So what exactly is a proxy server and why do you need one to watch a media site like the BBC iPlayer? Well specifically it’s all really down to IP addresses and how they are locked into specific locations.
The reality is that although most web sites used to be open to anyone who happens to be online, irrespective of their physical location – that is no longer the case. More and more web sites are locking down their content to protect their markets and licensing. Usually this is locked down to a specific country or region.
It’s why if you’re in Canada you can not access lots of sites based in the USA, whereas in Dublin people find that even BBC iPlayer Ireland doesn’t work even though it’s a few miles away. The websites do this by looking at the origin of your IP address when you connect to their web site.
So here’s a short list of some big, online media sites and what addresses you need to access them.
- Hulu – US Address
- BBC – UK Address
- Pandora – US Address
- ABC – US Address
- CTV – Canadian Address
- RTE – Irish Address
- M6 Replay – French Address
It’s particularly annoying when you’re travelling, I can’t watch the news on the BBC if I happen to be in a Paris airport for example. This is because my location will normally define what nationality my IP address is, connecting through a French Wifi network in the Charles De Gaulle Airport will obviously give me a French address!
SO if I switch to Hulu to relieve the boredom, and try and watch Family Guy, I get this –
The list goes on, if you live in a country where the Government joins in and blocks stuff it’s even worse.
But of course this is the internet, the place where workarounds, cheats and hacks abound so it didn’t take long for someone to figure out a way of accessing these sites wherever you happened to be. The solution centered around proxy and VPN servers and they work surprisingly well and have done for many years.
These are servers which sit in between your connection and the website you are trying to access. They’re very common and simply forward request from your computer whilst hiding your real location – making watching BBC Iplayer in the USA a reality. So if you connect through a UK server, then you’ll appear to have a UK IP address and can access all the major UK TV stations without a problem.
The same goes for the channels like NBC and Pandora – simply connect through a US based computer and you can access these as well. In fact if you have access to a selection of these servers across the world then you can use whatever website you wish wherever you happen to be.
This was a huge gap in the market and one that many commercial services have leapt to supply. If you look around the internet you’d find hundreds of Watch UK TV, VPN and proxy companies offering their services. the majority work in a similar way allowing you to shield your real IP address when you need to. Beware though these companies come and go very quickly – often disappearing without trace over night. The ones to be careful of are those ‘ Watch TV proxy services’ that you can find – they are routinely targeted by the entertainment companies and shut down very quickly.
A far better option is to use one of the security software companies. who generally have a much better network and faster infrastructure. The best ones have software that can sit in your taskbar allowing you to hide your real address whenever you need it.
My recommendation is a program called Identity Cloaker whose software is easy to use and offers access to servers in lots of different countries (including USA, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Australia and quite a few more). With a click of a button you can change your address to a US or UK IP address or whatever you require. Their trial offer is here – Identity Cloaker or if you want to see it running – I’ve got a video demonstration here