BBC iPlayer not working with VPN (June 2020)

BBC iPlayer not working with VPN? Here’s how to FIX that!

I’m an ex-pat living in New Zealand and one day, just like you, BBC iPlayer had stopped working with my VPN.

Here’s how I got BBC iPlayer working with a VPN again.

iPlayer not working with VPN: Quick guide

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.

  1. Upgrade your VPN to ExpressVPN ($6.66/month) or Ivacy ($1.16/month) or another VPN that still works with BBC iPlayer (see below)
  2. Download and install the app
  3. Connect to a server in the UK
  4. Clear your browser’s cookie and cache (optional)
  5. Open BBC iPlayer and watch from anywhere in the world

Why has my VPN stopped working with BBC iPlayer?

The only thing you NEED to know regarding “iPlayer not working with a VPN” 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.

I suggest using ExpressVPN ($6.66/month) or Ivacy ($1.16/month) as these are currently two the best VPN at unblocking BBC iPlayer from overseas.

Can BBC iPlayer detect a VPN?

No. Providing you use a high-end VPN – like ExpressVPN ($6.66/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 – ExpressVPN ($6.66/month) is my favourite – and have done since October 2017 when I moved from the UK to New Zealand.

However, not every VPN still works with BBC iPlayer. 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.

1. ExpressVPN

The BEST VPN of 2020!

ExpressVPN UK screenshot

Pros

  • Fast servers
  • Thousands of IP addresses
  • 10-simultaneous connections
  • 24/7 Live Chat
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Easy-to-use app

Cons

  • Expensive

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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

  • $6.66/month for 15 months
  • $9.99/month for 6 months
  • $12.95/month for 1 month

ExpressVPN is the best VPN you can buy. If you can afford the extra few pounds/dollars a month, you won’t regret it.

The first thing you need to know about this VPN is that it’s fast. Really fast! It consistently tops our independent VPN speed tests, with blazingly fast download/upload speeds.

And importantly, it ALWAYS has servers that are open with major streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video etc.

ExpressVPN is the best VPN on the market at playing Cat and Mouse with online streaming sites. 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.

ExpressVPN is a little more expensive than the other VPNs. But if you want the most reliable VPN on the market, there’s only one choice. ExpressVPN is the best.

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2. Ivacy

The BEST low-cost VPN

Pros

  • Fast servers
  • Thousands of IP addresses
  • Dedicated streaming servers
  • 5-simultaneous connections
  • 24/7 Live Chat
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Only 5 devices
  • Sometimes runs slow
  • Occasionally blocked by streaming sites

7-DAY TRIAL – $0.99

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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

  • $1.16/month for 5-years
  • $3.50/month for 1-year
  • $9.99/month for 1 month

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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3. NordVPN

A solid all-round VPN option!

NordVPN UK screenshot

Pros

  • Fast servers
  • No logs
  • Thousands of IP addresses
  • 6-simultaneous connections
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Easy-to-use app

Cons

  • No refunds for purchases from iTunes/App store
  • Poor long-term discounts

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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

  • $3.49/month for 2-years
  • $6.99/month for 1-year
  • $11.95/month for 1 month

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 pretty reliable at unblocking popular streaming services too – US Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, etc. – but its record isn’t perfect. NordVPN claims that’s all changed now as a result of hiring full-time technical team (that’s responsible for monitoring its servers connections with popular TV streaming services) and aggressive investment 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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4. CyberGhost

CyberGhost UK screenshot

Pros

  • 1-day free trial
  • Reliable servers
  • Thousands of IP addresses
  • 7-simultaneous connections
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Easy-to-use app

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Average speed scores

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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

  • $2.75/month for 3 years
  • $3.69/month for 2 years
  • $5.99/month for 6 months
  • $12.99/month for 1 month

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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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. ExpressVPN ($6.66/month) is currently the best at this. But any of the VPN listed below will work.

Other VPNs such as Private Internet Access ($2.85/month), Ivacy ($1.16/month) or NordVPN ($3.49/month) are excellent alternatives.

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

  • TunnelBear
  • IPVanish
  • Hotspot Shield
  • VyprVPN
  • Windscribe
  • PureVPN
  • Buffered
  • Hide My Ass!

See also: HBO Go not working with VPN? Here’s how to fix that!

Why does BBC iPlayer block VPNs?

BBC iPlayer Detecting VPN 2018

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.

That’s it.


Read next: How to watch ITV Hub abroad.

Leave a reply

30 comments
  • I do have a real uk address, and at that address I pay for the full BBC license fee. When I am holiday abroad I like to be able watch the BBC news by downloading it. I was using purevpn to do this but it has now stopped working. Is there a solution to this problem ?

    • Hi dc. PureVPN with a dedicated IP should be all you need. Have you spoken to their support team via the Live Chat feature on the PureVPN.com website?

      • They told me their dedicated IPs are only in london..bbc require postcodes to register…thats not too good that london is the only option…more chance of doubling up on existing used postcodes

        • Hi Simon. I use a PureVPN dedicated IP with a Post Code (with a full TV license) that’s not from London. The Post Code you use to register for iPlayer with doesn’t need to match your IP location – it just needs to be from within the UK.

  • Hi Dave, thanks for the useful article!
    I am trying to set iPlayer up on an Android media player (Mecool), VPN works fine, so I can watch programs in a browser, but then BBC web site does not allow me to download iPlayer app. It says that this device is not supported. My guess is that it’s because this media player does not provide proper DRM support. Netflix for example allows only lower resolution video for such devices. Any suggestion on this? Would it be reasonable to expect it to work on other Android devices?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Vadim. Glad my article helped. Annoying that your device isn’t supported by iPlayer. That’s still part of the problem with Android, I guess. When a manufacturer makes something that’s too different (from the mainstream) not all apps will be supported.

      As far as I know, BBC iPlayer works on most Android devices. It might be a little different for streaming devices though. The Amazon Firestick is a good option. And it’s cheap. You might need register to the Firestick as UK account to download iPlayer from the correct app store. Does that make sense?

      • Thanks for a quick reply Dave!
        Cool, so it should work on other Android devices, so I’d better try on some other device. Or a Firestick. I tried to download right from the BBC website, not a Google store, so looks like it’s not a country of registration thing, but rather they were not happy about something on the device itself.

        • Yes, BBC iPlayer works fine on the Firestick. However, you can’t download programs on it either. You can only stream them via the app (I think). If you have an Android phone or tablet, you can download the programs and watch them offline for up to a month, I think. But that’s only via the app too.

  • I’m quite a long paying subscriber of Private Internet Access, although it’s blocked on BBC iPlayer, this should be added to your list of “List of VPNs not working with BBC iPlayer”. I probably will be thinking of switching.

  • well that worked until yesterday.. i have been using Express VPN for a while – last week BBC iplayer noticed I was not in the UK (in NZ in fact) but express VPN managed to help me with that – however today I have been asked for my TV licence – which I clearly not have… so I think that it is with BBC Iplayer for now.. sad really as some of the shows I watch are not in NZ at all or 2-3 years later… really dumb.. if you have an idea how to get around that – I’d be happy hear it:-)

  • update dor March 22 2019, totally free yoga vpn has been working brilliantly for months, just now blocked by iplayer, itv hub, 4player. Express VPN was good, blocked about 6 months ago.

  • Thanks for the iplayer workaround on Firestick. I’ve used ExpressVPN for 2 years with no issues apart from an occasional blip which was quickly resolved.
    I recently changed my internet provider (I’m in Portugal) and thought this may have been the reason iplayer suddenly refused to work. However, I was still able to use it on my phone and laptop so presumably that isn’t the problem. I’d tried everything I could think of, clearing cache etc. but no joy. There’s no DNS leak either that I can see so I had no idea what to do until I found your article, so it’s obviously the firestick.
    Any idea if this is any closer to being resolved? Firefox has got around it but it’s painful to use!

    • Hi Gill,

      All VPNs struggle the most with the FireStick – it’s made by a video streaming service (Amazon) so it’s designed to be difficult to spoof.

      If you’re still having issues, the best thing you can do is watch BBC iPlayer on your laptop (via a VPN) and connect your laptop to your TV via an HDMI lead – these only cost a couple of quid on Amazon. This will give you the best connection/speed.

      D

  • Hi there – I have also used Express VPN for several years, but it hasn’t worked for BBC iplayer for nearly a month now and they just can’t seem to fix it. Any suggestions? I wish the BBC would just let us pay for an overseas subscription!

    • Hi Robyn,

      Have you tried contacting ExpressVPN via the site’s LiveChat feature? They’re usually very helpful and have always helped me find a server that works.

      D