from the CyberGhost website of an app store and has great ease of use.

Pros

  • Gets into Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO, and Sling TV among other streaming services
  • More than 6,300 servers in 90 countries
  • Very fast speeds
  • Excellent user interface
  • Strong encryption
  • Account anonymity
  • DNS and IP leak protection
  • Kill switch
  • Adblocker
  • Malware protection
  • Desktop VPN apps for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS
  • Mobile device apps for Android and iOS
  • Apps for Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV boxes, and smart TVs
  • Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox

Cons

  • The technical support team is a bit slow to respond

VyprVPN

Good streaming VPN that’s also good for gaming

VyprVPN offers a good service for streaming, gaming, and P2P file sharing. The company is based in Switzerland, a country that allows the downloading of copyrighted material if it is for personal use. There are many benefits to VyprVPN including its unique obfuscation methodology and its handy little easy-to-use app.

The unblocking capabilities of VyprVPN extend to Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and the BBC iPlayer. VyprVPN offers a decent service. It owns and manages all of its infrastructure, which makes it less vulnerable to the security slip up that those VPNs that outsource their systems have experienced.

Pricing

The monthly plan for VyprVPN costs $12.95. This is high, but it isn’t your only option because, at $60.00, the two-year plan offers better value for money. That multi-year plan works out at $2,50 a month. All customers are allowed five simultaneous connections to the service. VyprVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Security

The creators of VyprVPN came up with their own obfuscation method, which is called Chamelion. This packet scrambler has been very successful over the years and it is key to the VPN’s ability to slip past blocks in places like China and fool the proxy detection processes on streaming servers.

VPN protocols

VyprVPN uses the following protocols:

  • OpenVPN – On Windows, Mac OS, QNAP NAS, Android, and iOS
  • IKEv2/IPSec – On Windows, Mac OS, and iOS
  • WireGuard – On Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS
  • PPTP – On QNAP NAS

VyprVPN’s WireGuard implementation is at the frontier of VPN technology.

Customer support

VyprVPN’s customer support team can be contacted through a live chat system or a web form at the VPN service’s website or by email.

User experience

The VyprVPN app is self-installing and very easy to use. The main screen includes a drop-down list of server locations. After clicking on one, the user just has to press the Connect button to start the VPN session.

Pros

  • Gets into Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Sling TV, the BBC iPlayer, and more
  • More than 700 servers in 63 countries
  • Proprietary obfuscation method
  • Desktop apps for Windows and Mac OS
  • Mobile device apps for Android, iOS, and Blackphone
  • Apps for routers, including Anonabox
  • Apps for Kodi and Android TV boxes
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • No app for Linux