How to Watch BBC iPlayer in USA

Updated: December 12, 2016

  1. Step 1: Get a VPN account setup
  2. Next, download and install the VPN software onto the device(s) you plan to watch BBC iPlayer in USA from
  3. Then open the VPN software and connect to a UK-based server location
  4. Go to BBC iPlayer and sign into your account or signup for one if using it for the first time
  5. Enjoy watching BBC iPlayer in USA

How to watch BBC iPlayer in USA in more detail:

NOTE: The solution I walkthrough in this guide includes using a VPN. Although BBC iPlayer are clamping down on users accessing the service through VPNs, there are still many VPN providers that are staying ahead of these clamps; remaining effective at accessing BBC iPlayer. I decided to go with ExpressVPN for this reason. Check it out here:


There I was, beyond excited to have discovered another amazing on-demand media streaming service for me to enjoy a whole library of awesome TV shows. 

I had flown from New York to visit family in Edinburgh, Scotland. A great time was had for the first few days, then with all the catching up and sightseeing out the way, one of my cousins opened my eyes to one of my now-favorite media streaming services: BBC iPlayer!

BBC iPlayer is a British focused on-demand media streaming service that offers TV shows that I -- being based in the US -- had never even heard of. So you can imagine how quickly I fell in love with a handful of these shows; binge-watching entire seasons at a time. 

Fast forward to my landing back in NYC and immediately sitting my roommate down to introduce him to the wonderful world of BBC iPlayer, since I knew he would share my instant infatuation with all the great shows therein. But then disaster struck...

As soon as I navigated to the service, I was immediately presented with a message telling me that BBC iPlayer cannot be streaming in the US! Nooooooooo!

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Not being on to back down, I was determined to find out why BBC iPlayer is blocked in the USA, and moreover: find a solution that lets me unblock it. 

I did exactly that. So here is my quick guide on how to watch BBC iPlayer in USA locations in less than 5 minutes. 


Why is BBC iPlayer Blocked in the USA?

To best understand the solution I go into below in this guide, it's good to know both why and how BBC iPlayer blocks access in the USA. 

Firstly let's understand why. 

The reason why BBC iPlayer denies service in the states is because of distribution restrictions they have to adhere to due to the licensing rights they have bought for each of the TV shows they offer on the service. 

You see, in order to offer the shows they do on the service, BBC iPlayer must purchase the licensing rights on each and every show that allows them to do this. However, each and every show offers licensing on a "per country" basis. 

This means that it is incredibly expensive to buy licensing rights for each show in the UK and in each additional country iPlayer would consider offering the service in. So the service chooses to restrict its access to within the UK only. 


How is BBC iPlayer Blocking Access in the USA?

Lastly, let's quickly understand the technical process that BBC iPlayer employs to actually implement the blocking of their service to users in the USA. 

So the process that the BBC iPlayer services uses is called "geo-blocking'. This process is basically the first interaction you have when you arrive on the iPlayer service, except you don't know about it because it happens 'behind the scenes'. 

This geo-blocking process determines the location of each and every user at the very moment they arrive on the service. Your location is figured out by your IP address at the moment you are trying to access the service. So ultimately, it is your IP address that is telling BBC iPlayer that you are currently not located within the UK when you try to access it. 

With that now understood, it stands to reason that by somehow managing to change my IP address to make my location "appear" within the UK (without having to change my actual US location), I would be able to get access to BBC iPlayer. 

So I went on to research the various methods available out there to change one's IP address, of which there are many. After a lot of reviewing and trying out different software and tools, I concluded that the very best approach for this specific issue is to use a Virtual Private Network (or VPN for short.) 

With that in mind, I went ahead and reviewing a bunch of different VPN providers; settling on ExpressVPN due to this service offering the best quality for my modest budget. Therefore I will use ExpressVPN as the example while I quickly walk you through the setup process below.


How to Use a VPN to Watch BBC iPlayer in the USA

Step 1: Sign up for VPN

As with 99% of VPN service providers, ExpressVPN offer three different plans of varying commitment and pricing. So step 1 is to head to the website, choose the plan that suits you best and then confirm your account setup. 

This process is super simple and won't take you more than 2 minutes to complete. Here's a quick view of how this step looks:

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As you can see, it's just a few quick steps and you'll then be ready to download and install the software onto your device. 


Step 2: Download & Install VPN

Now depending on what device you are on at the moment you signup for the VPN, you will be automatically redirected to the download area and presented with the specific software download link for the device you're on. 

For example, in the confirmation email you get from ExpressVPN you will have a link that takes you to the download area, which displays the many different devices you can install the VPN software onto:

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So not only can you download the VPN to the device you're currently on, but -- if you're like me -- you can also install the VPN software super easily onto, for example, your smartphone. I did this just for my Macbook since I use it to watch BBC iPlayer. 

Step 3: Connect to UK-based Server on VPN

Once you've gone through the very straightforward download and installation process, which basically just requires you to click "next" and "ok" when prompted for about 30 seconds, you will then be ready to open up the software and get connected! 

This is the all important step, since you will want to connect to a UK-based server location specifically, in order to successfully change your IP address to make your location "appear" within the UK for BBC iPlayer. 

You literally just select a UK location, then click the big "Connect" button on the software. In a few moments, you will be successfully connected to the VPN; your IP address will have changed; and you will be ready to access BBC iPlayer.

For example, here's how the ExpressVPN software looks on my Android smartphone when I connected to a London-based server location:

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Step 4: Setup BBC iPlayer Account

At this point, if you (like me) already have a BBC iPlayer account setup, then go to the service now and you will have full access from your US location!

However, it may be the case that you are based in the US, and thus have not been able to setup a BBC iPlayer account yet. So now that you are connected to a UK-based server on your VPN, you will be able to access the service and setup your BBC iPlayer account without any issues. 

The only thing you will need to have when signing up is a valid UK post code, which you can find through a simple Google search. Once you have your account created -- enjoy watching BBC iPlayer in the US!


Conclusion

And that's you! By following the steps laid out about, you will now have complete access to BBC iPlayer in the US. Enjoy.

Now, it is worth mentioning that in recent months BBC iPlayer has actively been working on figuring out users that are accessing the service via VPN software. However, many of the best VPN service providers around are staying ahead of BBC iPlayer's fight against them, so as long as you choose a VPN provider that is putting in the effort to keep their service updated and improved, you will have no issues accessing BBC iPlayer through them. 

After reviewing a bunch of such VPN service providers, I nailed down the three best ones to recommend from all that I checked out. So to give you more choice, here they are:

Check them out, as I'm sure you will find one therein that best suits your needs and price preference. If you have any questions at all, just let me know in the comment section below. 

Happy iPlaying!


Chris Beattie
 

Managing Director & Editor in Chief at Fried.com -- I live for tech, fitness, autonomy, music and purpose.

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