Tobold's Blog
Saturday, July 16, 2022
Streaming borders

I’m on holiday in Germany for the summer. And while keeping me entertained with my iPad, I ran into a curious problem: I wanted to sign up for a streaming service, and couldn’t. The streaming service is using an app, but when I click the “download app” button on the website, I am told that it is “not available in your country”. That is because my Apple ID is linked to the country I usually live in, Belgium. So although I am a German national and am currently in Germany, I don’t have access to that German streaming service. And I don’t have access to some of the Belgian streaming services either, because I am currently in Germany, and these services are IP restricted.

Of course there are ways around this. I can create a second e-mail address and use that to create a second Apple ID in a different country. And I can use a VPN service to make my IP address look as if I was somewhere else. None of this is easy, and VPN services aren’t free. The problem is very much with streaming services that distribute films and TV series, because these seem to be caught up in a complicated web of international licences strongly restricting what I can watch and where I have to be to watch it. Services like YouTube and Twitch don’t have these problems, at least not for the content that has been created by regular content creators. But anything that is either local or has a regionally restricted license can become a problem. In a globalized world full of international travellers (again) and expats, that seems anachronic.

I wished that Apple would make it easier to access apps from the App Store of other countries. More and more services, both public and private, think, like Blizzard, “Don’t you guys have phones?”, and assume that you can use your phone to scan a QR code and download an app. But if I want to use an app for example to book a ticket in a country I am visiting, it might very well be that the App Store doesn’t want to give me access to that app.

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