Istarted my journey in streaming 2 decades ago with a list of “pain points” that I wanted to see solved. The number of items on that list has
now dropped from about 20 to about eight. Since
I knew I’d be headed to London for Streaming
Forum 2018 in February, I was curious about
whether one addition to the list—added when
I was in Italy with my family in July 2015, and
again when I was Turkey the next month—had
improved in any way.
That issue, the ability to view Netflix or Amazon Prime Video content while abroad, was
documented as a call to action in my Sept. 2015
column titled “When Travelers Go Abroad, Online Video Services Don’t Follow,” in which I
highlighted the challenge of entertaining American teens that had grown up on DVDs and Netflix streaming ( go2sm.com/travel). I noted in
that column that I’d brought to Italy an Apple
TV as a way to remain connected to “normal
life” while exploring a new culture.
“[S]ince almost all the channels were in
French, German, or Italian,” I wrote of the lim-
ited cable television selection in our Verbania-
area rented apartment, “sometimes a bit of U.S.
entertainment goes a long way toward alleviat-
ing homesickness or culture shock.”
Alas, it was not to be, as we continued to get
errors with Netflix on our Apple TV, iPad, and
MacBook. The error message, straight out of the
2015 pre-expansion era for Netflix, was a classic:
“Sorry, Netflix hasn’t come to this part of the
world yet. If you need to access your account,
please visit netflix.com/help for assistance.”
In Turkey, it was the same way with Amazon
Prime Video as it had been with Netflix in Italy
and Switzerland, although in Amazon’s case,
we could at least see the show listings. Play-
ing back content, though, wasn’t an option un-
less we used a VPN. I also found that Orange
Is the New Black was being played as episodic
television in Turkey, which meant Netflix was
recouping cost on a Netflix-only production in
markets where it did not currently offer on-
demand streaming services.
In the 2015 article, I challenged companies
like Amazon and Netflix to “get with the pro-
gram, figuring out a way to end the 2015-era hor-
ror flick Abroad and Disconnected,” as a way to
offer truly global viewing options for millions of
expats who travel abroad each year for holidays
My 2018 trip to London brought a delightful
surprise: While waiting out the clutches of the
“Beast from the East” snowstorm that gripped
the south of England with record-breaking cold
and snow, Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen and I
tested both Amazon Prime Video and Netflix,
along with two other services.
Amazon Prime offered a limited menu of content, mostly Amazon-produced content, under
a banner of “Watch While Abroad,” and Netflix offered up its own content as well as U.K.-focused fare.
We also tried two other options: my own sub-
scription to DIRECTV NOW and Eric’s Hulu
subscription. Neither worked in the U.K., and
Moderator Dom Robinson summed it up well:
“I think the CEOs and lawyers need to catch up
with the technical capabilities.”
Here’s hoping that I can check this one off
the list by the end of 2018.
We’re Getting There
Tim Siglin is a streaming industry veteran and longtime
contributing editor to Streaming Media magazine.
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