*** Update September 2016: You now get Netflix in South Africa without the need for what’s described below, except for a streaming device such as Roku, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, or a SmartTV. All you need to do is create a Netflix account using your South African credit card, and you can watch a selection of Netflix shows (not quite the same as in the U.S. I’m told) via the Netflix app, on your computer, or on your TV using one of the streaming device options above. Voila! ***
If you are an American-soon-to-become-expat-in-South-Africa, chances are that one of your biggest worries is not that you might be attacked at gunpoint at a Joburg intersection. In fact, since you seem to be reading my blog, I’m pretty sure that crime is no longer at the top of your list of concerns. You might be slightly panicked at the prospect of having to start a love affair with utility employees in order to get your bill resolved, but that is a different story.
No, as your move date is inching closer, what you are probably most worried about is how on Earth you’ll survive, possibly for several years, without American TV programming. If not for yourself, then surely for your kids. Am I right?
This is why I’m absolutely thrilled to be the bearer of good news. Or maybe I’m just the bearer of ancient news and you’re all sitting there going “really? Is she stuck in the last century or what?” Because I JUST figured out, after over two years, how to get our beloved Netflix back.
If you are an expat and already know how to do this, then all I can say is “Why the hell didn’t you tell me earlier?”And if you’re not an expat, stay put. Anybody can do this, expat or not.
Even if you don’t watch much TV, like me, you will make some people in your family very happy and score major bonus points. Days later I’m still getting random hugs from my boys after they’ve watched the latest The Office or Mythbusters episode. And I’m not even done yet with my magic.
“Why now?” you will ask. And this is the best part. Because it totally validates writing this blog in the first place. Without naming any names, there are some in my family who doubt how one can pour so much time and effort into a lowly blog that makes absolutely no money (okay, $4.33 in Amazon Associates fees last month, if you must know), and who think that secretly I’m spending all day gallivanting around in the blogosphere and on Facebook while sipping my cappuccino and putting up my feet.
So when I get approached by UnoTelly if I would like to review their product in return for a free lifetime account, it is kind of a big deal.
Except, what the hell is UnoTelly? It took a bit of reading on my part to figure it out, and I’ll do a proper review of it in my next post. But let me just tell you now that it is really cool. Real simple it’s a monthly subscription service that allows people living outside the USAto watch Hulu and Netflix. And much more, but those are the two objects of desire at our house. Apparently, if you’re a British expat, the objects of your desire are BBC iPlayer, iTV,and Channel 5 – to each their own. The point is, with this service you’ll be able to get rid of these pesky “channel not available in your viewing area” messages when you want to watch your favorite show online.
How is this possible?
The way I understand it, what UnoTelly does is change your Domain Name Server (DNS)address so that from now on your computer appears to reside in the US or the UK. Note that this is different from a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which is what you might use in China to hide your true identity in case you’re broadcasting dissident messages from your blog. Which might be what we bloggers in South Africa might have to do one day if the government has its way with the new Secrecy Bill. Anyway, while great at hiding your location, apparently VPN can slow down your computer quite a bit, whereas UnoDNS, as it’s called, does not. It’s been working fine for me so far. Not that I actually have a clue about any of this technology.
But that’s the good part, right? If I can figure it out, so can you.
I’ve been able – admittedly with some digging into various Windows networking properties – to set up the DNS change on all three of our home computers as well as our wireless network router and xBox. Meaning we’re not restricted to small computer screens, as the xBox is actually hooked up to our old U.S. TV via a transformer. Meaning that for the first time in its life, the xBox might now be used for something other than Modern Warfare or Call of Duty.
All I’ve now got to buy is a thing called Roku, of which I’d never heard until last week but several of my U.S.-based friends assure me works just like a charm, and hook that up to our big screen TV, and bingo, all that which is streamed through Netflix will now be available right in our living room (some TVs already come network-ready and are equipped so that UnoTelly automatically works with them, but of course ours doesn’t). Meaning that if I can make sure we also get the Disney Channel and La Liga and Bundesliga soccer games, I can finally cancel that R650-a-month Multichoice cable service whose programming is stuck at about ten years ago.
Americans: Most likely you’ll already own a Netflix account, so all you need to do is continue the $7.99 a month service allowing unlimited streaming. Together with UnoTelly and possibly Roku or a similar gadget you will be good to go.
South Africans (and really anyone out there in other countries): Netflix basically started out as a huge DVD mailorder service, based on a monthly subscription, except most of its content is now streamed online, similar to Pay-TV. Their content has grown to an impressive selection over the years, so for $7.99 a month you can pretty much watch anything your heart desires. Opening a Netflix account is not that difficult, however it appears that you might need a U.S.-based address which you then link your credit card to. More in my next post on that.
Please note that the ONE thing you need as a prerequisite to all of this is uncapped internet, which you can get from a provider such as Afrihost. When we first moved here we had Telkom’s monthly cap of 9 gig on our internet data, which of course made streaming movies virtually impossible. Signing up for uncapped internet is a must when moving to South Africa.