This article explains how to access BBC iPlayer abroad with a VPN and the best VPNs to use as not all will work.
BBC iPlayer lets viewers watch some of the best free and legal content on the web, ranging from TV shows and movies to live sports. Much of that content, however, can only be streamed on devices with a UK IP address. Due to content licensing restrictions, certain videos are restricted by geography.
The simple solution is to employ a VPN to unblock BBC iPlayer which will allow you to watch as normal from the USA or anywhere else abroad. Short for virtual private network, a VPN encrypts a device’s internet traffic before routing it through an intermediary server in a location of the user’s choosing. In the case of BBC iPlayer, the user just needs to pick a server in the UK.
But this workaround is getting less effective by the day as BBC iPlayer starts cracking down on the circumvention software. The site has followed in the footsteps of Netflix when it comes to banning VPN users. For this reason, it’s important to subscribe to a VPN that bypasses iPlayer’s firewall and will actively work to fix the problem if it gets blocked.
Often times only some servers from a specific VPN provider can accomplish this, so if one server is blocked for you then just try another or ask customer service which ones work.
We’ve curated the following list of the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer based on the following criteria:
- Servers in the UK (the more the merrier!)
- Not blocked by iPlayer as of time of writing (we’ll update this regularly)
- Fast speeds
- Fast and competent customer service
ExpressVPN operates servers in six locations across the UK alone. We bypassed the geo-block to watch an episode of Blue Planet II with no issues. ExpressVPN is probably the most reliable when it comes to speed, consistently scoring among the fastest. It offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and claims thousands of customers use their service to watch iPlayer. Live chat support is available on the website 24 hours per day, so be sure to ping them in the event you have any issues.
ExpressVPN logs no identifying information and uses best-in-class security standards. It operates servers in over 90 countries, each optimized for maximum speed. If you want to watch iPlayer on a device that doesn’t natively support VPNs, ExpressVPN makes its own router firmware which customers can either download install free of charge or purchase with a pre-flashed router on the website.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and certain wifi routers.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN here.
NordVPN operates a whopping 30 servers in the UK, and one of them is even optimized for “ultra fast TV.” Check the NordVPN website’s official knowledge base to find out which servers currently unblock BBC iPlayer. Live chat support can be contacted 24/7.
Speeds are decent and should allow you to stream in HD in most cases. Security is excellent thanks to strong encryption and a strict zero-logs policy. Servers are available in over 60 countries. NordVPN allows up to six simultaneous connections on a single subscription, making it a great option for a small household or office.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Read our full NordVPN review here.
CyberGhost Pro recently amped up its premium service on a number of fronts, including a slew of new servers and brand new unblocking capabilities for a number of streaming sites including Netflix US and BBC iPlayer. The Windows and Android apps even allow you to choose a server based on which streaming service you want to unblock, so there’s no need for trial and error or contacting customer service to figure out which server to use. Live chat is available during European working hours, though.
CyberGhost Pro uses great encryption standards and keeps to a no-logs policy. The apps come with a series of optional features such as malware blocking and anti-tracking. It scored well in our speed tests, so you should have no problem streaming the latest season of Peaky Blinders in HD.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. There is currently a over 70% off the price of the 2-year plan here.
Read our full CyberGhost Pro review.
PrivateVPN is a relative newcomer to the VPN space that has thus far impressed us with its excellent unblocking capabilities. It makes short work of BBC iPlayer’s VPN firewall, and also works with other streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu. Round-the-clock live chat support is at your disposal.
Speeds are excellent despite the comparatively small network of servers. Security doesn’t fall short, either, sporting 256-bit and 128-bit encryption options guarded with perfect forward secrecy. PrivateVPN stores no logs.
You can connect up to six devices on a single plan. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
SaferVPN boasts dedicated streaming servers for the US and UK. The UK streaming option unblocks BBC iPlayer without breaking a sweat. The US streaming server unblocks Netflix and Amazon Prime, among others. These servers are separated from the rest of the UK and US non-streaming servers, which makes them easy to find without the need to guess or get help from customer support. That being said, live chat support is available around the clock.
Speeds are fast enough to stream in high definition. The app is extremely easy to use, even for a complete novice. Encryption is strong but SaferVPN lacks perfect forward secrecy at this time. The company stores no logs of users’ activity or real IP addresses.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Read our full SaferVPN review.
VPNs to avoid using with BBC iPlayer
The following VPNs do not unblock BBC iPlayer, according to our tests or by their own admission.
- Hotspot Shield
- Private Internet Access (PIA)
BBC iPlayer not working? Try this
Note that we can’t guarantee these VPNs will work on anything other than a web browser. Apps for iOS, Android, streaming media boxes, smart TVs, and game consoles can force a device onto your internet service provider’s DNS servers instead of the VPN’s. One way to get around this is to set up the VPN on your home wifi router or a virtual router instead of using the VPN app. Check out our tutorials on how to configure VPN-enabled virtual routers using both PC laptops and Macbooks.
Even after you connect with a VPN, BBC iPlayer might have stored your previous “location” in a cookie that’s still active. If you still see a warning that the content is not available in your location, you might need to clear your cookies. You can do this either in your browser settings or using an extension like EditThisCookie.
Sometimes when using a VPN, the BBC iPlayer page might not load at all and instead return an error page. If this is happening to you, you might need to flush your DNS cache. On Windows, type “cmd” into your search bar and open Command Prompt. Type in the following command and hit enter:
ipconfig /flushdns. For Mac users, find the instructions for your version of OSX here.
Finally, clear any cached data that might allow iPlayer to see your real location. You can clean out your entire browser cache in the settings, but usually it’s enough to hold CTRL and hit F5 to perform a “hard” refresh.
What if I don’t have a UK TV license?
When watching BBC iPlayer, you might get a notification informing you that a UK TV license is required to watch any program on the site. When prompted, many sources report you can simply click “I have a TV license”.
BBC apparently depends on the honor system to keep viewers honest and does not require actual proof that the user has a TV license. This message was added to iPlayer’s terms of service in September 2016.
Update: BBC iPlayer now requires viewers to register a BBC account and input a valid UK post code. The form does not seem to verify whether or not the registrant actually lives within the postal code they input.
Can I watch Planet Earth II on BBC iPlayer?
Yes, Planet Earth II and Blue Planet 2 are both on BBC iPlayer and available for free. It’s even in HD! Just make sure you have one of the VPNs above if you’re outside of the country. You’ll need plenty of bandwidth to watch the wildlife in stunning high definition.