I use a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer (from New Zealand) every day – whether it’s to catch up on the latest episode Line of Duty, or watch football highlights through Match of the Day, or even listen to TMS abroad.
This all means I’ve got plenty of experience of VPNs not working with BBC iPlayer. It also means I know exactly what to do when a VPN has stopped working with iPlayer.
Why has my VPN stopped working with BBC iPlayer?
BBC iPlayer requires two things to work: a BBC account and a UK IP address (internet connection).
When too many people log in at the same time and watch BBC iPlayer from a shared VPN server (during a big free-to-air sporting event like the World Cup or Olympics, for example), it’s easy for the BBC’s technical team to detect if there are any IP addresses supporting an abnormally-large number of logins.
When this happens, the BBC will investigate who owns the offending IP address and blacklist them if they suspects they are VPN servers.
What you NEED to know
Despite what some VPNs advertise, there’s not a single VPN that’s able to guarantee you access to BBC iPlayer 100% of the time. Even the very best VPNs – like NordVPN and ExpressVPN – have small periods of time (sometimes lasting a few days) where they can’t unblock BBC iPlayer.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to combat this as a VPN customer. All you can do is try the other UK servers (IP addresses) the VPN provides. But if that doesn’t work you just have to wait and hope your VPN provider releases new, undetected, UK servers to its customers soon.
How to fix?
If deleting cookies and changing servers doesn’t work, the only other option you have is to switch (temporarily or permanently) to another VPN.
Personally, I use NordVPN to watch BBC iPlayer, and have ExpressVPN as my backup. Both VPNs are fast and let me watch iPlayer in HD with no buffering on my 55-inch TV (see How to watch BBC iPlayer on Apple TV outside of the UK if you want to copy my set up).
Tip: If you’re an ex-pat (like me), and not just trying to access iPlayer when you’re on holiday for a few days, I recommend coordinating the VPN you buy with fellow Brit. One of you buys NordVPN and the other gets ExpressVPN. That way you’re covered if/when BBC iPlayer stops working with either VPN.
Leave a comment below if you need any help with BBC iPlayer not working with your VPN, and I’ll help if I can.
What I did when BBC iPlayer stopped working with my VPN
When I first arrived in NZ over three years ago, I (foolishly) bought a two-year licence to IPVanish and it stopped working with iPlayer a month later. Disaster! I tried to “fix” this by connecting to as many different UK servers as I could manage, and this worked for a few days. Then, one-by-one, these servers stopped working with BBC iPlayer too.
Next, I got in touch with the support team, via Live Chat, and they told me to delete my browser’s cookies and try different UK servers. Needless to say, it didn’t work. Eventually, they confirmed that they didn’t have servers that worked with BBC iPlayer, and they no longer supported BBC iPlayer as a feature. Ugh.
This forced me to buy a new VPN. And this time, I did my research properly.
How do I get BBC iPlayer to work with VPN?
If your VPN has stopped working with BBC iPlayer there are a few things you can try to get it working again.
Total Time: 4 minutes
Delete your cookies
In simple terms, Cookies they are tiny bits of information that websites send to your computer to keep track of your website visits and activity. They aren’t malicious but they do contain information about your previous web browsing history and this can sometimes reveal where in the world you are connecting to the internet from.
To stop this, you should delete your cookies (Chrome: Setting > Privacy and security > Clear browsing data) and retry BBC iPlayer with your VPN turned on and see if that solves the issue.
Connect to a different VPN server in the UK
If deleting your cookies didn’t work, try connecting to a different server in the UK on your VPN platform.
Remember, BBC iPlayer cannot block VPNs, it can only individual block IP addresses. When you connect to a different server, you will be connecting via different IP address. And if your VPN is good enough, not all of its IP addresses will have been detected and blacklisted by BBC iPlayer.
Upgrade to a more reliable VPN
If deleting your cookies and connecting to a different server in the UK didn’t resolve the problem, it means BBC iPlayer has managed to block all the UK IP addresses that your VPN provides.
This is obviously bad news, and the only way to get around this problem is to upgrade to a VPN that has servers (IP addresses) that work with BBC iPlayer.
I recommend NordVPN ($3.49/month) or Ivacy ($1.16/month) if you want to spend a bit less (it’s not as fast) I’ve been testing and using, NordVPN and Ivacy reliably with BBC iPlayer for over three years. They also provide a 30-day money-back guarantee so if it doesn’t work, (it will) you can get a full refund within a month.
BBC iPlayer detecting VPN: FAQs
Why is my VPN not working with BBC iPlayer?
The only thing you NEED to know regarding “Why is my VPN not working with BBC iPlayer?” is that the BBC only blocks IP addresses. It doesn’t actually block VPNs.
However, if the VPN you use only provides you with access to IP addresses that are blocked by the Beeb, you obviously won’t be able to watch iPlayer while using it.
The fix for this is really simple. You need to use a VPN that plays Cat and Mouse with iPlayer.
This means, if/when one of its IPs is blacklisted, the VPN immediately responds by closing that IP down and replaced with a fresh (undetected) IP – more on this below.
Can BBC iPlayer detect a VPN?
No. Providing you use a high-end VPN BBC iPlayer is unable to detect if your connection is coming via a VPN or not.
However, BBC iPlayer collects IP address information and it actively blacklists any IP address that it suspects belongs to a VPN – more about this below.
Does BBC iPlayer still work with VPNs?
Yes. I watch and listen to content on BBC iPlayer several times a week using NordVPN.
BBC iPlayer doesn’t just block ExpressVPN’s IP addresses. If you’re trying to connect using TunnelBear, IPVanish, Hotspot Shield, VyprVPN, Windscribe, Buffered, or Hide My Ass (the list is huge!) you will run into problems.
This is because iPlayer started blocking some IP addresses it detects as VPNs from accessing its servers. Continue reading below to find out more.
Can I watch BBC iPlayer on Amazon Fire TV Stick
If you’re having trouble watching BBC iPlayer via an Amazon Fire TV Stick, don’t panic. You’re not alone. This is a known issue, and all major VPNs are racing for a solution. In the meantime, we suggest taking a look at our VPN not working on Amazon Fire TV Stick article. Where we take you through what steps you need to take to get iPlayer working (with a VPN) on your FireStick again.
How does BBC iPlayer detect VPNs?
Until recently, pretty much any VPN was good enough to let you watch BBC iPlayer abroad. However, since late 2017, iPlayer users have experienced issues when using a VPN from overseas.
This is because BBC iPlayer is has started detecting and blacklisting VPNs. The way BBC iPlayer detects VPNs is simple. VPNs have lots of customers and only a handful of servers in the UK. And when too many VPN-users connect to iPlayer at the same time, it’s easy for the BBC to identify IP addresses that are actually VPN servers.
The BBC responds by blacklisting these IPs. Which is why you’re now seeing an error message when trying to watch BBC iPlayer through a VPN that once worked. See also: Netflix detecting VPN? Here’s how to fix that!
How to fix BBC iPlayer VPN error?
The workaround for when BBC iPlayer is not working with your current VPN is pretty logical. You need to buy a different VPN. One that’s not been blacklisted by iPlayer and one that gives you access to IP addresses that aren’t blacklisted by BBC iPlayer.
You need to upgrade to a VPN that’s winning the game of Cat and Mouse against the BBC. NordVPN ($3.49/month) is currently the best at this. But any of the VPN listed below will work.
BBC iPlayer download failed using VPN?
If you’re seeing “Download unavailable – Error Code: 3” or “Dash manifest failed”? when trying to download iPlayer programmes using a VPN, take a look at our How to download BBC iPlayer programmes abroad article to learn more and fix the issue.
Why is it happening with all VPNs? Good question. I contacted ExpressVPN, NordVPN and CyberGhost to find out why this is happening and their responses were largely the same. Each VPN provider explained that their servers were set up for streaming content, rather than downloading it to a device. NordVPN confirmed that its engineers are working on a fix for this and hope to roll that out soon.
NordVPN also said that some of its UK servers let you download to Windows and Mac PCs, but will not work with iOS and Android mobile devices. To find out which servers currently work with NordVPN you need to get in touch with Live Chat team via the NordVPN website.
Why does BBC iPlayer block VPNs?
The simple answer is because they’re used by people who are not in the correct location/country to access iPlayer.
As recently as last year, internet users could use any cheap VPN to stream catchup content from any country. This method meant BBC iPlayer, and all of its content was open to anyone in the world with a VPN. Not just the TV License-paying British public.
Great for the end-consumer. Not great for rights holders. This led to the broadcasters (with on-demand content) upgrading their geo-restriction technology.
The way catchup TV providers detect a VPN’s IP address is pretty simple. Broadcasters recognised that VPNs were sharing a small number of IP addresses with their thousands/millions of customers. This meant certain IP addresses were accessing and downloading excessive amounts of data from BBC, Netflix, BT Sport another broadcasters’ servers. And this made the VPN’s IP addresses pretty easy to spot and blacklist.
Picture your IP address as your home’s internet connection. Normal behaviour would look something like 2-6 users accessing the internet at any given time. That’s a maximum of 2-6 users accessing BBC iPlayer’s servers at the same time. VPNs share UK IP address with thousands of customers which makes the level of content downloaded from the same IP address abnormal. And more importantly, easy for the BBC to spot and blacklist.
How to create a BBC iPlayer account?
The BBC now requires users to sign in to watch iPlayer. The service is still free to access for anyone within the UK – meaning all you need is a VPN that’s still working with iPlayer (still).
Registering for a BBC iPlayer account is about the easiest thing you can do online. You only need an email address and UK postcode. Neither needs to be legitimate. You can even use a random postcode if you don’t want the BBC to collect data about you personally.
To sign up go to https://account.bbc.com/register? and enter a valid; Email, DoB, UK Postcode, and select your gender.
Which VPNs still work with BBC iPlayer in May 2021?
We recommend using one of the five VPN providers below for consistent access to BBC iPlayer. Other VPNs may work periodically, but the four featured below have all been tested and verified. They also provide excellent support 24/7.
The best (& fastest) VPN of 2021!
Number of servers: 5,000+ | Speeds: >80% | Bandwidth: Unlimited | IP locations: 62 countries | Devices supported: 6 | Live chat: Yes | 30-day money-back guarantee: Yes
NordVPN is the most widely-used VPN in the world. And its easy to see why. It’s a polished app that delivers fast connections (more on this later) to a massive network of VPN servers.
It’s the most reliable at unblocking popular streaming services too – US Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, etc. This is because NordVPN hired full-time technical team (that’s responsible for monitoring its servers connections with popular TV streaming services) and has been aggressively investing in its network of IP addresses in key locations.
Another interesting thing to note is that NordVPN is an industry leader in its development of Nordlynx technology. Nordlynx is built using the WireGuard, a new VPN tunnelling protocol designed to outperform current standards (OpenVPN and IPSec). The benefits, according to NordVPN, are dramatically faster transfer speeds while connected to a VPN. My tests – New Zealand to London – confirm that Nordlynx is currently the fastest VPN on the market. However, the difference isn’t dramatic, a few Mbps is all.
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The BEST low-cost VPN
Number of servers: 1,000+ | Speed: >65% | Bandwidth: Unlimited | IP locations: 275 in 100 countries | Devices supported: 5 | Live chat: Yes | 30-day money-back guarantee: Yes
If you’re looking for an excellent VPN, with an even better price tag, Ivacy ($1.16/month) is a great option.
This VPN has all the features you need to stream BBC iPlayer, in HD, from any country in the world. I’ve been testing the app recently on Mac, PC, Android, iOS and FireStick and the results have been impressive – unlocking BBC iPlayer, US Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, etc. with ease.
The Ivacy app is a little different in regards to its UX (user experience). Instead of just selecting a UK server, you need to select the specific BBC iPlayer server. Don’t worry, this isn’t a bad thing – by connecting to a dedicated BBC iPlayer server, it simply means that you’re connecting to an IP address that Ivacy knows works with BBC iPlayer.
For an extra $1.99/month (£1.74) you can add-on a dedicated IP. This will buy you sole access to an IP address in a country of your choice, meaning you won’t have to share your IP (and speeds) with any other use. I don’t recommend this though, using the regular Ivacy servers is enough 95 per cent of the time.
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A very reliable and fast VPN
Number of servers: 3,000+ | Speed: >80% | Bandwidth: Unlimited | IP locations: 160 in 94 countries | Devices supported: 5 | Live chat: Yes | 30-day money-back guarantee: Yes
ExpressVPN is still one of the best VPNs you can buy. However, we’ve got it ranked in the number three spot for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s the most expensive VPN on the market. This was understandable when it was also the fastest and most reliable VPN too. But now it’s not. NordVPN is. ExpressVPN has recently been struggling to unblock some big streaming sites – BBC iPlayer and BeIN Sports – too.
And importantly, it ALWAYS has servers that are open with major streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video etc.
ExpressVPN is usually very good at playing Cat and Mouse with online streaming sites (apart from BBC iPlayer). Meaning, whenever one of its servers is blacklisted it creates a new one – giving its users a constant stream of servers that aren’t blocked. Needless to say, this is a valuable attribute if you’re looking for a VPN to unblock streaming sites.
Its app is easy-to-use and free to download on pretty much any device you can think of. Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, FireStick, Android TV, Roku, PS4, Xbox, Linux, even Apple TV (with a workaround). It’s got it all covered.
The app is another main reason this VPN is so good at unblocking TV streaming sites (that claim they block VPNs) is that its software takes a pragmatic approach to user management. While other VPNs tempt customers by promising them access to hundreds/thousands of servers in multiple countries, ExpressVPN does things differently.
With ExpressVPN you only have a handful of server locations to choose from. Once you select your location the app takes care of the rest. Assigning you to the fastest available server that’s not oversubscribed. This simple technique is so important, as it keeps ExpressVPN’s servers operating at lightning-fast speeds and prevent its IPs from getting blacklisted for “abnormal” usage in the first place.
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The BEST mid-range VPN for streaming!
Number of servers: 25,000+ | Speeds: >75% | Bandwidth: Unlimited | IP locations: 70 in 74 countries | Devices supported: 10 | Live chat: Yes | 30-day money-back guarantee: Yes
Private Internet Access is one of the leading no-log VPN services with over 1 million paying customers.
This VPN is one of the best in the industry at beating streaming sites’ VPN bans. It provides reliable connections with US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+ Amazon Prime Video, etc. It also allows 10 simultaneous devices to be connected to its servers at the same time, so you can share the account with your close friends.
If, for whatever reason, you’re not happy with Private Internet Access, there’s a 24/7 live chat support available to assist you with your problem. PIA also offers the industry-standard 30-days money-back guarantee.
From my tests (from New Zealand) I was able to get download speeds of 70 Mbps while connected to a UK server using the Private Internet Access VPN (my non-VPN speed is 100 Mbps).
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Number of servers: 6,000+ | Speeds: >65% | Bandwidth: Unlimited | IP locations: 200 in 90 countries | Devices supported: 7 | Live chat: Yes | 30-day money-back guarantee: Yes
CyberGhost is one of the more established VPNs on the market. It has a well-established, and well-tested global network of servers that perform well.
From my tests over the past several months, CyberGhost has no trouble at unblocking major streaming services – US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max etc. This VPN performed well at maintaining download speeds, well above 65 per cent of my regular (non VPN) ISP speed.
That said, there’s nothing really unique about the service. Which forces you to look at its price-point. And there’s nothing special here. Its short-term $12.99/month price tag puts is well above the industry average of $10.10/month. Similarly, its long-term $2.75/month for 3 years deal isn’t much of a “deal” either.
Oddly, CyberGhost’s most unique feature is its a 1-day, no obligations, free trial. This is an appealing offer to customers who are new to VPNs. However, it’s important to remember that most reputable VPNs will offer customers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so try not to be too seduced by the offer.
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List of VPNs not working with BBC iPlayer
- Norton VPN
- Hotspot Shield
Read next: How to watch ITV Hub abroad.