May 14, 2012

How to Watch Netflix in South Africa

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 USA to 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.

Also read Watch Your Favorite Movies Anywhere with UnoTelly in which I explain the features of UnoTelly and how to make it work for you.

35 comments :

Jenna said...

This is seriously the BEST news EVER! How did I not know about this?? Thanks so much!

xxx
Jenna

Sine said...

You're welcome. I'm just glad I wasn't the last to find out, I seriously thought I missed something. Apparently there is another service that's been around longer (UnoTelly is fairly new) that's called Unblock-US or something similar. Anyway, hope you try it out, stay tuned for my post tomorrow. they also promised coupon codes for my readers so will see what that will bring.

Paige said...

Genius!!!

DubDub said...

If I understand it correctly - you do not have to change the DNS settings for all your devices if you changed it on your router. Your devices connect to your router - so the router does all the work. If you do NOT change it on your router, you have to change it on each device. My video quality is horrible (uncapped 10MB Afrihost account). Still trying to figure it out. Does it wotk? Yes it does but my video quality sucks.

Sine said...

Hmmm. Sounds like you have the same setup like me - Afrihost, uncapped, and I think we only get 4megabits because Telkom line doesn't support more where we live. Our video quality is fine. The way I set it up, as instructed by UnoTelly, was first on my computer before I did anything else, then I also did it on the router which took care of the TV or rather BluRay player we are using to connect to the TV. But I'm pretty sure we changed the DNS settings on all the computers directly. Our problem is that our BluRay is an ancient Samsung and it has trouble connecting (and staying connected) to our network, so Netflix is always a bit of a mission, resetting the router before watching, etc. I'm thinking the Roku box would fix that. If you have problems, contact UnoTelly directly, they've been pretty responsive to me when I had technical questions.

Anonymous said...

Just set mine up today. Works fine; but occassional caching problems (despite 4mb line with Afrihost).

Was wondering if the dns location makes a difference. What primary are you guys using?

Regards,
Jaz

Sine said...

HI Jaz,
sorry for the late reply. I use 23.21.182.24. Haven't had many caching problems. Our problem is watching Netflix on TV, works like a charm on computers, but for TV we don't have that Roku box and rely on an old Samsung Blu-Ray player, and it always has a problem with the network connection. You have to reset your router so many times and maybe even change channels in the router settings every time you watch TV that by the time you finally have it set up everyone has already gone to bed...

Matt Putman said...

Hi Sine

Awesome article. I am a South African who has been dying to use Netflix. I was in the process of investigating media streaming devices when I came across your post. I don't mean to rush your next post, but how do we get around the sign-up?? Please help!

Sine said...

Hi Matt,
did you read my other article here: http://www.joburgexpat.com/2012/05/watch-your-favorite-movies-anywhere.html. In it I link to yet another article about Netflix signup, here: http://www.unotelly.com/blog/2011/08/how-to-sign-up-netflix-outside-usa/. It involves a virtual visa card but doesn't sound too complicated. Hope that helps, and good luck.

Newton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Newton said...

Hi Sine
I have to agree DSTV is really bad seem not going be improving anytime soon. Question though in terms of cost(even though DSTV is bad) I am guessing its gonna cost quite a bit more than DSTV. Any idea what the min speed uncapped line would work? I am guessing 4MB line would be min?

Sine said...

hi Newton - I'm not sure I understand your question re cost of DSTV? In terms of line speed, the most you get anywhere here in Joburg is 4.0 mbps. And that is the official rate. If you check your internet speed online, the most I usually come up with is 2.5. So there you have it, people moving to SA - your internet here sucks. You can buy line speed packages of up to 10 mbps, but be careful - check with Telkom first if that area you are in indeed supports 10 mbps. Most likely it only goes up to 4, leaving you again at 2.5 or something like that. No need to pay for more if Telkom doesn't support it.

Omoi Atama said...

Hi Sine

Jumping in almost a year after the original post, but maybe this can still help someone:
DubDub is correct in saying that you only have to configure your ADSL Router's DNS settings for UnoTelly, IF all your devices' DNS settings is set to auto.

Basically all devices connected to the ADSL router will only override the router's DNS settings if you configure DNS manually in that device's network settings.

Also be careful if you do manually configure it on mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets as you might start chomping away at your expensive mobile 3G/HSUPA/HSDPA internet data bundle should your ADSL Router go offline and your mobile device revert to the mobile operator's network, which most mobile devices do by default eg. When wireless network at home is not available, device reverts to mobile operators network (Vodacom etc).

Last note: Any streaming service will have issues if you are trying to use it with a device that does not contain storage space to allow the service to "buffer" content it is downloading. Therefore on your computer it uses a hard drive to buffer, whereas if you use an old Blue Ray player with no hard drive, buffering is not possible, resulting in lag, freezes etc. Roku or a similar tv streaming device is definitely the way to go. Otherwise, if you are strapped for cash, move a pc close to the TV and connect via VGA / HDMI to your TV to allow buffered streaming. A wireless keyboard and mouse would then certainly be a recommendation for ease of use.

Happy streaming.

Omoi Atama said...

Hi again,

I would also like to ask if anyone knows if Netflix USA and UK's content are the same or do they differ slightly?

If so which one should you recommend I subscribe to?

Sine said...

Thanks very much Omoi, that does clarify it and explains the problems we had with our BluRay player. Although back in the US it now works just fine, so I guess it's not a problem with higher speed internet. I'm not entirely sure on your Netflix UK/US question but am pretty sure that at this time the US has more content than the UK. But maybe it depends on what shows your're interested, and you might get more British content on the UK site? Let me know what you find out.

NushHJ said...

Hi there, does the UnoDNS/UnoTelly work with Apple TV and do we then not need to change our VPN to watch Netflix or iTunes in South Africa?

Is it better than subscribing to a VPN provider like Hide My Ass?

Many thanks for your help!

NushHJ said...

Omoi, I think Netflix USA has more content than Netflix UK, so at this time subscribing to the USA content is probably preferable.

NushHJ said...

On my earlier comment, I mean to we not need to then change the VPN on our ADSL router? As we are not 100% sure how to do this, it is easy on the iPad and PC

Thanks :)

Sine said...

NushHJ - I have heard it's better than VPN in that it doesn't reroute you through an overseas server which would slow down your internet. Then again, I DID feel like our internet was terribly slow in SA and not sure whether it didn't even seem slower after puttin UnoTelly to use, so I'm not sure what to tell you in this regard. I think changing the DNS address on each device is sufficient, without changing it on your router. It might even make it easier in that it then does not slow down your internet on your computer? But I'm also not totally sure on that, probably best to contact the folks at UnoTelly directly - they've been pretty responsive when I had questions. Good luck!

Chris.P Bacon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris.P Bacon said...

Good Blog :-) i just set this up at my house. Never going back to dstv. Found a great step by step tutorial here: http://darrenbarnard.co.za/how-to-watch-netflix-in-south-africa/

Sine said...

Chris, thanks for the link, I checked it out and it does indeed offer good additional advice. I also didn't know you could get a sports only package for DSTV for less than the regular package price, that would have definitely made sense for us as sports was really the only thing our family wanted to watch live.

Danie Ferreira said...

Good day. Is there any one in jhb that can give me more info on the roku 3, how it works, what does it cost, what do I neem to make it work ect. Just wanted to get the info to make an informed decision.

Sine said...

Hi Danie,

sorry so late, but I honestly don't know who could help you. I don't even know where you can buy the Roku, I would have ordered one from Amazon.com if we had stayed in SA longer, but I never actually had one. Good luck!

natashaj801 said...

How do you watch netflix say, in the living room though? Do you need some type of set top box like a roku or AppleTV? Will a mediaserver currently running xbmc suffice?

how to get American Netflix in Canada

Sine said...

Yes, you do need AppleTV or Roku. Not sure about the mediaserver. We had an older DVD Blueray player that was Netflix and Pandora enabled, and it somehow worked through that as well. I hear that Roku is probably the best solution. Ours was always a bit shaky, but it could have had to do with slow connection speeds in South AFrica.

FRED MULLER ARCHITECTURE said...

Hello sine. Im a south african and a huge Rugby fan... What most south african men want to know is, will we be able to view Rugby games Live. Its the World Cup 2015 and its a must to watch.. As Multichoice is way to expensive these days.... Do u have a list of channels that can be watched?

Sine said...

Hi Fred - just check out the UnoTelly website, they have a channel listing here: https://www2.unotelly.com/channels. From there, click on Sports, and see what's there. I hope you get to watch rugby, I'm pretty sure it will be on the list!

Grant Thompson said...

I have a Roku 3 device. I think it is really not a bad little device. You need at least a 4Mbps ADSL line. I have a 200GB capped account from Webafrica. Use this for streaming. I am still trying out a few options. I use Unotelly for my DNS. Works great. I then subscribed to Hulu and Netflix. These are awesome and very good quality. And they are only about $9 for each subscription. So about R100 per month. But yes, the SPORT is the problem. There is ESPN and a few other free ones, but rugby is a big thing. I did a bit of digging and found that there is a private channel that you can subscribe to for your Roku device. So if you have a Roku, you can get this private channel that is less than half the cost of satellite. You can subscribe to it, and see if you like it. Only a month to month thing. There is allot of different sport channels and also, other channels. Some of these does show the rugby. I saw some superugby and I know Sky Sports and ITV will be showing the World Cup Ruby this year. So for now I have stopped my Hulu and Netflix, and trying out WoWTV for Roku for a month or so just to see how it works. Have a look at www.wowtvroku.co.za

Shirin Taba said...

i use this website to use Netflix and other movies channels too http://www.itunes-giftcards.com/TV_&_Movies.html. It works great in South Africa. The only thing that you need to use is either UnblockUS or Hide MY Ass.

Jim Thomas said...

Recently, the construction work of my home was completed and we shifted into our new accommodation, so I had to call up the professionals for DSTV installations in Durban, and it helped starting the entertainment filled journey of life in a unique manner.

Arthur Dorian Arthur Dorian said...

Hi iam new in this blog and i have never been in the states. A good Friend lives there and wants to get me the roku 4. So all i wanna no is
1: is she suposed to buy the device in the states, get a subcription from netflix ....and send it back in SA or

2: should i get one here and do everything from SA.

Please help me coz Dstv is useless.

Regards

Arthur

Sine said...

Hi Arthur,

if you can get a roku in SA, you can buy it there, and yes, you can do everything described here from SA. However, the roku might be cheaper in the US. Then again, shipping will cost you and not always safe, so if I were you and had a place to get one in SA, I would buy it there. The Netflix subscription you will have to set up online with Netflix. You may need a US address to set it up, not sure.

Another thing: Which shows are available to watch varies from country to country. Just came back from Jamaica where we weren't able to watch Gilmore Girls (my girls were sad). We tried it with VPN via Tunnelbear but Netflix is smart enough to detect you are using a VPN and won't allow it. Whereas I never had an issue accessing our US account with UnoTelly.

DORAH LETWABA said...

HI

Thank you very much for the response. Where exactly in SA can I get the Roku 3. I think the most important thing is to get it then get the internet to connect.

I am really thankful for your assistance. I was really sad to know that I have waited months to get Roku 3 then yesterday I found out that I wasn't able to get it from Amazon.
You have given me hope again, thank you again

regards

Sine said...

I'm honestly not sure. Does anyone else know? Why can't you get it from Amazon? See this article: http://www.joburgexpat.com/2016/05/ordering-from-amazon-in-south-africa.html. If not, I would try places like Hifi, Hirsch, or Incredible Connection? See here: http://www.joburgexpat.com/2011/09/where-can-i-find-alarm-clock.html. kalahari.com might also work, or Gumtree, see this on them: http://www.joburgexpat.com/2014/05/perfect-marketplace-for-expats.html.