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Streaming Media Players and Content Around the World

Streaming Media Players and Content Around the World

A couple of years ago, I went up to Canada to visit my family. While I was there, I had the brilliant idea that I would get someone there a Roku for Christmas and create a profile for them on my own Netflix account (my plan allows two screens to stream at the same time). I knew they wouldn’t be interested in paying for the service over and above their cable service until they saw the extra value it provided, but if they liked it would then be able to get their own account.

Unfortunately, after looking into how it would work, I ran into more issues than I expected and dropped the idea. I then wrote a post for T4L about that specific experience hoping it would help others. Since then, however, I’ve done some more research about how you can use streaming players anywhere outside of your home country, so I’m updating the post to include that information. It’s divided into two sections, the first about where you can buy and use the devices themselves and the second about what content you can access abroad.

NOTE: This post will discuss general concepts, some of which I’ve tested out in Canada, but I can’t guarantee what the situation will be everywhere.

The Players

For this post, I’m just going to discuss the Big Four of streaming players: Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast.

Learn more about all of these players in the Streaming Media section on T4L. >>

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon only sells the Fire TV and Fire TV stick from their U.S., U.K., and Germany sites and they won’t ship them to other countries. However, I was able to take my Fire TV Stick from the U.S. and use it in Canada. I was also able to reset it to factory settings and set it up from there.

Roku

Roku sells their players in multiple countries, although the available models vary from country to country. I was able to use my U.S. Roku streaming stick in Canada and set it up again from there as well.

Apple TV

You can also purchase the Apple TV in multiple countries and, again, I could use and reset my U.S. one in Canada.

Google Chromecast

This was the only player where I could not use my U.S. one in Canada. I got some kind of error message about not being able to work with the wireless network. So I did have to buy a new one in Canada, which then worked fine. It’s also available in other countries. But this also means you may not be able to travel internationally with a Chromecast you bought at home, unlike the other players.

The Content

Once you’ve got a working player, you’ll find the content options available to you are different from country to country depending on the streaming rights they’ve negotiated with movie and TV show distributors. For example, the Netflix catalog isn’t exactly the same in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.; you can rent and buy Amazon videos in Canada but you can’t watch the free Prime videos; and Hulu, HBO NOW, and many other providers are U.S. only altogether.

NOTE: Because content options are different everywhere and frequently changing, your best bet to find out what’s available in any country is to go to websites for the various player manufacturers and content providers.

The way they restrict your options is by identifying the IP address of the Wi-Fi network your player is connected to, which is tied to a specific country. So that gives you two options: Enjoy the content that’s available or make the player think you’re in country with the content you want. Enter VPNs.

NOTE: T4L reader Scott has pointed out that another limiting factor is the country of the credit card you’re using to pay for content. He’s right that I was using an American card in Canada to order Amazon content. Check out his comment which includes a couple of suggestions for how to deal with this issue. If you have any other ideas, please add them as well. Thanks for sharing that info, Scott!

About VPNs

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, a series of servers in different locations around the world. When you buy VPN software, you can log into one of those servers and when a website checks your IP address, it thinks you’re coming from the country where that server is located instead of from your own Wi-Fi network. I use ExpressVPN and it’s worked well for me.

Learn more about ExpressVPN in this T4L post. >>

Here’s how you use a VPN with the Big Four players.

NOTE: Some content providers have technologies that let them recognize when a VPN is being used and will still block you. However, some server locations in the PPN network may still work for some of these providers. So if you run into this situation, your best bet is to contact the Support team for the VPN company to see if they can recommend a particular server to connect to for your specific situation.

Amazon Fire TV and Roku

Neither of these players have settings you can change to directly connect to a VPN. So the way to change its network’s IP address is to connect to the Internet using a hotspot from your VPN-connected mobile device or computer.

This post has information about how to connect via a mobile hotspot:

Using

To create a hotspot from your computer (also referred to as a virtual router), depending on your PC’s network adapter you may be able to do this through Command Prompt. The following posts from ExpressVPN provide step-by-step instructions for doing this.

How to share a VPN connection from your Windows PC with manual configuration

How to share a VPN connection from your Mac

This doesn’t work on my current laptop, so I have another piece of software called Connectify that creates the hotspot for me.

Learn more about Connectify in this T4L post. >>

Whichever method you use, you’ll log into the VPN from your phone, tablet or computer and then set up the hotspot to share its connection with other devices. Once that’s done, go to the Network Settings for your Fire TV or Roku and connect to it. Now when a streaming content provider checks your IP address, it will think you’re in the country of the VPN server you’re connected to.

Apple TV

The Apple TV actually lets you change one of its network settings to connect directly to your VPN without going through your computer. Your VPN provider should give you the instructions for what changes you need to make.

Another option is to install the VPN software on your iPhone or iPad, connect to the VPN server, and then use the AirPlay feature to cast videos from your phone or tablet to your Apple TV.

And if neither of those options work for you, you should still be able to use the hotspot method described above for the Fire TV and Roku.

Google Chromecast

With the Chromecast, all you need to do is install the VPN software and sign into the server you want on the phone or tablet you normally use to cast to the player. The VPN server’s IP address will then be used to determine your location.

Do you have any other tips for using streaming media players outside of your home country? Share them in the comments below!

You may also be interested in:

Use ExpressVPN to Access TV Shows and Movies Not Available in Your Location

Turn Your Computer into a Wi-Fi Hotspot with Connectify Software

Comparing Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu Streaming Video Providers

Elizabeth Kricfalusi

View Comments

  • I have a DD-WRT router and use the Torguard tunneling service. The router is setup so that anything connected to it is also automatically connected to the tunneling service. Very easy to use this way because I don't have to setup each device or run a computer constantly. I have a US version roku I bought on ebay and the combination works great. I can get US Netflix and Hulu no problem. The only caveat is that for Hulu and other services like Vudu and Amazon is that you have to use a US credit card in order to pay for them. The work-around for Hulu is to find a gift card service that will let you purchase from Canada. A bit tricky but they're out there. I've also read that a pre-loaded MC or Visa works but I assume they also have to be US versions too. I bought a $50 Vanilla Visa in Canada and it would not work to buy Hulu time. Elizabeth was able to view Amazon in Canada because of her US credit card. Just a FYI. Not sure if Amazon or Vudu offer gift cards like Hulu.

    • Hi Scott.

      I'm not sure how tunneling services work so you're way ahead of me technically there. But you make a good point about American credit cards. I'm going to update the post with that caveat. Thanks for that!

      - Elizabeth

  • I live in Canada. This article is all wrong about 20 channels.
    I am running over a hundred and can get 100's more (Be aware though. lots of junk channels).
    I did not want to run a VPN through my router so here is what I've done. For all the US content I run a VPN on my computer and use Plex to stream to my Roku.
    For all my none VPN channels my main channels are Crackle, Netflix, LiveTv(Global and CTV are on this), Filmon (about 40 UK channels streaming live. BBC, ITV, 5 USA More 4, etc), Channel Pear, Youtube (OF COURSE! lol), TubiTV, and on and on and etc.
    My paid subscriptions are USTVNOW which is well worth it to me ($19.00US/m for 3 months then $29.00US/m. No contracts). Some people complain about the price being high. I'm guessing those are American complainers, because although it is only about 30 channels, these are quality channels. Americans should see the crap Canadian TV providers force down our throats and at the costs!
    I also pay $1.99/m for CanadaTV (I mainly get for Breakfast Television, the other channels are found free on LiveTV), and of course $8.00/m for Netflix. Not as good as american, but still a lot of good content
    Oh, and USTVNOW is free if you are only looking for ABC.CBS,NBC,FOX,CW,PBS. 45 day trial on Roku and after that free to watch on a computer only.

    • Hi Tom.

      Thanks so much for sharing your info! Funnily enough, I'm in Canada right now and I'm testing all these options so I can update this post.

      How did you find out about the channels like Live TV and Filmon and the other non-VPN ones you use? When I referred to 20, those are the only ones the Roku website makes clear are available from Canada. If there are lots more, I'd love to know where to find the list to share with other readers.

      I'm confused about your reference to Plex. I haven't spent enough time learning about it (another topic I want to write about), but my understanding is that it only streams media downloaded to your computer or mobile device, not content streaming from the web. Am I wrong about that?

      And, yes, USTV is a great option (again, something I need to write about!) but technically you're supposed to be an American citizen living abroad to use it. I know you have to check off a box stating that you are, but I think it's totally on the honour system.

      Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to post all this. Stay tuned for my own updated post in the not too distant future!

      - Elizabeth

      • Start with these 2 sites. Lots of Roku private channels....This is the key to Canadian Roku, Private Channels.
        http://mkvxstream.blogspot.com/2014/06/roku-channels-guide.html
        http://streamfree.tv/roku/roku-secret-screens/
        Private channels do not show on the official Roku site.
        TV is going the way that voip phones did many years ago, as it progresses it will be easier and better.
        I spent a lot of time searching and there are many other sites to find channels, but the two I mention are the biggies.
        I also check the new channels streaming right on my Roku. That's how I found CanadianTV.
        I understand USTVNOW is meant for Americans, but they don't seem to check and I'm pretty sure(can't remember now) when I signed up there was nothing asked if I was American. That may have changed.
        USTVNOW is the one time Canadians can luck out and Americans get screwed. LOL. Kind of ironic.
        BTW my main house phone is a magic jack. About $50.00/year include every feature and all North America is local calling(no long distance).
        I live in a rural area and my only choice is xplornet for internet. top speed of 10mb and usually running 5mb or less. running 3 tv's on Roku my magic Jack and my tablet and laptop and honestly the hiccups are few and far.
        It's usually running quite smoothly.

        • Oh, and as far as Plex goes. All I know is that when I run the app from my computer, Plex already had a bunch of channels to add. Most of these are American channels that offer quite a bit of VOD of whatever shows any certain network may show. You can only view the last 6 or so most recent shows, but that is still a lot of watching. here is where I need the VPN or you will not get to see any of these shows. Add the Plex app to Roku and you'll be streaming them from the Plex server installed on your computer.

  • Can you really watch, legally, movies that are still in theatres? How in the world to the movie studios make money if people are doing this?

  • As several others have said, the link to Canadian Channels doesn't really show you anything - maybe a dozen examples... I'd love to see a list! I'm certainly not going to pay 80$ to see what's available!

    • Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure those are the only channels actually available to Canadian Roku users, unless they mask their location as described in the post. There are only about 20 (some of the categories have arrows you can click to see a few more channels).

      - Elizabeth

  • Your link "See what channels are available for Roku in Canada. " takes me to the US site- what is the good of that? I cannot find any site anywhere that actually says what is available in Canada, basically Roku is a rip off in Canada.

    • Hi David.

      That's odd that the link didn't work for you. It does seem like they've changed the URL for that page, but when I clicked the link in the post, it did redirect to the correct page. In any case, here is the direct link, which I've also updated in the post:

      https://www.roku.com/en-ca/whats-on

      For future reference, you can always go to roku.ca and then click the Explore Channels link at the top to get there. You'll know it's the Canadian site because they have the Cineplex Store channel, which is not available in the US.

      It's true that the Roku doesn't offer anywhere near as many options in Canada as in the States.

      - Elizabeth

  • Hey. Thank you for this useful info. I wish I saw it last week. Anyhow. I live in canada I bought a sharp tv and I found it was roku. Honestly I never heard of roku before. I know there's Apple TV but never used it . Now back to my tv I didn't know what to do with it I thought it's smart tv like my lg tv. I was lost st the beginning and after hours of googling I found out that it is roku tv and what we can watch in canada is nothing comparing to the states. Still after a week can't figure out what to do with this tv I think I'm going to return it and pay few extra dollars and get the lg smart tv . I can watch online and do many other stuff. Roku canada is very bad and I don't recommend it. It's wasting of money. I recommend a smart tv just a smart tv and you can find a way to go your online steaming . Have a nice day

  • I have a Roku 3, and while I agree that I cannot get as many channels as you can get in the US, I looked through the offering of Chromecast and Apple TV in Canada, and Roku 3 still offers more than its competitors. Just an FYI. Your link to the Roku offering links to a blog post from 2012. You might represent Roku better this way: https://www.roku.com/ca/whats-on

    • Hi K.

      I'm not sure what blog post you're referring to as my link goes to the exact same page you've listed.

      - Elizabeth

      • One of my favourite Apps that is on Roku 3 is Firefox (For Web Videos) Channel. When you download the Firefox browser you can cast videos to your Roku 3 from the browser. I live in Canada and I can pause, play videos.

        • Hi Jonathan.

          I didn't realize there was a Firefox app for Roku. That would certainly open up a lot of possibilities and I'll definitely check it out. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

          - Elizabeth

        • * With my my remote of course. I still think it's shameful that Roku hasn't added CravetV and shomi yet tho and that won't work with what i just mentioned.

          • Unless I'm mistaken, CraveTV and Shomi are affiliated with specific cable operators in Canada so my guess is that they are the ones preventing Roku from having those channels. It's in Roku's best interest to have as many as possible.

            - Elizabeth

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