Yesterday I discovered that I watch a lot of YouTube and I decided I’d fix that, by watching some Netflix instead.

For some reason I had an urge to watch How I Met Your Mother but sadly Netflix South Africa’s catalogue doesn’t have the sitcom.

The reason for this is largely due to licensing.

While Netflix is arguably the largest streaming service on Earth, it’s not the only streaming service or TV channel on the planet. The firm works with producers, content providers and distributors to get licensing for TV shows but securing those rights isn’t always possible.

There are three factors that dictate whether content is available on the service or not namely;

  • The content rights are currently exclusive to another company.
  • The streaming rights are not available to purchase from the content provider.
  • Popularity, cost, seasonal or other localized factors, or availability.

To put this into better context let’s use Game of Thrones.

While HBO is the producer of Game of Thrones other TV channels and services are able to purchase a license to broadcast the show to their audience.

While there are instances where licenses can be acquired by multiple channels, more often than not licensing content is done on an exclusive basis.

So for instance, Game of Thrones will only be found on a Multichoice channel or Showmax because Multichoice has the exclusive rights to broadcast Game of Thrones in South Africa. It’s why the broadcaster can offer fans the show as it releases in the US.

But it’s not just content from other producers that Netflix has to fight for. House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black were unavailable on Netflix SA at launch. While Netflix never provided an explanation for this it’s largely believed to be due to licensing clashes.

In fact Netflix still doesn’t appear to have rights to stream Orange Is The New Black as the show only has four of the six seasons available to stream.

Yes, Orange Is The New Black is a Netflix original but another broadcaster may already have exclusive rights to broadcast the latest seasons of that show.

Licensing is just one reason that content might not make its way onto Netflix. Distribution rights might not be available for a certain region and Netflix’s data might suggest that a particular region doesn’t like or want certain content. In terms of the latter why waste money licensing content that nobody is going to watch?

Getting what you want

The problem with all of this is that you as the user don’t know what shows are licensed by who, in my example I just want to watch How I Met Your Mother, licensing be damned.

Thankfully Netflix allows users to request movies or TV shows they want to watch.

Simply head to this link and key in up to three titles you want to see and maybe you’ll see your show or movie available to stream soon.

Of course it’s not a guarantee that the content will arrive but who knows, maybe you’re not the only one that wants to binge watch every season of Masterchef ever produced.

The alternative is using a website such as JustWatch to find the content you want in a particular country and using a VPN to trick Netflix into thinking you are in that country.

Whether this works depends entirely on the VPN you use and while some work, others don’t.

It’s also worth noting that using a VPN to spoof your location could be considered a violation of Netflix’s terms of use, so do it at your own risk.

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.