Getting access to blocked streaming content is a huge draw for those looking for the best VPN – when we surveyed Tom’s Guide readers, over 50% said that they regularly use their VPN for streaming. And, now that you need a huge number of paid subscriptions to watch all the shows you love, using a streaming VPN to get more for your money is a no-brainer.
A streaming VPN works by changing your virtual location. So, for example, you favorite show might be on HBO Max in the US, and Netflix in the UK. If you have Netflix but don’t fancy signing up to HBO Max for a single show, you can simply use a VPN to change your location to the UK and watch it on a service you already pay for.
However, not every VPN is optimized for streaming, so here we’ll be running exactly which ones are worth considering.
What makes a great streaming VPN?
When choosing a streaming VPN, there are three things to look prioritize – reliable access to plenty of streaming sites, a decent variety of servers, and excellent speeds. Our top pick ExpressVPN combines all these with a clean, polished interface that makes streaming overseas content super simple, all alongside excellent privacy.
Not all VPNs have that combination, and it’s worth mentioning that in mid-2021 Netflix cracked down hard on VPN use. Subsequently we saw almost every provider begin to struggle, although the best have now rallied and are performing well.
Also, while we’ve never heard of it actually happening, many streaming providers forbid the use of VPNs, under the threat of account termination. If you want to go on, though, alongside ExpressVPN there are a number of other excellent options that fill out this list. So, read on to discover which streaming VPN is the right one for you.
The best streaming VPN today
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From our testing, ExpressVPN is our #1-ranked VPN on the market. However, one of its standout features is its excellent capability as a streaming VPN, as it offers the triple whammy of speed, security and excellent international coverage.
That all means you can get access to over 3,000 servers across 94 countries, so no matter where you are it should be possible to get stuck into streaming media from back home. Connection speeds are reliably fast, so even streaming in 4K and HDR shouldn’t be an issue.
Unlike many other providers, ExpressVPN unblocks Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime, YouTube and more – all the more impressive when you know these streaming services are constantly trying to actively block VPNs. Be aware that currently you may need to contact the support team to direct you to a working server with Netflix.
If you do run into any snags – streaming-related or otherwise – the excellent live-chat customer support is available 24/7 and is always there to get you going again. It’s staffed by knowledgeable and genuinely helpful people that want – and know how – to get you what you need.
While streaming might be a priority, security is also paramount and ExpressVPN sports enterprise-level encryption along with a selection of protocols. That means you’re guaranteed online anonymity, letting you stream in peace without the threat of third-parties potentially invading your privacy.
All that, and you also get a 30-day money-back guarantee, meaning it’s essentially free to try for a month to make sure it suits you perfectly.
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NordVPN is built for security, and it’s a great streaming VPN to use if you’re concerned about anyone else watching with you (for a more in-depth analysis, check out our NordVPN review). The fact that it offers more than 5,500 servers in 60 countries is just a bonus which ensures great speeds no matter where you end up.
On top of excellent encryption there’s a handy SmartPlay feature. This encrypts your data in a more streamlined fashion, allowing you to eke out every last drop of performance from your connection. Especially useful for streaming in HD, Nord’s SmartPlay also sidesteps streaming services’ VPN blocking tools, meaning you’re guaranteed to have access to anything you want to watch.
After a couple of unreliable months, it now appears that NordVPN is performing better than ever as a Netflix VPN – in our testing it was able to unblock a wide range of locations, including the UK, US, Canada, Japan, and more.
NordVPN’s mobile apps are fully featured and provide much the same experience as the desktop clients. However, one thing we wish it had changed is the map-based interface – on a handheld screen it makes selecting servers a hassle, and we’d like to see a regular list from the start.
Other than minor issues with the apps, however, NordVPN is an excellent streaming VPN that almost always performs reliably.
Sign up on the NordVPN website (opens in new tab)
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In our Surfshark review, we found that the provider delivers an excellent mix of speed and value, but doesn’t scrimp on security. As such, it’s an ideal streaming VPN for use with US Netflix, Amazon Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube and more.
Another bonus is that Surfshark works very well as a Fire Stick VPN, so it’s a great option for getting geo-blocked media streaming on your big TV. It’s simple to use, which is perfect for beginners, but there’s a fair number of settings to tweak, too.
Compared to some other further up the list there’s not a huge amount of configuration on offer – but if all you’re interested in is getting access to overseas Netflix then that’s probably not a problem, and the unlimited simultaneous connections mean you can protect every device you own.
With a seriously tempting price and a 30-day guarantee, Surfshark’s an excellent streaming VPN that should be on your list.
Sign up now on the Surfshark website (opens in new tab)
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In our most recent Proton VPN review, we discovered that not only is the Swiss provider one of the most secure VPNs on the market, but that it’s a real streaming powerhouse as well.
First up: Netflix. In our testing Proton VPN easily evaded Netflix’s blocks in a good range of locations, although we did have an issue with Japan. That’s not a huge blot on Proton’s copybook, though, and we’ve historically found that the Japan library is, for some reason, one of the hardest to crack.
After that, Proton VPN completed a clean sweep of streaming services, including Disney+, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video, meaning whatever you want to watch, you’ll be able to access it with Proton VPN.
You’ll have the option to bag yourself Proton’s very capable free VPN, although you’ll have to upgrade to the Plus plan to unblock streaming content. It’s not hugely cheap, but special offers make Proton more affordable, and for the service you’ll get we think it’s worth it.
Sign up now on the Proton VPN website (opens in new tab)
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CyberGhost is a hugely popular and well-respected name in the VPN business, and has defined itself as a quality streaming VPN in recent years. In fact, out of the options here, it’s probably most specialized, thanks to dedicated servers for particular services.
That pays off too, as it’s capable of unblocking US Netflix, Prime and Disney+, as well as functioning well as a BBC iPlayer VPN.
However, CyberGhost simply isn’t as polished as the rest of this list, and small inconveniences like no notifications when you connect or disconnect and the fact the support site could do with some work let it down slightly.
That’s not to say CyberGhost isn’t worth considering as a streaming VPN, though. It’s great value, has a huge number of servers and you can test it out for a market-leading 45 days and claim a refund if you don’t like the service.
Sign up now on the CyberGhost website (opens in new tab)
Streaming VPN FAQs
What is the best streaming VPN?
We rate ExpressVPN (opens in new tab) as the best streaming VPN on the market. It delivers excellent speeds, unrivalled content unblocking performance, and has servers in just about every country you could ask for. What’s more, you’ll get a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can test the service risk-free for a month.
How does a streaming VPN work?
Every VPN works in the same way – it diverts your device’s connection away from your internet provider’s and instead uses one its own servers. Doing this means your ISP can’t see what you’re viewing, and an added bonus is that VPN server traffic is much more encrypted than the naked connection from your router.
A streaming VPN can get you access to overseas content by rerouting your connection through one its servers in a foreign country. By doing that, to any website it seems like you’re in that country, and subsequently you’ll be able to access any and all content that’s usually only available if you’re physically in that area.
What can I use a streaming VPN for?
There are two basic cases for using a streaming VPN – you’re either abroad and want to watch familiar but now geo-blocked content form back home, or you’re at home and want to watch geo-blocked content from abroad.
Whatever your reasons, there’s a huge amount of content on offer that you can only get with a streaming VPN. Netflix has a vast amount of content that’s only available in certain areas, and services like Hulu and BBC iPlayer are only available in one country.
However, there’s more to be had if you’re a sports fan. If you’re away from home and don’t want to miss a game that’s being shown on domestic TV, you can access that through a streaming VPN. The same goes if you’re a paying customer of a sports streaming service – just turn on your streaming VPN, log in to your streaming service and watch.
What are the best TV streaming services?
There are more video services to pick from these days than there were big chain video rental stores in the nineties. We’ve come a long way. But some practices still seem outdated, like geo-restrictions to keep certain content for particular locations. All the best services have these in place, but many don’t seem too concerned about VPNs which get around the issue.
From Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in 4K and HDR to BBC iPlayer, Hulu and YouTube and Disney+ – there are lots of streaming services to pick from and enjoy anywhere using a VPN. Want to find the best one for you? Check out our best video streaming services guide.