How to Get BBC iPlayer on Apple TV

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Updated: May 18, 2017

  1. Start with getting a VPN-enabled router setup
  2. Next, get a VPN account
  3. Download and install the VPN software onto your device
  4. Open the software then connect to a UK-based server
  5. Connect VPN to VPN-enabled router
  6. Setup BBC iPlayer account
  7. Enjoy BBC iPlayer on Apple TV

How to Get BBC iPlayer on Apple TV

in more detail:

NOTE: This guide includes the use of a VPN, so since there are many VPN service providers to choose from out there, I reviewed a bunch of them and decided to use ExpressVPN for this solution. Check out this VPN here:

Let's get one thing straight before I get into this guide: I love my Apple TV. It's my baby, my love, my obsession. OK... maybe I'm exaggerating a bit -- but it's awesome and I use it every day, that's the point I want to make clear!

The main reason I love this glorious little box is because of all the different on-demand media streaming services it supports, and thus all the amazing variety of media I can enjoy on my big home TV.

However, it was not always this beautiful a relationship. When I first got Apple TV, I frantically setup all the services on it I wanted to have access to, which included the epic BBC iPlayer service that offers all the best and latest of British TV shows.

The problem with this was that I am based in the US, so when I attempted to setup BBC iPlayer on my Apple TV, I was swiftly denied access to the service, being shown the following frustrating message: 

how to watch bbc iplayer on apple tv

Yup, I was denied! If I wasn't so darn obsessed with British TV then that would've been the end of this story. However, that's not me. I was determined to figure out why this was happening and to find a solution on how to get BBC iPlayer on Apple TV as securely and effectively as possible. Hence this guide!

Why can't I get BBC iPlayer on Apple TV?

The begin with, my research was focused on why I was unable to get BBC iPlayer on Apple TV, since understanding the reason would help me to the solution. 

So after a bit of reading and research, I realised that BBC iPlayer -- as with all commercial on-demand media streaming services -- has to buy licensing rights to offer each and every show they do on the service. 

Why do these licensing rights matter? Because these can only be purchased on a per-country basis. This means that if BBC iPlayer wanted to offer say, one of their shows on the service to users in one additional country outside the UK; they would be required to purchased an entire new licensing right on that show; for that specific country. 

Thus, when you consider BBC iPlayer to offer every show on the service to one more additional country (like Ireland, for example), then licensing rights would need to be purchased for every show again. Also, if they wanted to offer their service to more than two countries... well, you can see how that adds up to a huge amount of monetary investment. 

So BBC iPlayer chooses to only license the shows the offer within the UK -- and thus restrict their service to users located within the UK. 

How is BBC iPlayer Blocking Access on my Apple TV?

Now that the why is understood, it's equally as important to understand how, technically-speaking, ​BBC iPlayer blocks access on Apple TV. 

The technical process that BBC iPlayer employs is actually implemented at the service level. What this means is that it is not your Apple TV that is messing up your access to BBC iPlayer, but rather BBC iPlayer that is denying you access because of your location. 

So how is BBC iPlayer managing to know your location when you try to access the service? 

That is the all important question, and the answer lies in a process the service uses called "geo-blocking". This process works by BBC iPlayer checking the IP address of each and every user that comes to the service instantly, and from each IP address can determine a user's location. If the user's IP address is based in the UK; access is given. If your IP address is based outside the UK; denied. 

What this process of geo-blocking used by BBC iPlayer tells us, is that if it's possible to change your IP address when you are located outside the UK (like me, in the US) to a UK-based IP address, then you should technically bypass the geo-blocking and get access to the service, which will allow you to get BBC iPlayer on Apple TV, regardless of where you are located. 

Now I happen to know of a few methods for changing your IP address that successfully manage to achieve this. However, for this specific solution I knew that the very best approach is to use what's known as a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. 

This software is very simple to setup on your Apple TV, so I will walk you through this setup process now. 

How to Use a VPN to Get BBC iPlayer on Apple TV

Step 1: Get a VPN-Enabled Wireless Router

I have used many VPN service providers for various projects, however for this specific solution I decided on ExpressVPN purely because it best suited my budget and requirements at the time. So I will use this VPN as the example for this step-by-step walkthrough.

Using a VPN-enabled router is a great thing to do regardless of this specific guide, since having a VPN-enabled router gives your entire home internet connection a very sophisticated level of privacy-protection and freedom to access blocked content online. 

All you have to do is get yourself a router than is VPN enabled (since Apple TV does not support VPN usage), which you can find in any high street electronic store, or order one online in seconds. Here's a good list to start with: click here

Once your router arrives, all you need to do now is signup for an account with the VPN, which takes just a few moments...

Step 2: Sign up for VPN

Head to ExpressVPN's website, check out the price and plan options, choose the one that suits you best, select a payment method then confirm your account setup. 

Here's how the process looks in snapshots to give you an idea of how straightforward it is:

how to get bbc iplayer on apple tv 1
how to get bbc iplayer in apple tv 2
how to get bbc iplayer on apple tv 3

You will confirm your VPN details via email, which will contain a link to the next step: downloading and installing the software onto your device...

Step 3: Download & Install VPN

You will see that there is the option to specifically use ExpressVPN on your Apple TV in the download options, which will give you the specific download link to do that. However, this process means using a Smart DNS, which is effective - but does not give you any privacy-protection at all, which is not what you want:

how to get bbc iplayer on apple tv 5

So go ahead and download the software onto whatever device you use most at home, i.e. for me it's my Macbook and Android smartphone. 

The installation process is the same as any software installation you perform on your device, so just click through the steps and you'll be installed. 

Step 4: Connect to UK-based Server on VPN

Now that you have both your wireless VPN-enabled router and ExpressVPN software downloaded and installed, you want to connect your VPN to the router, and then you will be able to connect your Apple TV to the router, which will thus have Apple TV VPN connected, like so:

Apple TV     >>>     VPN     >>>     Router

This is the only step that requires a little bit specific technical setup. You just need to enter some details into your device to connect it fully to your router. Luckily, ExpressVPN have a very straightforward guide on this that holds your hand right through the process. Check it out here.

As you will see in that guide, you only have to do that setup once, then you're all set. The only piece of info you need to change regularly is to just specify which location you want to connect to the VPN from -- this is the step that changes your IP address to make you "appear" in whichever location you choose on the VPN. 

So to get BBC iPlayer on Apple TV, you want to choose a UK-based location to join on your VPN. 

Step 5: Setup BBC iPlayer Account

Last step is to -- if you don't already have one setup already -- setup a BBC iPlayer account. If you happened to be visiting the UK and setup your account there, then you will have an account ready, so once you've connected to a UK-based location on your VPN -- congratulations! You can now get BBC iPlayer on Apple TV from your non-UK location. 

However if you're like me, then you don't have a BBC iPlayer account. So now that you are connected to a UK-based server through your VPN-enabled router, and have connected to your home internet on your Apple TV, you will now have full access to BBC iPlayer on your Apple TV, which means you can go ahead and signup and enjoy the awesome service!


So there it is. A straightforward, effective, secure and extra-privacy-protecting solution on how to get BBC iPlayer on Apple TV from wherever your non-UK location is. 

I mentioned that I personally reviewed a few VPN service providers for this before settling on Express VPN. Thus, to give you some more choices, here are the top five I narrowed down my choice to:

If you followed the steps I laid out in this guide, you will now be happily enjoying BBC iPlayer on your Apple TV. Any questions or feedback on this guide? Don't hesitate to let me know in the comment section below. I'm always happy to hear and help users whenever I can. 

Happy iPlaying on your Apple TV!

2 Answers

    1. Chris Beattie
      January 27, 2016 at 8:49 am

      Hi John,

      Thanks for reading! Indeed, there are many SmartDNS providers (as well as other top quality VPN providers) out there that will allow you to access BBC iPlayer.

      I personally prefer using a VPN because, although under attack of late from media streaming providers, VPNs offer a layer of privacy protection that I strive for in today’s invasive online climate.

      Definitely a lot of benefits to using a SmartDNS though. Good shout!

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