BBC iPlayer is one of the most popular online streaming sites in the UK. We get hundreds of visitors asking how to watch BBC iPlayer from abroad so we’ve put together a little guide to solving this common problem.
Many of you will be expats, on holiday or just out of the UK for a period of time. It doesn’t matter where you are be it France, Spain, USA, Australia or anywhere else in the world. Those of you who were born or spent any time in the UK will know BBC programming is some of the best in the world and no matter where you are, accessing TV from the UK is something many of us hope to achieve.
Even if you weren’t born in the UK the BBC has a reputation worldwide as offering some excellent TV shows.
No doubt you’ve tried to watch BBC iPlayer from abroad and found it blocked, well read on, you’ll be surprised just how easy it is to access.
How can I watch BBC iPlayer abroad?
When visiting the iPlayer site it checks to see what country you’re in. It does this by checking your IP Address. An IP Address is a unique identifier for your internet connection that gives away your physical location. When the site realises you’re not in the UK it blocks you from viewing.
So the solution is to get a UK IP Address, but how?
To get a UK IP Address you need to use a service called a Virtual Private Network or VPN to give it its common shortened name. A VPN is a way of encrypting your internet connection and routing it via a different location. By doing so you assume the identity of that location and appear as if you’re somewhere else. This is all done for you by a simple piece of software you can download.
To watch BBC iPlayer abroad you need a VPN service that has a UK VPN server. One we recommend is IPVanish because they have a selection of UK VPN servers and when we tested them found them to be one of the most reliable and at a competitive price. Check our recommended providers below.
A good and reliable provider should cost around £3 – £6 (approx US$5 – $10) per month with cheaper prices available if you take longer subscription lengths. The cheapest package at each provider will be suitable and as we’ve tested all the above providers you can be sure they’ll be good enough to stream BBC iPlayer no matter what country you’re in.
How do I use a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer abroad?
The name sounds more difficult than they really are. Once you’ve signed up to a provider you simply download their supplied software for either PC or Mac or their app for Android, iPhone or iPad.
Once downloaded run the VPN software and connect to a UK server. In the example below I’m using IPVanish on a Windows PC.
- Select United Kingdom.
- Press Connect.
Once you’ve connected simply visit the BBC iPlayer site on your computer or open the app and you’ll be able to watch live BBC shows and catch up TV from anywhere in the world.
We made this little example video, take a look how easy it was for us in the video below using IPVanish.
What about a free alternative?
Generally people want to access things for free, I do it myself. However, in the case of watching BBC iPlayer from abroad I always advise people of the old saying, “there is no such thing as a free lunch“. Providing VPN services cost money to the companies who operate them and if they’re not charging you for the service then they’re making money from you in another way.
Many free alternatives record what you do on the internet and sell it for marketing purposes to recoup the costs of providing the service.
Another problem with free services is everyone is trying to pile on them and when too many people pile on the connection becomes slow and unreliable, this leads to buffering, pauses and sometimes just complete hangs of BBC programs – I don’t know about you but buffering really bugs me so I’d rather spend a few quid and watch without issues than have it buffer every few minutes.
There is also the issue of downloading random “free” tools that more times than not contain viruses, trojans or other nasties that slow down your computer and could potentially be a security risk – it just isn’t worth the hassle.
Once you’ve got a VPN service you can use it for other purposes too like watching ITV, Sky, BT Sport, Channel 4 and more so for a few pound you really do get a lot of bang for your buck.
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net