How to stream video to your TV using a VPN

Due to the complex nature of geo-based licensing between major studios, streaming services with international reach may have a more comprehensive selection of TV shows and movies in a different country. That’s why savvy viewers have long used VPNs—virtual private networks—to expand their options. Change your location from the US to the UK and you’re instantly logged in Friends and office again on Netflix.

This is great if you’re watching on a phone, tablet or computer, where installing and activating a VPN is usually as simple as visiting the device’s app store. But streaming via VPN is a bit more difficult on TV. Thankfully, there are several ways to get VPN-filtered content on the biggest screen in your home. Below we will teach you how to unlock geo-blocked content on your TV.

If you don’t already have a VPN subscription, we suggest choosing a service from our list the best VPNs. And with one notable exception Proton VPNwe recommend avoiding any free VPN options.

The easiest way to install a VPN on your smart TV is to download it from the built-in app store – if your preferred VPN is available. Among the top smart TV platforms, Amazon Fire TV and Google TV are your best options for built-in support. If your set doesn’t run those operating systems, you can add them to any TV with a free HDMI port for up to $30. Meanwhile, the more expensive Apple TV also supports a growing list of VPNs. Roku doesn’t support built-in VPN apps, unfortunately.

Amazon’s Fire TV operating system has a wide range of content to watch, as it comes with access to Prime Video’s extensive catalog. Thankfully, its user interface is easy to navigate, making setting up a VPN a breeze.

Amazon's Fire TV Stick line is a very VPN-friendly streaming platform.  Amazon's Fire TV Stick line is a very VPN-friendly streaming platform.

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick line is a very VPN-friendly streaming platform. (Amazon)

To set up a VPN, go to the Fire TV app store and search for the VPN service you subscribe to. Fire TV has many options in its app store, including most of the services we mentioned above the best VPNs list.

From there, the process is pretty simple: Download the app, sign in, and connect to the VPN. When you connect to another country by spoofing your IP address using a VPN, you’ll unlock its Prime Video content library.

Google TV is a smart TV operating system with an elegant user interface that supports thousands of apps, including VPNs and streaming platforms. As with the Fire TV, before activating the streaming service you want to check out, simply download the VPN app of your choice, enter your credentials, and launch it. While Google TV doesn’t have as strong a VPN library as Fire TV, it currently has a wider selection than Apple TV (see below).

If you want to install a VPN directly on Apple TV, you need tvOS 17 or later. Otherwise, you can follow our alternative solutions below.

Apple TV boxes have become more VPN friendly with recent OS updates.Apple TV boxes have become more VPN friendly with recent OS updates.

Apple TV boxes have become more VPN friendly with recent OS updates. (Devindra Hardawar/Engadget)

For those with tvOS 17 and later, setting up a VPN on Apple TV is simple. However, it’s important to note that it doesn’t support many services, so you’ll need to double-check the Apple TV compatibility of the VPN you subscribe to.

There are two differences between screen casting and mirroring. The first is when you stream content to the device, stream it to your smart TV, and use the device for other purposes without interrupting what you’re streaming. The latter is when you show everything you do on your device on your TV. For example, if you’re streaming a movie and tabbing out, your smart TV will mirror everything you’re doing.

As with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in vehicles, there are Apple and Google options for screencasting: AirPlay and Google Cast (formerly Chromecast). Either way, you start by launching your VPN of choice on your phone or tablet, launching your streaming app, launching your movie or TV show, and simply clicking the AirPlay or Google Cast icon while streaming video. If your TV doesn’t have AirPlay or Google Cast built-in, you can buy a set-top box that supports one or the other.

AirPlay is probably the most popular casting and is a mirroring technology and currently works on a wide range of smart TVs and set-top boxes. I screencast from my iPhone XR with VPN enabled on my Samsung UHD TV and everything worked without a problem.

On the Google side, click the icon with the TV and Wi-Fi beams to start streaming your content to the big screen.

It should be noted that it works on a rival screen streaming platform called Amazon Item Castingbut not yet widely supported.

If you don’t want to fiddle with wireless protocols, an underrated and lesser-known way to stream video to your TV using a VPN is with an HDMI cable. You’ll need an HDMI cable and (for some devices) an HDMI switch that converts the USB-C port to HDMI. After connecting, the screen of your laptop, phone or tablet should appear on your TV screen. At this point, just fire up the VPN, launch your streaming app (or browser), and maximize the window.

All of the above methods describe how to get VPN streaming on a TV. But if you want a whole-home approach where you can watch UK Netflix on every device on your home network, for example, you’ll want to look into accessing the VPN at the router level. Remember that this is only for advanced users and is the most difficult method of the bunch.

This requires the installation of a new router or major modifications to the existing one. Additionally, it usually requires custom firmware to be installed on the router, which usually voids the hardware manufacturer’s warranty. And even then, you’ll need an expert user who knows how to turn the VPN on and off and customize its settings, because leaving it on all the time can interfere with non-streaming activities, including simple things like online shopping. .

All this is a more simplified option for the whole house ExpressVPN users should try that provider AirCove router models. (Note that Engadget hasn’t tested these models yet.) Since they’re ExpressVPN’s own hardware, they include warranty coverage and support through the company.

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