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How we streamed Disney Plus outside of the US
This is the way...
How we accessed Disney Plus ahead of its launch in Australia and other parts of the world, some additional options, and an exploration of the pros and cons.
Here in Australia, Disney Plus launched 19 November 2019. While that was only an extra week to wait (and nowhere near as punishing as the 31 March 2020 launch regions), it was still the equivalent of two episodes of the fantastic first live-action Star Wars TV show, The Mandalorian.
How did we know the first episode was fantastic? Well, because we watched Chapter 1 through Disney Plus in Australia prior to launch. There are some core ways to access Disney Plus in other countries that we’ve discovered, but our initial viewing was via a method that’ll probably be familiar to many a Netflix user.
How we accessed Disney Plus early outside of the U.S.
A generous and trusting benefactor in the US lent us their Disney Plus login details, which is likely to be a trend both regionally and internationally given the fact that Disney Plus currently (and generously) supports four simultaneous streams. Combo that with a US server on a VPN, and that was half the battle. The rest was getting Disney Plus to play on our 4K TV, which wasn’t overly taxing.
But before we get into that, disclaimer time. Having scoured over the Disney Plus Subscriber Agreement, it definitely mentions that this method of accessing Disney Plus is a violation of the terms and conditions.
“Restrictions on Your Use of the Disney Plus Service. You agree that as a condition of your license, you may not and agree not to … Share your login credentials with third-parties.” So this method, or any other method that bypasses the regional protections in place for Disney Plus, is not something we recommend you pursue.
That said, back to our Disney Plus story which, after the initial experiment, comes with another couple of ways we found were possible to access Disney Plus from a non-US region. And don’t worry: there aren’t any spoilers for The Mandalorian here.
For this reason, it's best to avoid signing up for a full year until the service is live in your country.
Streaming The Mandalorian
We could’ve used a really long HDMI cable (we have more than one for such occasions) to watch Disney Plus from our VPNified PC. Alternatively, what we ended up doing was using Google Chrome on an Ethernet hardwired PC to cast Disney+ to the TV via the inbuilt Chromecast of NVIDIA Shield TV (also hardwired).
The hardwired bit is important because it creates the best-chance scenario for uninterrupted viewing that isn’t buffered. The other crucial thing on top of that is the speed of the VPN. With our 110Mbps home connection, our ExpressVPN subscription service capped that overall download speed to around 40Mbps when connected to a San Francisco server.
Disney Plus recommends a minimum of 25Mbps (so at least NBN 50 if you can get it) for that sweet, sweet 4K potential. It's only potential, though, because like most streaming services that support 4K, Disney Plus matches its streaming resolution to four factors: your bandwidth (read: download speed), the maximum resolution of your screen, the max res supported by the application, and the best available resolution for the content itself.
Non-US streaming hurdles
By casting, the stream was limited to HD (high-definition) because that’s what our test PC’s screen is (well, it’s 1440p, but that’s not a resolution that video-streaming services understand). At that stage, the bypasses would have been to switch on the VPN settings in our test router, which would convert the local network to a U.S. connection.
This, in turn, would trigger a region reset in our LG C7 4K TV or give us a shot at tricking our Chromecast or Nvidia Shield TV into believing they were in the US, which might mean a chance of downloading a 4K-capable Disney Plus app. That’s an older-model OLED TV, though, so the chances were good this wouldn’t work, and we’ve had unsuccessful (admittedly minor) attempts at region-switching our Chromecast and Nvidia Shield TV.
In the same breath, the smart DNS settings on our Xbox One X does allow us to access the U.S. store for content (while enjoying Australian download speeds), but Disney Plus app was not available when the service first launched. Now that it has since launched for Xbox One, the Disney Plus app doesn’t appear to support 4K, despite the 4K-capable Xbox One X.
The Disney Plus payment challenge
We didn’t feel overly comfortable using our U.S. based benefactor’s login for these continued tests, nor for writing and screenshotting steps for how to cancel Disney+ and how to download videos on Disney+.
A popular Australian tech forum had Australians reporting they were able to access Disney Plus by establishing a U.S. based PayPal account. Still, some of those people were also reporting that they were banned almost as quickly as they accessed the service, which is hardly ideal.
For our pre-launch tests, we didn’t have any problems signing up for a Disney Plus account, but the challenge has always been a payment method that the service would accept. For streaming services like Hulu (which is also not available in Australia) for instance, the most straightforward solution is to buy gift cards and use either a VPN or smart DNS solution to access content.
Disney Plus didn’t – and at the time of writing still doesn’t – support this gift-card option, which makes it trickier. But we did manage to chance upon a convoluted workaround.
Androids dream of electric Mandalorians
One of the perks of an Android phone is the option to download and install applications (APKs) from outside the Google Play Store ecosystem. This is particularly handy for things like Disney Plus which, when you try to visit the Google Play Store (even with a VPN on), you’re told that none of your Android devices support this app.
Obviously, this is in reference to a region-based lock rather than an outdated device, as our test Android devices are the not-so-old Samsung Galaxy S9+ and an even-newer Samsung Galaxy Tab S4. The catch is that a direct download of the latest version of the Disney Plus APK failed to install via Package Installer, which is a free download from the Google Play Store.
By the way, we’re deliberately not going into the specifics of where we found the APKs required to install Disney Plus to a non-U.S. Android device because this is recommended for advanced users only and installing apps from outside the Google Play Store ecosystem can do nasty things to your Android devices if you source the wrong APKs. Our recommendation is to not try this.
With that out of the way, the eventual solution was a combination of three Disney Plus APKs installed via the Split APKs Installer (SAI) app, which is also free to download from the Google Play Store. What previously failed to install as a single APK, worked with the simultaneous installation of the three Disney Plus APKs.
Now came the real test. With ExpressVPN active on our Android tablet, we were offered a seven-day trial, so long as we input payment details. That’s long been the hurdle, even with a VPN. With an ‘it’s worth a shot’ mentality, we used our Google Play payment details, linked to an Australian VISA debit card, to activate the trial… and it worked.
No region-based rejection. No ban (at the time of writing). And now our login details let us access Disney Plus across a variety of test devices, so long as we have a US-based VPN or smart DNS service active.
For those impatient enough, try those steps at your own risk. Otherwise, Australia and and New Zealand can access Disney Plus legitimately and stream The Mandalorian now (or the stack of other Disney Plus content), and your reward for patience is being able to watch the first few episodes back to back. Unfortunately, fans in the U.K., France, Spain, Italy, Germany and basically the rest of the world will have to wait until well after The Mandalorian's first season is finished to stream.
The best TV series on Disney Plus
Or even the best movies