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 to geo-block to watch an episode of Ripper Street with no issues. ExpressVPN is probably the most reliable when it comes to speed, consistently scoring among the fastest. They offer a 30 day money back guarantee and claim thousands of customers use their service to watch iPlayer (this link also gives you 3 months extra free with the 12 month plan). 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.
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.” You can’t select a specific city, but it didn’t matter as far as BBC iPlayer is concerned in our tests. In the NordVPN app, you can see what streaming websites can be accessed just by hovering your mouse over the server name. Live chat support can be contacted 24/7. At the time of writing they are offering a discounted $4 (£3.05) per month deal for an annual subscription here.
Read our full NordVPN review here.
IPVanish boasts 47 servers in five locations across the UK and possibly the most locations of any VPN worldwide. It works well with BBC iPlayer and speeds are quick enough to keep buffer pauses at bay. Our only complaint is the lack of live customer support. Instead, customers must send an email. You can expect a replay within four hours.
Read our full review of IPVanish here.
VyprVPN owns all of its own servers, including one in London. That’s not as much as the other VPNs on this list, but you can still expect excellent download speeds. Ripper Street streamed without missing a beat in our test. Both 24/7 live chat support and a ticket submissions system are available in case of trouble. You can get a 3 day free trial followed by your first month half price here.
Read our full VyprVPN review here.
Buffered has a single UK server location that works well for streaming BBC iPlayer. Speeds are good and you get five simultaneous connections per account, so you don’t have to worry about roommates booting you off. Buffered doesn’t have live support but it recently expanded its support staff to answer questions around the clock, cutting down response time to under four hours. There are currently no mobile apps, so Android devices and iPhones will have to be set up manually.
Read our full Buffered review here.
VPNs to avoid using with BBC iPlayer
This UK-based provider has given up details on customers leading to their arrest in the past. A VPN with poor logging policies located in the same country where the BBC is headquartered is probably best avoided.
Read our HideMyAss VPN review here.
Private Internet Access
Customers have complained about BBC iPlayer blocking Private Internet Access servers. PIA has said it does not officially support circumventing geolocks.
Read our full PIA VPN review here.
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.
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, simply click “I have a TV license”.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to actually prove that you have a TV license. BBC is apparently depending on the honor system to keep viewers honest. This message was added to iPlayer’s terms of service in September 2016.
On January 1, BBC iPlayer says it will start prompting users for a valid UK post code. We’re not certain of how this mechanism will work, suffice to say it’s not very hard to Google a valid post code and copy/paste it into the input field.
Can I watch Planet Earth II on BBC iPlayer?
Yes, Planet Earth II is 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 lots of bandwidth to watch the animals in stunning high definition.