You probably know that you can’t normally watch BBC iPlayer in Spain over the internet. Many English speaking people discover this fact very quickly after arriving in Spain. In fact it’s the same with all the major UK TV streaming services none of them work abroad. Unfortunately every major streaming service – BBC iPlayer, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 all do exactly the same. However don’t worry, as you may have suspected, there’s a simple method to bypass these blocks. So if you want to watch ITV Hub in Spain to keep up to date with Downton Abbey or Coronation Street, or just want to enjoy BBC iPlayer abroad read on.
The reason you can’t watch BBC One or any of the other UK TV sites is that they check your location by looking up the location of your IP address. All the major British TV sites only allow access to people physically located in Britain to stream BBC iPlayer ITV, the archives and live TV from their site without restrictions. They don’t have some high tech surveillance system in place though, they are simply looking up where your IP address is registered.
Unfortunately this is how your identity is effectively decided online – by checking the location you’re logging in from. It seems unimportant until you start to see how much of the internet is actually restricted based on your physical location. A UK TV license holder would probably presume that they can watch online from anywhere in the world, but unfortunately it’s not true. The moment you leave the United Kingdom and land at somewhere like the Costa Del Sol, your access to UK TV abroad is revoked! Even expensive subscription channels like Sky Go disappear when you arrive in Spain or anywhere else outside the UK for that matter. It’s called geo-targeting and is the same technology which many sites use to determine what you see (or can’t see).
It’s exactly the same technology that Google uses when you use their search page. Ever wondered how your search queries are always weighted to your location? So if you search for something like electricians you’ll primarily get local ones automatically.
This is of course, it’s actually very useful in this circumstance as it tailors your results to match your location. However this method is increasingly being used to deny or filter access to resources based on your location too. For instance most of the world’s largest streaming service providers like Netflix Prime Video and TV broadcasters use this to ensure that only certain people can watch their sites.
For example, here’s what happens if I try and watch some of the free shows and TV programmes on ABC – the American TV network from outside the USA.
So when I connect – ABC looks at my network address, checks where it’s registered, and if it isn’t in the USA then I’ll get this message and nothing will work. The same thing happens for French sites, Spanish sites and of course the main subject of this post – being able to watch British TV in particular when trying to access BBC iPlayer.
Most media sites allow access to their domestic users and then block viewers from all other countries. All the UK channels do this, there are some variations of course, some sites will allow partial free access to domestic users and full access to paying customers. This largely depends on who owns the rights to the television programmes and whether it’s a commercial station or not.
The BBC is a national broadcaster and puts no restrictions on anyone watching from within the UK apart from purchasing a TV license. The only check for online access is a prompt to confirm if you have a TV licence or not, the first time you log on. However there’s no checks or enforcement on this at all i.e. if you just say yes everything will work fine. However this confirmation is immaterial if it is detected that your connection originates outside the UK as you’ll be blocked and redirected to an international version which has no access UK TV, radio or films.
Many people feel aggrieved about this inability to watch UK TV abroad. The UK holiday makers who pay their license, the expats who have paid for decades, the anglophiles who love the BBC but only have access to expensive inferior copies like Britbox or BBC America. Even the internet only TV services like BBC Four is restricted although you can access some of the radio shows. All of these and many other groups would relish the chance to receive UK TV channels online – specifically for channels like BBC and ITV.
So How Can I Watch BBC in Spain – Plus All the UK Television Channels
So basically in order to watch the BBC over the internet anywhere outside the UK you need to change your IP address. Unfortunately this isn’t possible whilst remaining connected to the internet. So instead you have to hide your real address and supply one that is based in the United Kingdom. The solution is available for everyone – simply use a VPN (virtual Private network).
With this ability you can forget about paying for cut down versions or patiently awaiting an overpriced BBC iPlayer app for international audiences. Yes you can stream UK TV over the internet without messing around with satellite TV, specially configured set top box systems or illegal internet TV stations.
It sounds complicated but it really isn’t – here’s a video showing the process of using a VPN service to access your favourite entertainment sites –
So with a UK IP address then you can watch any UK only websites including BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5 etc. If you have a Sky account you can use it to watch the Sky Go application online too – you don’t need that expensive satellite TV honestly. It’s simple to use, extremely discrete (your connection is completely anonymised) as the primary use of this program is to encrypt your connection to keep it safe from hackers and Identity thieves (oh and the NSA and MI5 snoopers!).
Just bounce your internet connection through a server based in the UK (or whichever country you need) and all the major streaming services will work perfectly. Say goodbye to all the geo restrictions and you can enjoy Coronation Street on the beach or by the pool. Most of the UK TV streaming sites will ask for you to create an account, it’s not a problem you can use any valid email address. They don’t do any other checks other than sometimes asking for your post code, when creating your account. Don’t worry though just use any valid UK postal code then connect through your chosen VPN server and it will work perfectly.
There are lots of these VPN services available on all sorts of platforms. The one demonstrated above is called Identity Cloaker which I personally have used for over ten years, mainly to use BBC iPlayer outside of the UK. It works on most platforms and has the best connections speeds although it’s probably best suited for computer use. You can use on a mobile device but you have to configure the VPN manually and then you lose some of the security features. If you want a VPN that has versions for other platforms including iOS Android etc, then your best VPN is probably one of the bigger companies like Nord VPN
If you want to unblock BBC iPlayer, all the UK TV stations and indeed media sites across the world then you do need a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Unfortunately the days of simply using a free proxy from the internet to watch one BBC or BBC Two channel are long gone, the vast majority of media sites are able to and actively block simple proxies. The simple fact is that a proxy server can be detected quite easily and most sites will block access, but they can’t actually detect VPN servers.
Pick the Right VPN and Unlock Everything
Not surprisingly most media sites have made efforts to block these circumvention tools. As mentioned proxies are now virtually useless, and in fact sites like the BBC have also blocked many of the VPN providers too. Although they can’t detect the VPN connection itself, they can identify when too many connections originate from the same source. So those providers who overload their servers in order to slash prices don’t really work. You might see posts online saying that BBC iPlayer not working through VPN services but it’s not actually true. What’s happening is those low quality providers are getting caught and their servers blocked.
Don’t worry though, there are still many VPN services that still work without problem you don’t need set top boxes, Mag Boxes or the services of a satellite TV installer or anything. Mostly the best VPNs are proper security companies who ensure their servers are not overloaded or detected and connected via decent fibre optic connections. They’re still relatively inexpensive and the best will have lots of servers in different locations. Remember though the BBC needs to be accessed from a UK server!
So here’s our favourite – a VPN service without flashy graphics and sales pages but which has servers which always work with all the UK TV sites! It has been working for over ten years for people to watch UK TV in Spain without the need for a satellite dish. If you’re on a business trip or a short holiday then just use the ten day trial,
Try the short trial of Identity Cloaker first to see how well it works for you.
It’s perfect to watch the BBC in Spain in 2020 – 10 day trial Identity Cloaker.
It’s easily the most reliable VPN for accessing BBC iPlayer and probably the most secure. However if you want to use different devices, stream on your phone etc then you’ll probably prefer the market leader – NordVPN.