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.

How to Unblock BBC iPlayer Abroad

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

IPVanish

IPVanish is a popular VPN provider, although they’ve had a few issues with getting BBC iPlayer to work in the past. However, they’re always quick to rectify any problems in a timely fashion, and it works perfectly at the current time of writing.

Pros:

  • IPVanish has 84 different server locations to choose from across the UK. Each of the locations has a number of IP addresses that can be used for BBC iPlayer.
  • Overall connection speeds are great in terms of streaming live content.
  • Easy to use, with a simple Quick Connect feature to get the VPN up and running with a couple of clicks.
  • The service is priced very competitively, offering great value for money.
  • It allows for a range of different protocols, and they keep no logs of user data for enhanced security.

Cons:

  • As we mentioned above, IPVanish has sometimes struggled to maintain their iPlayer coverage because of steps taken by the BBC. They’re generally quick to get back online, but that’s no good if you’re suddenly locked out of a stream.
  • IPVanish only offers a 7-day money-back guarantee, which is abysmal when compared to the industry standard of 30 days.

Pricing:

  • One month: $7.50
  • Three months: $6.75 per month
  • 12 months: $4.87 per month

Buffered

With a smaller network and high prices, what makes Buffered so special aside from access to iPlayer streams?

Pros:

  • Decent support options, including extensive guides and 24/7 chat support.
  • They offer “a hassle-free 30-day money-back guarantee in case you change your mind.”
  • Speeds are worth the high asking price, as it can be used to stream HD content from the iPlayer with no issues.
  • Privacy is handled with care thanks to a strict no-logs policy.
  • Up to five simultaneous connections are allowed using the same account.

Cons:

  • Their service is reasonably expensive, putting it in line with premium alternatives like ExpressVPN.
  • Netflix is blocked on their US servers, so it’s not the best VPN for entertainment needs.

Pricing:

  • One month: $12.99  
  • Six months: $9.99 per month
  • 12 months: $8.25 per month

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 always advisable 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.