In each country, Netflix (NFLX) offers different shows and movies, and your account will not work when moving between countries. There are several important reasons for the service disparities when crossing borders.
Why There Are Different Shows Available in Each Country
Hollywood movie and television studios put a lot of resources into each movie and show they release, and the costs to create these works vary widely. While some independent films are churned out for only tens of thousands of dollars, big blockbusters can cost hundreds of millions to produce. At the top of the list, with a production price tag of $378.5 million, is Disney’s (DIS) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
With so much money at stake each time a film is created, the studios do their best to strictly enforce copyright and earn as much as possible for their investments.
Studios have always sought to earn big sales at the box office, but the life of a movie after it leaves the theaters has changed dramatically over the last decade. Piracy used to only be a small problem, as it took a lot of work to replicate VHS tapes and re-sell them on the black market. But with the rise of the Internet, digital piracy and the shift from physical tapes and DVDs to online streaming has taken a toll on studio profits.
Studios have adapted by offering movies for sale through outlets including Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes Store and Amazon.com (AMZN). As Netflix has shifted from a DVD by mail service to a streaming service, their budget for digital content has increased and become an important revenue source for the studios.
Studios enforce copyright by country, as different markets have different demands for specific content. For example, a movie that was very popular in the United States might be uninteresting in Brazil, and a hit British comedy might not be so funny to American audiences.
Netflix and the studios both understand this, and the studios charge more for Netflix to offer the streaming of specific titles in some countries compared to others. Because the content deals are country-specific, Netflix may choose to pay the studio-demanded price to stream a title in one country, while negotiations in other regions fall flat.
Why Netflix Does Not Work When You Travel
The same rules that govern which countries have access to specific content apply to global travelers, and to avoid any legal issues with the studios, Netflix blocks your account from working outside of the countries where Netflix operates.
If you are traveling to another Netflix country, you can access that country’s Netflix library, which may differ from what you can watch at home. One way around this is to use a virtual private network (VPN), though doing so goes against Netflix's terms of service, and some users have reported their VPN being blocked by Netflix.
The Bottom Line
Just as Netflix is in the business of streaming video to its users around the world, the studios are in the business of earning profits on their content. With current copyright laws and agreements, Netflix negotiates with each studio to arrange specific agreements to stream titles in each territory.
As the Internet reaches more remote parts of the world, and as higher bandwidths allow for faster streaming services, Netflix continues to seek out new customers across the globe. However, until Netflix and the studios can agree on global pricing for movies and television programs, we are stuck streaming what Netflix does provide in our home country.