A growing number of consumers use VPNs to access out-of-market Netflix content, quite often because Netflix has yet to reach their market –something that’s less of an issue as Netflix pushes to launch in 200 markets internationally before the year’s end. However, even in launched Netflix markets, customers often still use VPNs to access the broader U.S. Netflix catalog. For Netflix competitors, the solution to this is fairly obvious (offer better service, more content, and stop using geo-restrictive licensing as a weapon), but of course many companies would instead rather focus on vilifying VPN usage itself.
Before Netflix launched down under earlier this year, Australian broadcasters and Netflix competitors had pouting over VPN usage down to a science, disparaging VPN users as the very worst sort of criminals, while attacking Netflix for not doing more to thwart VPN users from accessing the service (even though Netflix has been more than agreeable on this front). Copyright holders, as you might expect, have also pushed for new laws banning VPN use entirely, believing that makes much more sense than just getting to work competing with Netflix.
The latest example of VPN shaming comes from Canada. While Netflix launched there back in 2010, many Canadians still use VPNs to access the U.S.’s broader catalog of content. Bell Canada of course offers its own Internet video service called CraveTV, and finds any efforts to look for better content elsewhere a travesty of the highest order. New Bell Media President Mary Ann Turcke told attendees of a telecom conference last week that she had to give her 15-year-old daughter a talking to for using VPNs (after said 15-year-old daughter presumably informed mom what a VPN even was):
“To her dismay, Turcke’s younger daughter told her she had been using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to disguise her location and access Netflix Inc.’s richer U.S. video library, which is otherwise off-limits to Canadian subscribers. “Mom, did you know that you can hack into U.S. Netflix and get sooo many more shows?” she recalled her 15-year-old daughter saying. A scolding lecture ensued, putting an end to the VPNing at the Turcke house. She says more conversations about what’s right and wrong should be had at dinner tables across Canada.”
From there, Turcke (who is replacing Kevin Crull, fired from Bell after he refused to let regulators he disagreed with appear on television) proclaimed that society as a whole really needs to step up to the plate and start publicly shaming VPN users so they understand what they’re doing is an atrocity of the highest order:
“It has to become socially unacceptable to admit to another human being that you are VPNing into U.S. Netflix,” Turcke said in a keynote Wednesday at the Canadian Telecom Summit. “Like throwing garbage out of your car window, you just don’t do it. We have to get engaged and tell people they’re stealing.” The industry can’t just rely on government and the broadcasting watchdog to police and solve this growing problem, she says. It’s up to ordinary people to tell their guilty friend, colleague or child that stealing is wrong.”
Of course they wouldn’t be “stealing” if companies like Bell were providing them with the content they want at the price consumers want it, something that fortunately doesn’t entirely fly over Turcke’s head:
“We, Bell Media, we, the industry, need to make our content more accessible. Just make it easy,” she said. “Viewers are demanding simplicity and they will seek it out.”
Turcke should have just skipped to that conclusion without the lecture on morality.