Updated: May 18, 2017
- Start by getting a VPN account setup
- Next, install the VPN software onto the device(s) you want to watch BBC iPlayer abroad on
- Then open the VPN software and connect to a UK-based server
- Login to your BBC iPlayer account or signup if you don't have an account yet
- Enjoy BBC iPlayer abroad
How to Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad
in more detail:
Being a proud resident of the capital Scottish city of Edinburgh, I am a big fan of British TV. And no better source for all the best British TV shows on earth exists than on BBC iPlayer.
I have been a long time subscriber to BBC iPlayer and use it practically every day to stay up to date on my favourite shows. So when I was prompted to spend a week in Spain with a Spanish business partner, I was keen to introduce him to the wonderful world of BBC iPlayer!
However, the moment I opened up my Macbook to introduce my Spanish buddy to the glorious BBC iPlayer, I was rudely presented with this error message:
That's right, I was denied access to my own BBC iPlayer account! Super frustrated, I frantically began researching why this was happening, in hopes of figuring out a solution that would unblock BBC iPlayer abroad.
It took me some time, but I did determine a solution! So I want to quickly share this super simple guide on how to watch BBC iPlayer abroad with you.
Why is BBC iPlayer Block Outside the UK?
To understand how to watch BBC iPlayer abroad successfully, I first had to figure out why BBC iPlayer was blocking access in the first place.
After some researching, I found out that this was because of licensing agreements made between iPlayer and the owners of each TV show they offer on the service.
Basically, when iPlayer decides it wants to offer a show on the service, they pay the show owner for licensing rights. However, licensing rights are individually set per country. This means that if iPlayer wants to offer the same show to users located outside the UK, in Spain for example, then iPlayer would need to buy licensing rights for that show specifically for Spanish streaming.
Multiple this setup across all countries in the world, and you can see why BBC iPlayer has chosen not to invest the serious money required to buy licensing rights for all countries on all the shows they offer on the service.
How is BBC iPlayer Blocking Access Outside the UK?
So now that we know why BBC iPlayer blocks access to users located outside the UK, we next need to understand how this block is achieved, technically speaking, by the service.
The actual process used to achieve the blocks is known as 'geo-blocking'. This process works by effectively putting protective barrier on the front of BBC iPlayer that checks the location of each and every user that tries to access the service.
This barrier determines each users' location by referencing the IP address of each user. So for example, with my being located in Spain, when I tried to access BBC iPlayer, the geo-blocking barrier checked my IP address, saw that it was a "Spanish" IP address, then denied me access to the service.
Now what this means is, if you are able to somehow change your IP address from whatever your real one is, to an IP address that is based in the UK, you should theoretically be given access to BBC iPlayer as a result, right? Right!
There are a few methods to changing your IP address to whatever location you want to "appear" from. However, some are less secure than others. By far the most secure and privacy-protecting solution for this is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN.)
NOTE: In late 2015, BBC iPlayer completely flipped their stance on users using VPNs to access the service from advocating it to actively working to prevent this. However, there are still many VPN service providers that are keeping ahead of the BBC iPlayer's "VPN checking" tools, that still allow you to effectively and securely watch BBC iPlayer abroad.
How to Use a VPN to Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad
Step 1: Sign up for VPN
I tried a bunch of VPN service providers to find the one that suited my needs and (modest) budget best. After trying a few of the "best" out there, I decided to go with ExpressVPN. Thus, I will reference this as the VPN example while I walk you through this quick setup guide.
So, step 1 -- head to Express's website and go through the quick signup process by choosing the plans that suits your situation best, process payment, then confirm your account details via email:
This process will take you just 2 minutes. Once confirmed, you will then want to click the download are button in your account confirmation email.
Step 2: Download & Install VPN
Downloading and installing is a breeze with ExpressVPN. You simply head to the download area then choose the link for the device you are using. This will prompt the download, which will just a few seconds.
If you're like me, and enjoy watching media on multiple devices (laptop, smartphone, smart TV, PS4, etc) then you can use the VPN on all of them. Check out how many devices ExpressVPN is compatible with:
With the download complete, go ahead and open up the download file. You will be taken through the equally as simple and quick installation process. You will then be ready to open the VPN and get connected!
Step 3: Connect to UK-based Server on VPN
As you will see when you have the VPN software open, the interface is stupidly simple. You really don't need to have any tech expertise at all with this.
It's literally just a case of selecting which location you want to join the VPN on. This is the important step of course, since you want to connect to a UK-based server location. This is what will change your IP address from your real one to "appearing" in the UK.
As an example, here's how the connection process looks on my Android smartphone connecting to a London-based server:
Step 4: Setup BBC iPlayer Account
Now, if you already have a BBC iPlayer account (like I did when in Spain, since I signed up in my hometown in Edinburgh, Scotland) you are done! Go ahead and navigate to BBC iPlayer and you will have full access to the service from abroad. Enjoy!
If you have not yet signed up for an iPlayer account, then go ahead and do this now by visiting the site and going through the signup process. You will of course be able to do this now, since you are already connected to a UK-based server, so BBC iPlayer sees your location as within the UK.
Step 5: Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad
Hurray! You're done! You can now access and enjoy BBC iPlayer from any location abroad you like by simply using a VPN.
The added bonus of using a VPN for this solution is the added layer of privacy protection you get on your online activity. So you can enjoy watching your favourite BBC iPlayer TV shows securely, privately and from any country you happen to be in, outside the UK.
I did mention at the start of this guide that there are many VPN providers to choose from, and only a few of them are truly high quality at an affordable price. Also, you want to make sure and choose one that is actively working to stay ahead of BBC iPlayer's clamping down on users using VPNs.
Thus, I personally reviewed and narrowed down the best three VPNs to watch BBC iPlayer abroad most effectively. So check these out below:
You will find different levels of service and price points in each of these, so choose the one that best suits your situation.
I hope you found this guide useful and are happily now watching BBC iPlayer abroad. If you have any feedback at all, go ahead and let me know in the comments section below.