How to Unblock & Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad with a VPN

article by James M. author
The BBC broadcasts some of the most popular British TV shows, including Eastenders and Dr. Who. You can watch it all on BBC iPlayer...if you live in the UK. If you don't, you are out of luck. Or are you? With a VPN, you can watch your favorite Brit-coms and other shows as much as you want.

Known worldwide for their original programming and (relatively) unbiased reporting, the BBC is a great source of news, information, and entertainment.

For those who want to watch BBC programming whenever they want, BBC iPlayer houses a vast library of online programming, but it’s only available to users within the UK. This is because of the BBC’s unique status as a public service broadcaster, funded by UK taxpayers to provide an independent, unbiased voice in the media.

The tax is known as the license fee, and almost everybody in the UK has to pay it in some capacity. It means that it’s harder to watch BBC iPlayer content from outside the UK, but it’s still accessible from anywhere with the right VPN.

It’s great news for international viewers, as there is a large American audience, and a quite substantial community of British ex-pats who just want to watch the latest British shows online. We’ll discuss how to do so from anywhere in the world below.

Why is iPlayer Blocked Outside the UK

If you try to access BBC streams from outside the UK you’ll be met with the following error message:

“BBC iPlayer TV programmes are available to play in the UK only.”

The BBC offers a simple explanation as to why:

“Due to rights reasons, you cannot stream programmes in BBC iPlayer outside the UK, even on holiday.”

For license fee payers who go abroad or anyone who wants to watch shows like Doctor Who and Peaky Blinders, a VPN is the easiest way to bypass the content blocks.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) works by creating a private connection between your device and their servers. You’ll also be able to spoof the location of your IP address, which is commonly used by websites to give you the right version of a website.

This means that selecting a US server location will give you an American IP address, while a UK server can be used to access BBC content with a British IP.

However, in 2015, the BBC began blocking a number of popular UK VPN providers from accessing their programming. They’re entitled to protect their intellectual property, but it’s little consolation for international viewers.

We’ve listed some of the best providers below, and each one will be able to get past the blocks with ease.

The Best VPNs for BBC iPlayer

We’ve prepared a list with four top VPNs that can be used to access BBC content from anywhere in the world. From pricing to overall speeds, we’ll discuss the various pros and cons of each one at length.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is always high on our list of paid VPN providers, as they offer one of the best services overall. From general connection speeds to the quality of their customer service, it’s hard to find better for BBC iPlayer.

Pros:

  • Great speeds allow you to stream even if you don’t have the best connection to start with. As a native of the UK, it’s worth noting that the BBC iPlayer app can be slow and unwieldy at the best of times, and that’s without using a VPN. If you suspect that speed could be an issue, it’s worth going for a fast VPN.
  • Their 30-day money-back guarantee is rock solid.
  • Customer support options are helpful and varied, including 24/7 live chat options in case you run into any issues.
  • They have strong security protocols and a strict no-logging policy.
  • ExpressVPN have several UK server locations to choose from across England.

Cons:

  • It’s worth paying more if you value speed over everything else, but ExpressVPN is still one of the most expensive providers on our list. If you’re working on a tight budget we’d recommend looking at another option listed below.
  • While they have a number of UK locations, other providers offer more extensive coverage.

Pricing per month:

  • One month: $12.95
  • Six months: $9.99
  • 15* months: $6.67 *Three months free

PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN is another trusted brand that offers users multiple UK servers, so you’ll always have access BBC iPlayer. They provide a high focus on privacy, which ensures you can stream content without fear of repercussions – no matter where in the world you are!

Pros:

  • The customizable kill switch is an essential feature for those watching from countries with strict online surveillance and copyright infringement protocols. You don’t want to face criminal charges just for tuning in to your favorite show!
  • Based in Sweden, the company keeps no logs of your connection and you are protected by some of the most advanced privacy laws in the world – so you can stream with confidence!
  • You have to ability to specify protocols, so you can create bespoke settings to optimize speed and/or security.
  • If you’re a new VPN user, a remote technician can virtually install and configure your client, to ensure you get the most out of the software.
  • PrivateVPN is available on most platforms, with dedicated apps for Android and iOS.

Cons:

  • Although the speeds are proficient to support video streaming, it’s not the fastest VPN by a long way. You may have to test a few servers to find the best performance.
  • No instant chat or phone support is available, so you may have to wait for responses to queries and problems.

Pricing:

  • One Month: $8.95
  • Three Months: $7.31
  • Twelve Months: $2.95

SaferVPN

As a lesser-known company, SaferVPN is often overlooked. However, they still guarantee access to BBC iPlayer and offer a range of useful features. With two UK server hosts – one dedicated to streaming – you can access your favorite shows easily!

Pros:

  • Known for its impressive speeds, SaferVPN guarantees uninterrupted streams of BBC iPlayer content.
  • A no-download Chrome extension is available if you don’t want to commit to the full VPN package options or are using a Linux operating system.
  • The client can be downloaded, installed and set-up in three minutes, and the UI is straightforward and easy-to-use.
  • The Wi-Fi protection feature automatically connects the VPN when using insecure networks – which is an excellent added security bonus!
  • The company offers comprehensive customer service, with email and live chat available 24/7.

Cons:

  • The documentation and instructions on their website are fairly limited, which is frustrating if you run into problems.
  • The prices are higher than other companies that offer a similar quality of service.

Pricing:

  • One Month: $8.99
  • One Year: $5.99
  • Two Years: $3.49

NordVPN

NordVPN is always a great option thanks to their tight security and speedy servers. If in doubt, it’s a trustworthy provider that can be relied on for a range of tasks, including streaming BBC shows.

Pros:

  • The UI is simple to understand and easy to navigate, giving you access to UK servers with a couple of clicks.
  • NordVPN has a strong server network, with great speeds across the globe. It’s perfect for streaming live video or radio, and it also works with Netflix on a variety of servers.
  • Encryption is provided by an AES-256 key, which are the strongest possible security protocols a VPN can use.
  • NordVPN can be trusted with your personal data thanks to their encryption and their policy of keeping no logs of user data.

  • Longer contract deals are highly affordable when compared to the competition.

Cons:

  • Their one month deal is overpriced, as they’re probably hoping to get you to commit to a longer contract.  
  • No live chat options available, so you’ll have to submit a ticket if you run into any issues along the way.

Pricing per month:

  • One month: $11.95
  • 12 months: $5.75
  • 24 months: $3.29

A VPN for BBC is A-OK

BBC iPlayer is a superb platform with heaps of content, and it’s well worth checking out for anyone with a passing interest in British shows or English culture.

Overall, it’s a must to use a VPN if you’re desperate to watch the BBC from outside the UK, and it’s a painless process to get it working in the first place.

Any of the providers we’ve named above will be sure to get you past any blocks, and they also come with the added benefit of enhanced security and privacy.