BBC iPlayer won’t download programmes via VPN

How to download BBC iPlayer programmes abroad: Fix “download failed” via VPN

Do you use a VPN that lets you stream BBC iPlayer, but displays the following message when you try to download programmes “Download unavailable – Error Code: 3” or “Dash manifest failed”?

Well, I have good and bad news for you:

  • The bad news is that VPNs and BBC iPlayer downloads don’t work.
  • The good news is that Smart DNS does work.

In this article, I’ll show you exactly how to download BBC iPlayer programs when you’re outside the UK. It’s easier than you think, I promise.

Why can I download BBC iPlayer programmes with a VPN?

VPN’s are great at encrypting your data and spoofing your location. VPNs like ExpressVPN and Ivacy are two of the best at unblocking BBC iPlayer when you’re abroad. However, they fall short when it comes to letting you download content when you’re not in the UK.

And that’s pretty annoying when you’re travelling and you want to load up your mobile device with BBC iPlayer downloads for your flight home to the UK.

I contacted ExpressVPN, Ivacy, 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 and they were working on a fix.

That was over a year ago. And the problem still hasn’t been fixed. Which means it probably won’t be fixed anytime soon.

BBC iPlayer Downloads fail with VPN: How to fix

So…if you want to download BBC iPlayer programmes from outside the UK, I recommend using a SmartDNS instead.

Changing your DNS settings might sound confusing, but it’s really easy (see below for your device). More importantly, it’s effective.

How does it work? It’s a little bit complicated. But stick with me here.

Whenever you try to access a website or streaming service, your location is revealed via your IP address. However, when you manually change your device’s DNS settings (see below) to a SmartDNS address, websites will be served location data that matches their region. In this case, BBC iPlayer will see UK location data.

I just tested Smart DNS Proxy ($4.90/month with 14-day free trial) and downloaded several BBC iPlayer programmes – Top Gear, Match of the Day and Seven Planets – without any issues.

And because you’re spoofing your location via a DNS, as opposed to VPNs, your local download speeds won’t be affected. That’s because there’s no encryption or server involved with a DNS – so you enjoy your local download speeds. Which is a long and technical way of saying I was able to download the programmes I mentioned above in just a few minutes.

Below I explain how to set up a DNS on your device. Don’t worry if it looks a bit intimidating; it’s actually really easy. Just follow the exact steps below, and you’ll have set up your DNS server in a few minutes.

Note: I’ve only just started testing DNS servers, for watching and downloading, BBC iPlayer abroad. However, from my quick test, I can confirm that Smart DNS Proxy ($4.90/month with 14-day free trial) works in March 2020.

How to set up DNS (…to download BBC iPlayer programmes abroad)

Setting up a Smart DNS (to watch BBC iPlayer) can be a little daunting. However, there’s no need to be afraid. Changing your DNS setting takes about 5 seconds when you know where to look. 

Before you follow the steps below, you need to get your own DNS server address. I’ve only tested Smart DNS Proxy ($4.90/month with 14-day free trial) but can confirm that it works with BBC iPlayer (including downloads)… as well as ITV Hub, 4oD, US Netflix and Amazon Prime.

How to set up DNS on a Windows

BBC iPlayer won’t download programmes via VPN - Windows Fix
  1. Click on Start Menu
  2. Type “network” and press enter
  3. Select Network and Sharing Center
  4. Find your internet connection and click “Wireless Network Connection” or “Wired Network Connection”.
  5. Properties
  6. Uncheck “Internet Protocol Version 6 (TCP/IPv6)”
  7. Check “Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)”
  8. Click Properties
  9. Select “Use the following DNS server addresses.”
  10. Enter your Smart DNS provider’s DNS server addresses
  11. OK

That’s it

Force close any web browser you have open, restart your PC, and when you open it again, you’ll be able to stream and download programmes from anywhere in the world.

How to set up DNS iPhone (or iPad)

BBC iPlayer won’t download programmes via VPN - iPhone or iPad Fix
  1. Settings
  2. Wi-Fi
  3. Click “i” (on the network you’re connected to)
  4. Configure DNS
  5. Manual
  6. “+ Add Server”
  7. Enter your provider’s DNS address for the UK
  8. Save

That’s it.

Force close the BBC iPlayer app, and when you open it again, you’ll be able to stream and download programmes from anywhere in the world.

BBC iPlayer: How to set up DNS Android

BBC iPlayer won’t download programmes via VPN - Android Fix
  1. Settings
  2. Wi-Fi & Internet
  3. Click on the “Wi-Fi” text – not the ON/OFF switch
  4. Make a note of your current “IP address” and “Gateway address”  
  5. Now click the Edit (pencil) icon
  6. Advanced options
  7. Change IP settings to “Static”
  8. Enter the IP and Gateway addresses you noted earlier
  9. Change DNS 1 to your provider’s DNS address for the UK
  10. Change DNS 2 to your provider’s DNS address for the UK (Optional)
  11. Save

That’s it.

Force close the BBC iPlayer app, and when you open it again, you’ll be able to stream and download programmes from anywhere in the world.

BBC iPlayer: How to set up DNS on a Mac

BBC iPlayer won’t download programmes via VPN - Mac Fix
  1. Apple Icon (top left of screen) 
  2. System Preferences
  3. Network
  4. Select Wi-Fi in the left-hand panel
  5. Click Advanced…
  6. Go to the DNS tab
  7. Click “+” below the ‘How to set up DNS’ panel
  8. Enter your Smart DNS’ UK address
  9. Click OK
  10. Click Apply

That’s it.

Force close your browser, reset your Mac, and when you open it again, you’ll be able to stream and download programmes from anywhere in the world.

Read next: BBC iPlayer not working with VPN? Here’s how to fix that!

Leave a reply

2 comments
    • Hi FB,

      That’s odd. I just tested downloading MasterChef (S16E20) on my iPhone and it worked without any issues. Try closing the app, or restarting your device. It sometimes takes a couple of attempts.

      D