LAST UPDATED: On January 17th, 2020 I can confirm this solution still works. The tool I use in this guide is called ExpressVPN. Feel free to comment below, or go check it out by clicking here. I use ExpressVPN because it is the only one I've found that still currently works to watch BBC iPlayer in USA.
So - to get BBC iPlayer USA unblocked, do this right now:
- Step 1: Get a VPN account setup
- Next, download and install the VPN software onto the device(s) you plan to watch BBC iPlayer in USA from
- Then open the VPN software and connect to a UK-based server location
- Go to BBC iPlayer and sign into your account or signup for one if using it for the first time
- Enjoy watching BBC iPlayer in USA
Total time to complete this solution: 5 minutes
How to Watch BBC iPlayer in USA
in more detail:
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!
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. So no other country can access it. For example, you can't access BBC iPlayer in Australia or Ireland either, which are two countries that are avid viewers of British TV shows. Getting BBC iPlayer in Canada also requires the workaround laid out in this quick guide.
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.)
A Quick Breakdown of what a "VPN" does...
We have a comprehensive, detailed definition of exactly what a VPN is, how it works, and why it is so effective in unblocking online services around the world - right here.
However, for this guide on how to get your own BBC iPlayer USA unblocked, all you need to know are the following main features of a VPN:
> You have full control over what IP address location you want yourself to "appear" to be located in.
> Top VPN service providers like ExpressVPN can offer UK-based server locations, which allows you to "appear" within the UK, while in your actual US-based location.
> The moment you connect to a VPN on any device you want to use it on -- you are given an incredibly sophisticated level of encryption. This means that all your data and online activity is privacy protected. No one can trace, monitor, or record anything you do online to your personal location and/or identity.
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:
So depending on your budget and "commitment" preference, go ahead and choose a plan that works best for you. Once you have signed up, you will receive your account confirmation details via email.
In this email confirmation, you will then be prompted to move onto the download and installation process. You actually download the VPN software onto your device, so let's quickly run through how this simple process looks...
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:
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 get BBC iPlayer USA unblocked.
This means that if you have, for example, a smartTV or iPad or Windows tablet, you can easily setup a VPN on each of them from your one ExpressVPN account -- thus allowing you to get you BBC iPlayer USA access on all of those devices. You can even setup this VPN on your main home internet router, which will effectively have your entire home internet on the VPN, so any device connected to your home internet will be able to start watching BBC iPlayer in USA.
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 get BBC iPlayer USA unblocked.
For example, here's how the ExpressVPN software looks when you connect:
Another sweet benefit of using ExpressVPN for this solution, is how consistently clean and simple their software is across all devices you would want to use it on.
For example, here's a screenshot of how the software interface looks on my Macbook:
As you can see, just as with the app on my Android smartphone, it is super simple to use. You literally just need to open the software, choose "Select Another Server", click on a UK-based server, click "Connect" (the huuuuge button in the middle of the software) and in a few seconds you will be successfully connected.
So once you have done this, you will now have effectively changed your IP address to make your location appear within the UK. All that is left to do now is get into BBC iPlayer!
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!
And that's you! By following the steps laid out about, you will now have complete access to start watching BBC iPlayer in USA . 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.
Are there alternative methods to get BBC iPlayer USA unblocked?
There are two different ways to effectively "change your IP address", which as we have learned in this guide is the main defining factor to getting BBC iPlayer USA available.
I will quickly run through these so that you know all the options available to you. However, I will say that neither of these are nearly as 100% effective as using a VPN for this solution.
A SmartDNS service is, to put it simply, a VPN without any of the privacy protection.
This means that yes - a SmartDNS does allow you to control how your IP address appears to services like BBC iPlayer, which is great for this solution.
Because SmartDNS services do not give you any encryption on your online data or activity, they usually come at a (very slightly) cheaper price point than the best VPN service providers out there.
So if you do not care about protecting your online privacy at all (which I would strongly recommend you do, since the different in price between a VPN and a SmartDNS is literally just a couple dollars in most cases), then you should consider grabbing a SmartDNS to get your BBC iPlayer USA unblock fix.
This method basically does not bear mentioning, as by this point in 2017, 99% of "proxy browsers" are completely ineffective at allow you to even unblock simple websites through them, let alone online media streaming services like BBC iPlayer in USA.
A proxy browser is essentially a website that you go to, that has a search bar (like Google or Bing) and you punch in the website you want to access that is currently blocked to you - because of your IP address - and theoretically the proxy server you are searching through will bypass this block; thus letting you access the website.
Although most of these proxy browsers are completely free, this comes at a cost. Either the proxy is never updated (and thus doesn't work at all) or the person/people behind it are not protecting your activity and are instead selling it to advertisers or other third party entities.
So at the end of the day, it really does make the most sense to get your BBC iPlayer USA fix through a VPN - as the level of effectiveness you get is unparalleled by either of the alternative methods, as well as your privacy being protected on top of it. No brainer!
I hope you found this guide super useful and that you're now successfully enjoying your favourite British TV shows on BBC iPlayer in USA!
Do let me know if you have any questions or feedback on this guide. Pop a comment below and I will happily get back to you.