Over 65 million people use a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer abroad

VPN use is on the increase whether to protect your privacy or thwart Government snooping, the increase in uptake amongst ordinary citizens is clear. However in a country such as the United Kingdom the average internet user is still unlikely to have heard of the term VPN let alone know the benefits of using one.

Further afield around the world and the term VPN is common not least amongst those who want to watch entertainment abroad, either as British expats or purely as residents of other countries who wish to access better or a bigger range of entertainment.

British passport

British diaspora increases global BBC iPlayer consumption rates.

Study shows high numbers watching iPlayer abroad

GlobalWebIndex a company who carry out worldwide market research recently looked into VPN usage statistics around the world. Unsurprisingly they discovered that a quarter of internet users are now making use of VPN technology with percentages higher in developing markets such as those that have restrictive internet regimes like China, Iran and Turkey.

While privacy was a big factor in usage another considerable reason for VPN use was found to be content related and using a VPN service from providers like VyprVPN to bypass geo-restrictions and access entertainment from other countries was considered one of the largest factors.

BBC iPlayer being one of the most well known brands was found to be accessed considerably with a reported 38.5 million users in China alone using a VPN service to access the online streaming service of the BBC. Globally that figure rises to over 65 million people concluded from a sample study of 47,000 around the world.

The study which was conducted towards the end of 2014 came at a time when an international service known as BBC iPlayer Global was still functional and so I would expect the numbers to have risen considerably after the BBC pulled the plug on the global service in June 2015.

Unsurprising when you consider the amount of British expats

While the figures may be high and indeed be made up by a large portion who have no connection to the UK that simply want to access content, it is unsurprising in some respects as the World Bank claim that the number of Britain’s living abroad, known as the British diaspora is the largest of any “rich” nation and the 8th largest in the world.

An estimated 5 million plus British people live abroad with the numbers growing even higher when including those of British descent. So it’s no wonder that demand for accessing BBC iPlayer abroad is high with many Brits abroad still having close connections to the UK and in many cases still paying the BBC licence fee.

It seems strange that those who pay a licence fee are still unable to watch BBC iPlayer abroad due to geo-restrictions but while these restrictions may stop some, many, as highlighted by the GlobalWebIndex report have quite clearly found that with a simple VPN service they can watch BBC iPlayer anywhere in the world.

With demand for British produced TV programmes at an all time high it seems odd that the BBC have not capitalised on this market and instead opted to shutter one of the only official avenues of watching BBC iPlayer abroad that was the BBC Global iPlayer.

As EU legislators question the legitimacy of geo-restriction within the European Union and the British government calling for reforms to the way the BBC is funded it may be time to rethink their international structure as they lose out on a possible global revenue stream.

The cogs of change often move slowly at the BBC and for the foreseeable next few years it would appear that BBC iPlayer will be restricted, for smart users around the world VPN usage to access BBC iPlayer will no doubt only continue to increase until this changes.

Made In UK Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Passport Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comments (1)
  1. Avatar Willieaames July 23, 2015

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