As an ex-pat living in New Zealand (I’ve been here since 2017) I’ve been organically testing which VPNs with BBC iPlayer, every day, for over three years. When I first arrived I, foolishly, bought a two-year licence to IPVanish…and it stopped working with iPlayer the next week. Disaster! Here’s how I got BBC iPlayer working with a VPN again.
Note (29/9/20): ExpressVPN has not been working with BBC iPlayer for a couple of months. If you were using ExpressVPN to watch BBC iPlayer abroad you will need to switch to NordVPN’s ($3.49/month) or Ivacy ($1.16/month).
iPlayer not working with VPN: Quick guide
Below you’ll find a couple of things to try that might work. If you’re lucky. However, the single BEST, thing you can do is upgrade to a VPN that knows how to beat BBC iPlayer’s VPN ban. I suggest using NordVPN ($3.49/month) or Ivacy ($1.16/month) as these are currently two the best VPN at unblocking BBC iPlayer from overseas.
The first thing you should do is delete your cookies (if you’re using a web browser) and try connecting to a different UK server. If you’ve done this, and your VPN still isn’t working then you need to upgrade your VPN.
BBC only blocks the IP addresses of some VPNs. Good VPNs still work with BBC iPlayer. Follow the steps below to and you’ll be able to watch BBC iPlayer (again) from anywhere in the world.
- Upgrade your VPN to NordVPN ($3.49/month) or Ivacy ($1.16/month) or another VPN that still works with BBC iPlayer (see below)
- Download and install the app
- Connect to a server in the UK
- Clear your browser’s cookie and cache (optional)
- Open BBC iPlayer and watch from anywhere in the world
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 – like NordVPN ($3.49/month) – 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 ($3.49/month). I used to use ExpressVPN and that worked well for a long time, however, it’s been blocked by BBC iPlayer for the past couple of months.
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.
Note for Amazon Fire TV Stick users: 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.
See also: How to listen to TMS abroad.
Which VPNs still work with BBC iPlayer?
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 2020!
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.
7-DAY TRIAL – $0.99
(30-day money-back guarantee)
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: 3,000+ | Speeds: >75% | Bandwidth: Unlimited | IP locations: 70 in 48 countries | Devices supported: 5 | 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.
SPECIAL OFFER – 1-DAY FREE TRIAL
(30-day money-back guarantee)
How is BBC iPlayer Detecting my VPN?
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 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.
List of VPNs not working with BBC iPlayer
- Hotspot Shield
- Hide My Ass!
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.
See also: How to listen to BBC Radio abroad.
TunnelBear, IPVanish, PureVPN, Hotspot Shield not working with BBC iPlayer?
Until recently, TunnelBear, IPVanish, PureVPN, Hotspot Shield were four of the most popular VPNs used to access BBC iPlayer. However, TunnelBear, IPVanish, PureVPN, Hotspot Shield users will now notice that the VPN is not working with iPlayer anymore.
Worse still, they not fighting the ban. Which means customers who bought lengthy subscriptions to these VPNs to watch BBC iPlayer abroad and now left stranded. Unfortunately, there’s nothing these customers can do. Their only option is to switch to one of the VPNs featured above.
The good news from iPlayer’s VPN ban is that it’s helped customers realise which VPNs are the real deal. The likes of NordVPN, ExpressVPN and CyberGhost all have employed dedicated technical teams to fight the BBC (and Netflix) VPN ban. They all have teams that are monitoring their server’s connections around the clock. And if they notice any problems they get to work on a fix immediately.
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.
Read next: How to watch ITV Hub abroad.