Online Streaming Got You Down? Try These Clever Streaming Tips!
If there is one thing we can all be certain of in the current COVID-19 crisis, it’s that we need peak performance from our online streaming accounts. After all, being stuck in the house 24/7 or living under quite stringent lockdown rules is tiring.
At the very least we need access to some quality content to while away those seemingly never-ending hours. And it seems that the world agrees. Did you know that Netflix reported more than 10 million new users in its second quarter of 2020? The first quarter meanwhile saw 2.7 million new users.
Looks like TV, while perhaps not the hero we need right now, is the hero we are increasingly turning to! But if you’re anything like the average home streamer, you are probably facing a few challenges when it comes to your streaming performance.
To help you out, we have compiled a few pain points facing television junkies in 2020. We have also looked at some top ways to make your streaming experience even better. Let’s get started with the top complaints users have with online streaming and top streaming tips.
Streaming Tips – Common Streaming Issues
Although cutting the cord on your traditional cable subscription can save you some serious dosh, switching to online streaming as your primary source of the content does comes with some inherent issues. Whether it is endless buffering, your device’s own limitations, or wifi connectivity, a few things can go wrong:
It’s a nightmarish situation: you’ve just settled down on the sofa after finally getting the kids into bed, you’ve got the snacks (salty and sweet), and you’re ready to immerse yourself in a movie you’ve been looking forward to.
But the show won’t play, instead, you’re faced with a little circle in perpetual motion as your video buffers and buffers and buffers…
What is buffering?
Buffering happens when the data threshold you need to have downloaded before the video plays are not downloaded. This can happen for a number of reasons, primarily because the internet speed is simply too slow to get that data. But there are other possible causes.
Fixing buffering issues
Frequently, users note that their internet speed is fine and the video still won’t play. If you think this is what’s happening to you, the first thing you need to do is rule out speed issues. This is simple to do, simply head to one of the many free online speed checkers to check you are, in fact, on a speedy network. We like fast.com – a free service provided by Netflix.
If you’ve done that and the problem is not the speed of your connection, it’s time to turn to your device itself. If your browser is full of junk or saved history, think uncleared cache items, it could be hindering your ability to stream. Try clearing your browser up and starting again by removing any old cache items and cookies. An added bonus is that your browser should be faster after a clean.
If your video is still not playing after the above two steps, there is a chance that your internet service provider (ISP) is throttling your data. Throttling happens when your ISP limits the amount of data you can access. The idea is that it prevents some users from getting too much while others get too little, and it happens at peak traffic times, such as 8 pm in the evening when you feel like watching a movie.
If you are in the United States, the demise of net neutrality means internet service providers have full discretion when it comes to throttling, no matter how annoying it is.
One way to skirt throttling is by masking your IP address. After all, your ISP can only throttle your data if they can see your IP and place you in a certain location. To do this, you will need a Virtual Private Network (VPN) subscription. In many ways, a VPN is your ultimate streaming tool, and we’ll return to what these software solutions can offer later on.
While perhaps less of a concern in the current climate with the majority of the world’s population in their home countries, geo-blocking is still a pesky practice that keeps you from the content you want to watch.
For reasons that are not entirely clear, streaming providers, such as Netflix and the popular BBC iPlayer, restrict content based on a user’s geographic location. So if you’re in the United Kingdom and you want to watch something that is only on US Netflix, you’re unfortunately blocked for doing so, and vice versa with US users unable to access UK content (bad news for all the ardent Derry Girls fans out there!).
But geo-blocking isn’t a perfect solution, and getting around these restrictions is much easier than you might think. Just like with the throttling we mentioned above, providers can only geo-block you from content if they know your IP address.
And as we discussed, shielding your IP address is a matter of turning on your VPN. Here’s where a VPN really comes into its own in terms of streaming, because as you can see, when you connect your VPN to different servers in different countries, you can unlock content from there, free of charge. Let’s explore that a little more now:
Maximize your streaming with a VPN
You can think of your VPN as a free meal ticket to a literal world of content. Your VPN provider likely has multiple server locations around the world, and when you connect, you get to choose which country and server you connect to.
Free on-demand channels
For example, if you have read online that the Australian SBS channel has a cracking documentary exploring an issue you’re passionate about, you can watch it. Turn your VPN on, connect to an Australian server, and you are now considered as located in Australia. It’s like digitally traveling to a whole new nation!
Now, to actually watch free on-demand channels, you may need to download the channel’s dedicated app and/or create an account. Note that some channels require both while others are happy to let you watch online without an account, so long as your IP address matches that channel’s country of origin.
If you have to make an account, be prepared to get creative with your “address” in the country you’re watching content from.
Watch Netflix from around the world
Besides watching free on-demand TV from across the globe, you can use your VPN to unlock different content on Netflix. As we said earlier, the streaming giant offers up different programs based on your location. If you’re bored of your home nation’s Netflix offerings, switch on your VPN, pick a country, connect to Netflix and you should be faced with a whole new portal of content to discover.
If you have a virus or another malicious software program on your device, it can cause some serious speed issues, whether you’re trying to open up a webpage, read your emails, or stream a video. Jerky video or video that stops and starts erratically is a tell-tale sign that your device is infected.
If you haven’t been paying much attention to the cybersecurity basics, let your steaming issues push you towards some online safety basics. Use your antivirus and antimalware programs to run a scan and find and quarantine any threats that they find.
And if you don’t have either antivirus or antimalware protection, tsk tsk, you should know better! Seriously though, now is a great time to get both and double-check your device. This is especially important if you are able to stream freely on one device but face significant challenges on another.
Bonus Streaming Tips to Pimp Your Experience
Stream with socially distant mates simultaneously
Tired of trying to simultaneously play a movie in your house and your friend’s house while you’re both social distancing? If so you’re not alone. Lag and latency issues mean watching a movie together while in different houses is difficult if not impossible. But Netflix has come up with a clever solution, its Netflix Party app allows you and a mate to watch at the exact same time. The browser extension is free of charge and even includes a chat bar.
Find some super niche genres on Netflix
If you haven’t discovered Netflix codes yet, you’re in for an absolute treat. The streaming service sorts its content according to a list of codes such as ‘True Bromance’ (2693465) and ‘Fight-the-System TV Shows’ (26705). These are just a sample and the Netflix code well runs deep.
To use codes, Google to find out which codes suit your current watching mood, then type the code into the address bar as follows:
Et voila! You’ve revealed a bunch of super-niche content that wouldn’t have been displayed to you otherwise. Feeling like pondering the state of the world and world culture a bit more? Try ‘Brain Food Docs’ on code 2014872.
We hope these streaming tips have been helpful and you’re full stream ahead. Happy watching the best online streaming services and stay safe out there!