Last Updated on October 4, 2023
BBC VPN Block Workaround – Watch iPlayer Anywhere!
For many years although the BBC is technically unavailable outside the UK, people have indeed been watching it on their phones, tablets, PCs and laptops from all over the world. Like many of the large media firms the BBC have blocked access to their content on the iPlayer and main BBC site based on their physical location- here’s the BBC blocked info.
Why Did You Need a VPN for BBC iPlayer?
The BBC website just looked up where your IP address was registered in and blocked all non-UK addresses. However, the truth is that they have never really tried that hard, and you could use the very simplest free proxy server to bypass these blocks and watch whatever you want. In fact, the BBC only ever checked at the beginning of a stream, so you could even disconnect and use your real location after the programme had started.
Times however have changed, and proxies stopped working to hide your location last year, people were forced to switch to VPN services which although cost a few pounds worked without problems unlocking all the UK TV sites and many other media channels elsewhere. We VPN users thought the BBC crackdown was complete for another decade and thought nothing of it until thousands started noticed the BBC VPN block starting to happen.
How Does BBC Know I Am Using VPN?
A VPN (virtual private network) is an encrypted connection between your computer and a secure VPN server – they are actually very difficult to block. The problem for the media sites is that a VPN is almost impossible to detect automatically and that means stopping them requires a lot of effort. Remember this, the BBC is not able to directly detect a VPN, but it can work out the probabilities.
Yet if you heard the cries on social media – that one-by-one ExpressVPN iPlayer not working, or the tunnelbear BBC iPlayer app being blocked you knew there was something going on!
So how is the BBC iPlayer detecting VPN connections? The most obvious method is to identify the IP addresses of these VPN servers either manually or by identifying multiple streams to addresses and putting them in a blacklist. This forms the core of the BBC VPN block with IP addresses of VPN servers being slowly blocked one by one and effectively locking out anyone who used them.
Sure, they also go after the people silly enough to use the BBC name on their websites and adverts but that’s a manual process. They can automate detection of concurrent connections and block them very easily. So, if a single IP address has 1200 connections to BBC iPlayer, it’s fairly certain that this isn’t from a single location. It’s almost always either a proxy or a VPN relaying lots of people from outside the country.
The connection is blocked, and the IP address blacklisted for a period of time – and everyone connected to that IP address will be blocked from the BBC.
So, is the homesick ex-pat sitting by their swimming pool on the Costa del Sol doomed to watch the Spanish News and be cut off from the BBC forever? Is the BBC iPlayer VPN workaround gone forever. Well fortunately it’s not quite that drastic, there is still a way in 2023 to watch UK TV everywhere through a VPN.
My VPN isn’t Working with BBC iPlayer
What is almost certainly happening is that too many users are trying to connect to the BBC at the same time. Most VPNs share IP addresses among their users; indeed the cheaper ones share them with thousands of users. Normally this wasn’t important because with the right network in place, sharing an address with lots of people didn’t really matter. However, when people are accessing the same site continuously it becomes the easiest way to identify a VPN connection.
If your VPN isn’t working with the BBC or working intermittently this is probably what is happening. try changing the IP address to another one if possible and you may get lucky. Beware though many VPN providers have given up trying to support sites like the BBC as it’s too costly and labour intensive.
Watch this video to see one that is working in 2023, it’s called NordVPN !
The BBC VPN Block can Be Beaten!
Although the BBC has indeed blocked many thousands of VPN addresses, the reality is that they are fighting something of a losing battle with this method. It is very time consuming individually identifying and blocking each VPN address manually and the VPN service providers can rotate these IP addresses in response relatively easily. The serious companies like NordVPN and Identity Cloaker have many thousands of addresses available to rotate when required which is exactly what is happening.
In reality the BBC and all the large media companies are very aware of this, however they know that they can drastically reduce access by focusing on specific targets. The ad sponsored free VPN for BBC iPlayer never worked very well because of speed but now because of the large number of concurrent connections they support means they are all pretty much blocked.
So, if people find their BBC iPlayer VPN not working now, then just switch to one of the professional VPN service providers who are able to switch IP addresses at will, then any block will be very temporary. I did a brief test this morning and out of about 50 IP addresses I tried in my Identity Cloaker account only one wasn’t working and had been affected by the BBC VPN block. Similarly, with NordVPN as long as I used the BBC optimised servers (which they monitor and rotate) then all the servers where working (see below for list of these servers).
Hopefully this will safeguard access to the BBC for the foreseeable future, select your VPN service provider carefully and you should be fine. There is one word of warning though, there is another huge attack on VPNs taking place by another large media provider – Netflix. They are going one step further than the BBC blocking VPNs by determining their category i.e. the IP address will only be allowed access if it’s classed as a residential one (which most VPNs are certainly not). You can read about the best VPN for Netflix here, which has incorporated residential IP addresses into their network to use when needed.
Choosing the Best VPN for BBC iPlayer
The first and most important criteria is that it works. Over the last year or so, many VPN services which used to work brilliantly with all UK TV channels simply don’t work anymore. So how do you find a VPN for BBC iPlayer that still works? Well to be honest the only 100% guaranteed way is to try them for yourself. After all I can recommend VPNs here which work but that might change next week or month! I used to suggest using express VPN and BBC iPlayer but on testing that’s become extremely unreliable with both BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub.
Fortunately, there are some VPN services which have made supporting BBC access at least a priority so I’ll start by suggesting them here.
Identity Cloaker – was the first VPN I used for watching TV abroad over twelve years ago. It’s one of the oldest VPN services on the market. It can look a little old fashioned as the website and interface haven’t changed much over that time. It does work extremely well with BBC, ITV and the other UK TV stations though. The owner makes a real effort to maintain access to the BBC in particular as they have thousands of users who use it primarily for that purpose. The application is available for the PC so you can install on your laptop, PC etc. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have applications for other devices, but you can set up the VPN connections manually if you like.
It’s a very solid option if you’re going to primarily use a PC or laptop for your streaming. If you want to install on other devices like tablets, smartphones etc then perhaps look below.
NordVPN – is probably the world’s most popular VPN service and one with a pretty much global brand. Normally this sort of high-profile VPN wouldn’t be a great option for bypassing the blocks of BBC and ITV simply because of the number of users. However, NordVPN have created a core number of BBC enabled servers which they try and maintain access too. They will limit connections on each of these servers and rotate the IP addresses automatically. Don’t use their standard servers for UK television, select the BBC enabled ones. Here’s the server names which you should use on the VPN to watch BBC iPlayer abroad – UK# 1840-1847, 1850-1863, 1865, 1869, 1873, 1875-1878, 1880-1881, 1900-1901, 1903-1904, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1919-1920.
NordVPN has support for most devices so you can simply download the right app for your device. If you want to watch on different devices, then it’s probably the best choice for you.
However, the important factor for both of these is that you can try them out and get a refund if it doesn’t work for you.
Here’s a few questions regarding this page and answered below for convenience.
I’ve Heard that BBC iPlayer is Detecting VPN services – do these still work?
The BBC can detect VPN connections but that doesn’t mean they all no longer work. Their detection is based on the number of users concurrently connecting from a single IP address. This can be bypassed by carefully monitoring the number of users connecting and rotating the IP addresses of servers regularly. Several VPN services do this effectively including the ones recommended in this article.
BBC iPlayer Buffering with my VPN Connection – what’s wrong?
Streaming video content especially in high definition take a lot of bandwidth and requires a fast connection. Unfortunately many VPN services are overloaded and slow down internet connections. If you’re streaming is buffering then either your internet connection or the VPN service is too slow. Remember if you’re using the VPN to stream from a country far away from the UK it will always slow down your connection a little. However most decent VPN services should have only a slight impact on your overall connection speed.
Why is Tunnelbear not Working with BBC iPlayer?
Over the last few years the majority of VPN services have been blocked by the BBC iPlayer. The method used is to identify the IP addresses of VPN servers and block access to them. They merely monitor the number of concurrent connections which will normally identify a proxy or VPN server. A few VPN services still work like NordVPN but the majority don’t anymore.