Consumers in New Zealand and Australia are about to find out exactly how much power their media companies wield, as battle begins to warm up over geo-blocking and the use of VPNs. At issue technology that works around country specific content locks, for example keeping overseas users from accessing the BBC's UK content.
NZ media companies gave ISPs an ultimatum last week, demanding that they disable so-called Global Mode services, which implement an ISP level VPN solution to make users appear local for some get locked services like BBC iPlayer and Netflix.
Having paid for exclusive licenses for content it must be pretty galling for these media businesses to find that Kiwis can get the content for free and months in advance of the subscription services on offer in New Zealand.
The problem or the media companies is that the use of VPNs doesn't actually break any of New Zealand's existing laws. In Australia there are some more sweeping laws which could potentially be used to stop VPN services.
Netflix hasn't been overly bothered by users accessing its U.S. service from overseas as it means the company is gaining a subscription fee. As it is now making its service available natively in both Oz and NZ it's unlikely to implement geo-blocks that media companies, including Sony, are demanding. However consumers are still likely to plump for the U.S. services based on the earlier availability of content.
If VPNs are outlawed it does cause a significant problem for businesses who legitimately use the technology to secure their employees connections from overseas.
A far better solution would be for content providers to make sure that series are made available on a worldwide basis - as happened with the new series of Game of Thrones. Removing the need for geo-blocking in the first place.