Last Updated on November 6, 2023
So Which VPN Actually Works With BBC iPlayer in 2023?
What is a VPN?
So the basics before we answer the question is there a VPN that works with BBC iPlayer ? A VPN is a virtual private network. Although you don’t really need to know that if you just want to watch Match of the Day or enjoy the Nine o Clock News every evening. Basically a VPN creates an encrypted connection between your computer and the VPN server. This protects your data from being accessed by anyone else, including the people who are spying on you through your internet traffic.
What is also does is to hide your real location too. When you’re connected via a VPN no web site you visit actually knows where you are. They will only see the IP address of the VPN server you’re connected to. So if you’re using a UK VPN server you’ll appear to be in the UK, connect to a US VPN and you’ll look like your in the US and so on.
Choose the World Location You Need
This makes it remarkably powerful tool in todays internet where web sites increasingly try to control you based on your location. It means they can’t, it means you can choose what you see, what you have access to and even what price you pay !
Yes that’s right – many websites charge different prices depending on where they think you’re located.
Looks at this map – it’s the Europe section of the NordVPN service.
There are VPN servers all over the world which you can use whenever you require. Just point at the map and click on a country and you’ll connect. That’s it, nothing complicated and you can install the app on your laptop, PC, tablet and even your smart phone if you like.
Forget Geo-Blocks – Download a VPN
A VPN allows you to completely bypass geo-restricted content, unblock websites, and protect yourself from online security threats. Most of the world’s best media sites are restricted to their domestic markets. A VPN service in your taskbar means you can access them all, irrespective of where you happen to be.
Just ask the millions of ex-pats across the world who soon learn that a VPN lets them stay connected to their home country. At this very moment tens of thousands of British ex-pats are streaming Eastenders to their homes on the Costa Del Sol (plus many thousands of other places!)
What is BBC iPlayer?
BBC iPlayer is a digital video service from the British Broadcasting Corporation. If you’re reading this post then it’s very likely you know exactly what it is anyway. Perhaps though you’ve not watched the BBC online before, maybe you’ve never seen what is available there. Make no mistake the BBC iPlayer website is one of the best sites on the internet anywhere !
It’s basically a digital video service that allows users to watch BBC TV shows and movies online. It’s available on desktop, mobile, and app platforms. The site has a library of content that includes both recent and classic television shows and movies. You can also find new releases, documentaries, comedy specials, and more. BBC iPlayer offers ad-free viewing for UK residents with an active TV licence.
Users can watch content offline using the BBC iPlayer app or by downloading it to watch later on their device. IT streams all eleven live TV channels most of the available 24/7. Plus you can watch the majority of broadcast programmes afterwards for up to twelve months. It’s literally packed full of thousands of hours of world class TV which you can stream over the internet. At the moment I’m watching a brilliant detective – Shetland Series 7 which will be available for twelve months.
BBC Account Doesn’t Work Outside the UK
So the problem, none of this works the moment you step outside the United Kingdom. It doesn’t matter that you’ve had a TV licence for decades or your have a BBC account – if you’re not physically in the UK you’ll get blocked. The BBC site will look up your IP address (the unique network address every device has when online) and check where it’s registered to – if it’s outside the UK you’ll get a warning message like this.
A bit sad huh! An experience suffered by so many of us at some point – whether travelling for work, on holiday or just love British TV. If you’re not in the UK this is what will happen. To be fair it’s not just the BBC iPlayer either virtually every large media site on the planet does pretty much the same thing. Generally they’re limited to their domestic market and restricted to everyone else.
What are the benefits of using a VPN with BBC iPlayer?
Unless you’re being blocked from outside the UK then there’s no direct benefit to using a VPN with BBC iPlayer. Of course it will work perfectly well, as long as you select a UK based server but there’s no real advantage for streaming video. However if you’re outside the UK for some reason – whether permanently or temporarily then it’s actually vital. A VPN can enable you to bypass the geo-blocks employed against non-UK residents.
It’s actually quite straight forward. The BBC iPlayer works out your location by checking where your IP address is registered. This address is the unique number which is assigned to every device when it connects to the internet. You rarely have any control over this address it’s given to you automatically by the router, wifi access point or gateway which is allowing you access to the internet. It will be from whichever hardware is getting you online whether that’s a mobile phone tower, an access point in a hotel or cafe or even the broadband router in your home.
Hide your IP Address
This is the main reason why if you want to watch BBC iPlayer from outside the UK then you’ll need a VPN. When you connect to a VPN server, it hides your real location – basically anything you do online is routed through the VPN. Which means that it’s the IP address of the VPN server that determines your location not where you actually are.
- If you want to use the BBC iPlayer you connect to a UK VPN server.
- If you want to watch Hulu you connect to a US server.
- If you want to watch ABC you connect to an Australian server.
And do on, NordVPN for example has thousands of servers all over the world all included in their standard subscription. Which means that you can have any IP address nationality that you want simply by clicking on a different server.
How does a VPN work with BBC iPlayer?
So we can see that a VPN is vital to allow access to BBC iPlayer if you’re in a country outside the UK. It makes your location irrelevant whether you’re in China, France, US or Australia you can connect to a VPN and watch the BBC. As you read this thousands of UK pensioners who rarely use computers are using a VPN in Spain to watch the BBC.
Here’s how it’s done using one of the market leaders (this is from the US but it could be anywhere) – NordVPN in 2023.
This is the version on the PC and as you can see it’s very simple to use. NordVPN actually has different apps for most devices so you can also run a version on phones, tablets etc too. You have to ensure that you enable the VPN connection (to a UK server for the BBC) before visiting the site you need e.g. – BBC iPlayer – Home
That’s all there is to it, really, the BBC website will see your UK IP address from the VPN and work just like if you were in the UK. You will be asked whether you have a TV license occasionally – you’ll have to say YES to this but there’s no check or validation.
Your Location Just Changed for Apps and All Browsing
Remember while the VPN is connected everything you do on that device will be routed through the UK. So if you google something you’ll get UK based results. Your browsing will be given a UK bias and you could even find yourself locked out of local resources because of your ‘new location’. Your email will be routed through the VPN too although this rarely causes any issues.
This is one of the problems with a VPN that you should be aware of – your whole digital identity is changed. However you can easily either turn the VPN off when you’ve finished or if you want to keep the protection switch to a server near your actual location.
Use Split Tunneling if Required
VPNs work by routing your traffic through an intermediary server so it’s encrypted before being sent over the internet. This way, even if the government or ISP can track your activity, they won’t be able to read what you’re viewing on BBC iPlayer. However if you don’t want all your traffic routed through a VPN server some VPN services offer a solution called Split Tunnelling.
This actually lets you specify what applications/browsers use the VPN tunnel and which doesn’t. This can be useful if you want to maintain your existing location for some things while protecting others. Often people will specific browser to operate outside the VPN to maintain their current settings. Or simply specify one browser to route through the VPN (to watch BBC iPlayer for example) while everything else works the same.
Can BBC iPlayer Detect VPN Services?
Not directly, however it’s quite simple to detect VPNs and proxies based on concurrent use of the IP addresses. Many VPNs are blocked int his way as they share IPs between hundreds and thousands of users.
What are the Best VPNs for BBC iPlayer?
So we’ve explained how VPN is a technology that allows you to spoof your location and access geo-restricted content like the BBC. However as you’ll discover there’s a huge choice of different VPN services to choose from. When I started first using a VPN to watch the BBC News when I was in Turkey about fifteen years ago there weren’t many to choose from at all. All because I wanted to watch Match of the Day while on holiday!
However the great advantage was that nearly every VPN and even some of the proxies would work first time. In fact initially even all the free ones would work too, although as now they could be too slow to stream video on. That’s now changed a lot, in 2022 don’t presume that every VPN will work because it won’t
Most VPNs are Blocked by the BBC
It’s true unfortunately the BBC have managed to block the majority of VPNs and they won’t work to access iPlayer anymore. The exact number varies a lot but it’s pretty close to 90% of the mainstream VPN services are now blocked automatically by the BBC !
BBC Blocks IP Addresses
It’s actually extremely difficult to detect a VPN directly. The Chinese Government have spent a lot of time trying to do this and you cans still use them to bypass the Great Firewall of China! However it’s much easier to look for patterns and clues that indicate that a VPN is being used. This is exactly what the BBC does when trying to block access from different countries using a VPN.
They and many other media companies simply look for multiple connections from the same IP addresses and ranges. When you see multiple inbound connections streaming from the same IP address it’s highly likely that the address is being used by a shared server like a VPN or proxy.
Some people will share addresses at home, work or college but it’s unlikely that many will be all connecting to the BBC at the same time. If the number connecting is high enough it’s almost certain to be a VPN and it’s easy for the BBC iPlayer network to block automatically when some sort of threshold is reached.
It’s still possible to bypass these blocks and watch British TV abroad but you have to keep rotating the IP addresses in the VPN servers and ensure that too many don’t connect via the same address concurrently. This needs time, resources and the infrastructure to support.
Types of VPN Subscription Services That Work
Fortunately there’s several different ‘types’ of VPN services which still do work with BBC iPlayer from outside the United Kingdom. These work for slightly different reasons but ultimately the effect is the same –
- VPN Services who optimize servers to ‘stay hidden’
- Smaller scale VPNs (often more expensive) which have fewer active users on each server (and accessing BBC)
- VPN Services which supply private UK IP addresses
So basically you make a constant effort to keep your UK servers unblock or find a smaller VPN that just works because of much fewer subscribers. The third option works because you’re not sharing the IP address but this is often much more expensive.
Two Program Options that Work with BBC
Identity Cloaker Security Program
I’ve used two services that always work with BBC iPlayer and still do to the current day (August 2022). The first one is a slightly more expensive service called Identity Cloaker which was my original portal into BBC abroad almost fifteen years ago. It still works today because it has a small subscription base and loads of UK servers. This means that it rarely ‘trips’ the concurrent users flag that BBC uses to block a server address.
It’s a slightly older program and doesn’t have the apps for installing on phones and stuff but it works great if you just want to watch on a PC or laptop and don’t mind paying a little more.
NordVPN BBC Optimised Streaming Servers
Another VPN and one of the biggest providers in the world is NordVPN. This program has a lot of advantages – low cost, hue server infrastructure, support for multiple devices to name a few. It’s constantly being developed and has virtually every security feature you could want from a VPN service. However because of it’s worldwide popularity it also has a lot of users and will never be able to ‘fly under the radar’ like smaller concerns like Identity Cloaker can.
Their solution for accessing the BBC is to concentrate on a small number of their UK servers and maintain connectivity with them. They monitor these servers carefully and rotate the IP addresses when required to prevent too many users accessing BBC at any time. If you use these specific UK servers then watching BBC iPlayer will work well.
Here are the UK Optimised servers you should use if you subscribe to NordVPN and want to watch the BBC.
UK# 1840-1847, 1850-1863, 1865, 1869, 1873, 1875-1878, 1880-1881, 1900-1901, 1903-1904, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1919-1920.
They also seem to work well for other UK media sites like ITV Hub and Channel 4 too.
How to Create an Account for BBC iPlayer?
You now have to create and use an account to stream anything on BBC iPlayer. Many streaming service alternatives have done the same. It may be to enforce content licensing restrictions but it’s more likely to be for marketing intelligence. Anyway there’s no need to worry, it’s not difficult even if you’re abroad and the accounts are completely free of charge.
BBC iPlayer Account Requirements
There’s only a few things you need to know before you start the process which is currently at https://account.bbc.com/register Firstly you must still enable your VPN and connect to a UK server which works. After that just visit the URL and answer the questions – which currently ask
- Confirm you’re over 13 (if you say no you’ll be restricted to children’s content).
- Confirm your Postcode ( just use any valid UK postcode there’s no check – some here if you need)
- Confirm you have a UK TV License (again no check but you must say yes)
- Enter an Email address and set up a username
You really shouldn’t have any problem creating an account if you have a decent VPN service and use it before registering. Don’t get worried about the postcode bit, there’s no real way to check if you live there!
What to do if you’re still having trouble accessing BBC iPlayer?
If you’re still having trouble accessing BBC iPlayer, there are a few things you can do to try and fix the problem. Mostly they’re related to the IP address or VPN connection you’re using. .
BBC iPlayer Not Working ?
- Make sure that your internet connection is stable and fast. If your internet connection is slow or unstable, it might be causing problems with BBC iPlayer.
- Check to see if any of your firewall settings are blocking access to BBC iPlayer. You might have blocked access accidentally while trying to set up a new device or router.
- Change the UK IP address you’re using, most VPN services have many UK addresses try another one instead. It’s best to close your browser and even restart your computer/device before this.
- Clear browser cache and delete cookies – a failed connection can remain to haunt you!
- Change time zone and device location to the UK – usually not required but it’s possible to identify location from these settings.
Remember many VPNs simply don’t work with the BBC anymore. If your IP address is blocked you won’t be able to access whatever you do. Some VPNs have a few IP addresses that do work – so keep trying if you have that option. Good luck and I’m sure you’ll be watching the BBC and all UK TV sites very quickly wherever you are. If you get stuck then feel free to put a question in the comments below.
Is there a BBC iPlayer Free VPN ?
I’ve quickly added this last section as I keep getting messaged/emailed with this query. Unfortunately it’s not been possible to use a free proxy or VPN to access BBC iPlayer for many years. The main issue is that overuse is the easiest way to detect a VPN and anything which is free and un-managed is always going to be overloaded.
The only solution I can give you is a short term one. That is a paid VPN which actually offers a two week free trial with no requirements for credit cards or payment details. It’s actually a solution based on something we’ve covered elsewhere in the site called Smart DNS which is effectively a cut down VPN designed specifically for bypassing geo-blocks – read about Smart DNS here.