Updated: January 1st, 2018
* This Solution STILL WORKS to watch ESPN in the UK *
As huge a service as ESPN is - they still do not allow total access to their library of sport streams to those of us located in the UK.
All good! This solution is still completely effective. So to unblock Watch ESPN in the UK, do the following steps right now:
- Start with getting a VPN account setup
- Install VPN software onto the device(s) you want to Watch ESPN in the UK on.
- Once installed, open the VPN software and connect to a US-based server.
- Go to ESPN and subscribe to the streaming channels you want to watch.
- Enjoy watching ESPN in the UK.
Maximum time to complete this guide: 5 minutes
How to watch ESPN in UK
in more detail:
ESPN. The home of sports. I honestly can't get enough of just vegging out on my sofa and watching some ESPN classics. I can guess that you have a similar affection for this channel, and have run into the exact same issue I'm about to describe!
I arrived in Scotland, got to my buddy's apartment and settled into his sofa with my laptop hooked up to his Chromecast for the big screen experience. Ready to watch some ESPN UK live streams...
Denied! I was swiftly told by ESPN that I could not stream any media from my WatchESPN subscription, because of my "outside the US" location.
So I frantically went ahead and researched why this was happening, and more important how WatchESPN was managing to figure out that I was trying to access the service from outside the US.
I quickly figured out what was happening, and then realised a solution that works 100% -- only taking me 5 minutes to setup. Thus, I figured it was worth writing up a quick article to describe this solution, to help others having trouble with how to watch ESPN in the UK like myself. Enjoy!
Why is Watch ESPN not Available in the UK?
The reason ESPN does not allow anyone to access their online streaming services in the UK (or anywhere outside the US) is because ESPN have made agreements on "distribution" with the owners of each media stream they offer.
These distribution agreements mean that ESPN have to make sure that only users within the US can access the service, otherwise if anyone could access the service anywhere in the world then ESPN would be breaking the distribution agreements they made with each media provider.
Most importantly, after I found out this, was understanding how ESPN was managing to know where I am located at the time I access the online service. So let's take a look at that before we check out the solution...
How is Watch ESPN Blocking Access in the UK?
Understanding how ESPN is technically able to figure out where you are located when you try to access the service, makes it very easy to understand what you need to do to get past this block. The solution I lay out below makes perfect sense by understanding this.
So the way that ESPN blocks access from European users, is by using a process called "geo-blocking". This process is essentially a 'front door' implemented on the service that checks the IP address of every single user that accesses the service.
This geo-blocking front door gets a user's IP address and can then determine the exact location of that user through it.
The user's IP address is then checked against an internal checker to see if it is a US-based IP address or a non-US based one. So when you are trying to access the service from Europe, ESPN will know you are, based on your IP address.
Therefore, if you are able to somehow change your IP address from your real European-based one to one based inside the US, like a New York based IP address; then ESPN will check it and give you immediate and full access to your ESPN subscription.
I did a lot of research and quickly realised that the best way to change your IP address safely, securely, legally and quickly, is by using what's called a Virtual Private Network (or a VPN, for short).
So here's my step-by-step guide on how to set this up super quick...
How to Use a VPN to get Watch ESPN UK Unblocked
Step 1: Sign up for VPN
First thing you want to do is sign up for a VPN service that best suits your circumstance and budget.
I personally checked and tried out a huuuuge amount of VPNs currently available and settled on ExpressVPN, because it suited my budget for the best value. Therefore I'll use this VPN as an example while I walk through this setup guide.
Go to ExpressVPN.com, pick your plan, confirm payment and your account details, then you're ready for the next step. Here's a glimpse at the setup process with ExpressVPN:
The site is super easy to navigate. Should you want to check out the most important information, like how the service works - what level of access they give (including Watch ESPN UK unblocking, of course) - and how the software actually works on your device; it's all there and easy to read through.
As you can see, you have three options for pricing plans to choose from. These are based on the level of commitment you want to make. I.e. if you don't want to commit to 6 months of using the software, then you pay a little extra and just roll month-by-month.
What is great about ExpressVPN is the free trial period they offer. Regardless of which plan you decide to go with - you will have a 30 day money back guarantee the moment you sign up. This is awesome and let's you see how consistently this software lets you unblock Watch ESPN in UK before committing longterm to using the VPN.
Once you have chosen your price plan, you will quickly setup your account then receive an email confirming your login details.
Next step is to go ahead and download the software!
Step 2: Download & Install VPN
Next you will be prompted by ExpressVPN to download the software onto whichever device (or multiple devices, if you plan to get Watch ESPN UK unblocked via your smartphone, laptop, smartTV, etc) which is super simple as you are automatically redirected to the download links:
Once you click on the correct download link for the device you're using, you will be prompted automatically to install the software. This is like any software install your device. Simply breeze through the steps here and in a few seconds you will have the VPN software successfully installed and ready to use on your device.
Let it automatically launch after install, pop in your login details, and you're ready to go to the most important step in this quick guide!
Step 3: Connect to US-based Server on VPN
With your VPN now open, you will see how clean and clear the software looks. It is literally just a case of selecting the location you want to connect to the VPN through.
This is where you want to choose to connect to a US based location, since this will change your IP address. Here's a glimpse of what the Mac ExpressVPN connect screen looks:
In my case when going though this solution to get Watch ESPN UK accessible, I also wanted to unblock the service on my Android smartphone device. So I quickly nipped to the Google Play Store on my mobile device, searched for "ExpressVPN" then went through the auto-download and install process there.
I took a couple of screen grabs to give you a quick glimpse of how the app looks on my device. Check it out:
NOTE: As I mentioned, you will not be connecting to a London-based server location like it shows in the above screenshot.
Why? Because this is the step in the solution that actually changes your IP address to make Watch ESPN think you're "located" within the US. So to do this you will want to choose a US-based server location from the list that ExpressVPN offer you.
To do this, just click on the list on the app option, then click any of the multiple US-based cities they offer and hit "Connect".
Once you're connected, that's it. You will now be technically "located" within the US, and will thus have Watch ESPN UK unblocked on your device.
Step 4: Setup Watch ESPN Account
For me, I already had my ESPN account and subscription setup. However, if you are getting ESPN for the first time from your European location, then simply go to the site and subscribe to whichever ESPN streaming channels you want.
This will take you just a few minutes, and once you've got that done -- go ahead and refresh your browser, make sure your connected to a US-based server on your VPN, then head on over to the ESPN service and you'll have full access. Awesome!
Thus concludes my quick guide on how to get Watch ESPN UK accessed. If you followed the steps I laid out above, you will have full access to Watch ESPN from your European location within minutes.
As mentioned, I did research and review a whole bunch of VPN service providers to make sure I was choosing the best quality one for my budget. So below I have listed the 5 best VPN services in 2017 to watch ESPN in the UK via, to give you more of a selection. Check them out:
Can I get Watch ESPN UK accessible without a VPN?
The quick answer to this is technically yes, you can do this without a VPN.
However, the alternative option we recommend does still involve using a piece of software (very similar to a VPN) to allow you full control over your IP address.
How to use a SmartDNS to unblock Watch ESPN in the UK
A SmartDNS service is, in many ways, identical to a VPN when it comes to how it allows your to unblock service, like to get Watch ESPN Canada unblocked, for example.
In the same way a VPN re-routes your internet connection through a private server you connect to, bypassing your ISP (Internet Service Provider) - a SmartDNS also "intercepts" your connection before it reaches your ISP, and changes your IP according to the online streaming service you want to unblock in the UK.
The difference between a VPN and a SmartDNS service provider is in how the server connection process is conducted. You see, when you connect to a VPN server you are instantly placing a huge level of encryption on your internet connection until you disconnect from the VPN. You do not get this encryption with a SmartDNS.
Why would putting encryption on your internet connection be important?
Well, by doing this, you are protecting to privacy of all your online data (bank passwords, logins for your social media/email/messaging apps/etc) and all your online activity (the websites you visit, what you stream/download/access/etc).
Although this is not the primary reason for you to use such software in this instance -- you just want to get a ESPN UK live stream -- it does make sense to get this awesome level of privacy protection, especially since the difference in pricing between a VPN and a SmartDNS service are the same as a cup of coffee in most cases.
I hope you found this guide useful and are now enjoying Watch ESPN in the UK securely from your current location. Any question or feedback then please go ahead and let me know in the comment section below. I'll be happy to hear from you.