In this article I will explain how to watch BBC iPlayer abroad.
If you’re trying to watch BBC iPlayer abroad, the streaming service won’t work. This is because the BBC doesn’t have the rights to broadcast its content outside of the UK.
Although you’ll be able to access the iPlayer website and see all of the content, you’ll run into an error saying “BBC iPlayer only works in the UK. Sorry, it’s due to rights issues,” when trying to stream anything.
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How to watch BBC iPlayer abroad
To watch BBC iPlayer abroad, all you need to do is follow these simple steps:
Total Time: 2 minutes
It’s as simple as that.
There are other sites you can use like watchallchannels.com that might get you a dodgy illegal stream of UK channels. However, the reliability of these sites is iffy at best – especially during big live sport events. They also don’t offer access to BBC iPlayer’s on-demand library like VPNs do.
The best VPNs to watch BBC iPlayer abroad
The BEST VPN of 2021Number 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 VPNNumber 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 VPNNumber 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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5. CyberGhostNumber 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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Why do I need a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer abroad?
The BBC, like any major television network, is subject to licencing laws that restrict it to broadcasting content only in its local territory. This means, in theory, you should only be able to access BBC content when you’re in Britain.
The way the BBC (and every other network with catch-up TV services) enforces this rule with its internet-based content is by restricting access to foreign IP addresses.
Note that IP addresses are similar to international phone dialling codes. Each country has its own unique range of IP addresses, and this lets services like BBC iPlayer know where users attempt to access its content from.
How does a VPN work? VPNs (virtual private networks) offer a way around this by allowing users to spoof their location. VPNs work by sending encrypted data over a worldwide network of private servers.
A server is essentially a high-powered computer with an internet connection that decrypts a customer data packets and sends them to local ISPs. The returned data packets are re-encrypted and relayed back to the VPN user, wherever they are in the world, and the data decrypted. This process allows VPN customers to access a specific country’s internet from anywhere in the world.
Will any VPN work when trying to watch BBC iPlayer abroad?
BBC iPlayer has started detecting and blocking IP addresses that come from VPNs. This means you can’t just use any VPN for the task. You need one that stays one step ahead of the BBC’s ban. We recommend NordVPN (£2.69/month) or Ivacy (£1.74/month) both of these VPNs have reliable UK servers and they both stay ahead of the BBC’s VPN blocking techniques.
Take a look at our ‘BBC iPlayer not working with VPN’ article to find out more.
Free vs Paid-for VPNs
There are two types of VPNs. Free and paid for. Free VPNs come with data caps, throttled connection speeds and blocked access to the fastest servers. Paying for a VPN will lift these restrictions, giving customers unlimited data, unthrottled transfer speeds and access to the fastest servers in the selected city/country of choice.
At present no Free VPNs work with BBC iPlayer. If you find one, please let us know in the comments section below.
How much data do I need?
Streaming video with BBC iPlayer requires transfer speeds of roughly 2Mbps (at least) to ensure a smooth stream without buffering interruptions. Watching an hour’s worth of SD content can require anywhere between 600MB to 2GB.
Read next: How to watch BT Sport abroad.