Last Updated on August 31, 2023
What’s the Best VPN for Watching UK TV Abroad?
In many ways, this has been something of a personal quest which has lasted well over a decade. It started for me in a little town on the Southwestern coast of Turkey, where I was spending the Summer. I’d just met a bunch of ex-pats who had developed their own routine for the long summer days. Unfortunately, it seemed to involve a much greater capacity for drinking alcohol all day than I possessed! I needed some alternatives and other forms of entertainment to save myself from the same fate.
Turkish TV is not much help if you don’t speak the Turkish language of course. Sure, there are lots of dubbed films and even one which are in English with Turkish subtitles, but they vary greatly in quality and are difficult to watch. Language barriers aside it become quickly apparent that for all the drawbacks of living in the UK, the quality of our TV is not one of them. The BBC, ITV and Channels 4/5 are much higher in quality than most other broadcasters you’ll find across the world including Turkey.
British TV Blocked from Outside the UK
Unfortunately, initially the internet was no use, although all these channels broadcast online and even stored old programmes in an archive, they were not accessible outside the UK. However, in those days, a quick Google would find a simple solution – proxy servers. All you needed to do was hide your IP address by bouncing it off a computer called a proxy server. As long as the server in question was in the UK, then it would look like you were too and all the online British TV stations including the BBC would work.
What’s more there were loads of these proxies on the internet. Admittedly they were often from dubious sources, hacked or misconfigured servers accidentally left open for strangers to use. However, if you just streamed video through them and didn’t do anything stupid like check your web mail account, they were fairly safe to use. What’s more the BBC didn’t seem to mind that much; they turned a blind eye to the millions of streaming connections outside the UK as people watched from around the world.
Slowly that attitude has changed though, all the online broadcasters have started to strictly enforce these restrictions. From Netflix to Hulu, to National broadcasters like RTE and BBC all have blocked proxy servers and even started to restrict access from the next step up – VPN servers too. All the proxies are now useless for watching online media sites like the BBC however some of the VPN services still work perfectly. So, if you’re an Ex-pat missing their TV or someone who just likes UK TV and downloading from the BBC.
What’s the Best VPN Service for BBC iPlayer
Ultimately the most important factor in 2023 is that the VPN actually works with the BBC. Nowadays the majority of VPN services are blocked by most of the large UK media companies including the BBC. Speed, price and security are irrelevant if the BBC stops all the servers from a particular company or service. There are plenty that still work and it’s perfectly possible to find a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer in Spain or anywhere you happen to be.
Checklist for a Great VPN to Watch the BBC
Over the years I have chosen my favorite VPN service and it’s recommended on this site – Identity Cloaker. Here’s the things that I think are important when considering which one is right for you.
- Fast, Responsive Servers – speed is essential when streaming video. If you have ever tried to watch Match of the Day through a slow server then you’ll know how frustrating it is. The stream will stop and buffer every few seconds or the soundtrack will end up out of sync. The very slowest will simply stop working every few minutes and you’ll have to keep reconnecting.
- Technical Expertise and Support – the battle between all the online broadcasters and the VPN service providers is ongoing. The BBC in particular is always trying to stop them working via a variety of methods. This is not a huge problem as long as the company has technical expertise to keep their VPN service working. Whether it’s configuration issues on the server or switching out IP addresses which may been blocked.
- Company Profile – this is extremely important. Over the years many VPN companies have marketed themselves as providing TV watching services. These are always targeted by the BBC and media companies and will either suffer legal threats which end up closing them down or their IP addresses all get blocked making them useless. Always select a security VPN service not a TV watching programme!
- Cost – it is obviously tempting to choose the cheapest or those with free trials. However, they’re rarely the best choice simply because the more overloaded the server the slower they will be. Generally cheap VPNs are extremely slow as they load thousands onto each server to make a profit.
- Other Channels – every media company tries to block VPN services with various levels of success. Some are more aggressive than others and Netflix is probably the most successful. Only a couple of VPN services including Identity Cloaker now work with Netflix so check if this is a requirement.
My recommendation if you’re looking for the best VPN service for BBC iPlayer which I’ve been using for over a decade primarily for BBC, ITV, Sky GO, and Netflix is called Identity Cloaker.