Apple TV + UK Netflix + Router + US VPN = US Netflix
Update: I’ve posted a follow up to this post that's worth looking at as an alternative to the information below.
So for the last few days I've been fiddling with my Apple TV, routers and VPN accounts to see if I could get access to US Netflix programmes on my TV. A few folk have asked, so I thought I’d share my setup.
This is not a detailed configuration step-by-step, it's a general overview of the solution I ended up with. Detailed support for each part of this process is available from your VPN and/or firmware supplier.
You''ll need the following: - an Apple TV - a Netflix subscription - a VPN account with US servers - a VPN capable router
The VPN account
I did a bit of searching around to come up with a list of providers and ended up for various reasons with StrongVPN. There are plenty of other VPN suppliers out there, you just have to make sure they''ll support connections by router, rather than desktop software (and have US servers).
Thankfully StrongVPN had a page on their website with supported routers, so I ended up simply choosing the cheapest of the bunch. The Cisco Linksys E2000 came in around £60 from Amazon UK and seemed to do everything I needed, you can read the full list and decide for yourselves.
The routers listed don't unfortunately work out of the box as the firmware on them doesn't support VPN connections. You'll need to flash the router with either DD-WRT or Tomato USB firmware and in doing so you'll likely invalidate any warranty. I went for DD-WRT as it seemed to be a little more feature-full than Tomato and updated more regularly. I should warn at this stage that DD-WRT is not an immediately straightforward thing to flash onto any router, so you really need to be comfortable with this process before tackling it. I accept no responsibility for any bricked routers, explosions or unwanted pregnancies as a result of this process!
Assuming you've managed to get your router up and running with a suitable firmware the rest of this set up is quite simple.
First thing is to connect the WAN port of your VPN router to your main broadband router, and the Apple TV to one of the standard network ports. That done, connecting your computer via one of the other network ports or wireless on the VPN router should give you a working internet connection (via your VPN router and out through your broadband router).
The reason for using the wired connection to your Apple TV is to provide you an easy way to switch between US and UK connections. If a wired connection is present the Apple TV will use it (US - VPN router), otherwise it will fall back to wireless (UK - broadband router). No reconfiguration needed.
Once you're connected up, log into the VPN router and change any settings you wish. The LAN IP and DHCP for the VPN router should be set to a different range than your broadband router (for example, if your normal network is 192.168.1.x then use 192.168.2.x). You'll also likely want to either disable wireless or set a network name and security.
The last step is to get the VPN itself up and running. Full instrictions for doing this should be proivided by any VPN supplier worth their salt; e.g. StrongVPN list a range of instruction pages.
One final word on the set up, I tried both PPTP and OpenVPN and eventually settled on OpenVPN. PPTP was much easier to setup (it's basically just a username, password and server address) but I found it almost unusably slow through the router.
Enjoy the show
Once you have the VPN set up and running, you can test from your computer by browsing to any page that displays your geo-location. StrongVPN's website has it displayed at all times in the upper left hand corner. If you've done it all right then you should be showing as from a US connection.
Fire up the Apple TV, log into Netflix and you should now have a much wider range of programmes and films. You may notice a delays whilst browsing around the Netflix screens, however once you hit play you shouldn't have any issues streaming at all.
Give me a shout on Twitter and let me know how you get on.