It's a rare thing when a high-profile company changes its position on a key issue overnight. So Netflix's announcement on January 15 that it would take steps to stop customers streaming shows that aren't officially available in their country came as a big surprise to many observers.
Not least, that is, the many thousands of Australians who are already hooked on the US version of the subscription video-on-demand service, which has a deeper and richer library than the Australian version. Citi estimated in August that almost a quarter of Netflix users in Australia were subscribed to the US platform.
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Why Netflix is cracking down on VPNs
After its international launch, Netflix is turning the screws on customers using virtual private networks and geo-blockers to sign up for US Netflix accounts.
But there are several reasons why it is now in Netflix's commercial interests to change its religion and stop turning a blind eye to the circumvention of so-called "geo-blocking".
This consumer behaviour has had the effect of pumping up Netflix's already impressive US subscriber numbers because overseas customers of the US site have counted as US ones.
But the company, which was the best performing major US stock in 2015 (up 134 per cent), has come under tremendous pressure from its suppliers – the Hollywood studios – to clamp down on the practice because they had not licensed their content to it for those territories.
It's surely no coincidence that Netflix held out in the face of that pressure until it had launched its service globally on January 6: simultaneously bringing its Internet TV network officially to more than 130 new countries around the world in a typically massive splash at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
I say "officially" because legions of inveterate telly addicts in those countries were already been hooked on Netflix US via virtual private networks (VPNs) allowing them to circumvent geo-blocking.
Almost a quarter of Australians who use Netflix subscribe to the US version
It is, or was, as easy as going to a site like uflix.com.au and paying $2 a month, on top of the price of a Netflix US subscription.
Before the global launch Netflix would have risked losing those customers entirely if it clamped down on VPN viewing as they would have had nowhere else to go to get their Netflix fix.
Now they have the local version to sign up to – with the first month, as ever, free. The local Netflix library may be smaller but crucially Netflix launches its increasingly popular original series – such as Narcos and Making a Murderer - globally so they won't miss any of those.
Some of those punters will return to piracy, and some will doubtless find a way around the block - some VPN operators have already done so - but many, already used to paying circa-$10 a month, will simply cave in.
And it will have a happy effect for Netflix because it will boost its international subscriber numbers at a time when Wall Street is focused on when it can make a return from its giant investment in global expansion.
Make no mistake Netflix is now global, it's in virtually every country except China, whereas its competitors in each country – the likes of Stan, owned by Nine Entertainment and Fairfax Media, owner of The Australian Financial Review, and Presto, owned by Foxtel and Seven West Media - are by and large, local.
As the only global player, Netflix now benefits disproportionately from a VPN crack down versus other players outside of their home market - such as Hulu and Amazon in Australia, or Stan and Presto in New Zealand - as it can get completely legitimate subscribers in international markets, but its competitors don't have global rights.
PR-wise it also gets to play the responsible corporate citizen card, although keeping the studios off its back will require a continuous cat and mouse game with the VPN providers.
The speed with which Netflix moved to clamp down after the global launch (less than 10 days) suggests that pressure from the studios had become acute.
Executives at the US$46 billion company must be pleased that they were able to withstand it long enough to build the bridge.
It's a rare thing when a high-profile company changes its position on a key issue change overnight.
But sometimes it makes perfect commercial sense.