BBC iPlayer Smart DNS Concept

For anyone trying to watch BBC iPlayer outside the UK, using a VPN is a fast and secure way to hide your IP address, trick the streaming service, and get past geo-blocks to watch your favourite shows. However, you can also use Smart DNS.

As an alternative to VPNs, Smart DNS lets you bypass location-based blocking, offers faster streaming, and is easy to set up. A Smart DNS rivals the best VPNs, but this begs the question: will Smart DNS work with BBC iPlayer?

This guide will help you understand what Smart DNS is, if it can be used to access BBC iPlayer, and how it’s different from using a VPN.

What is Smart DNS?

Smart DNS is a technology that helps you bypass geo-restrictions on some websites and services, mainly focused on streaming content. It acts as a middleman between your device and the desired website’s DNS server.

Usually, when you try to access a website, your device first contacts your local DNS server to translate the website’s domain name (e.g., YouTube.com) into its actual IP address. With Smart DNS, your device is configured to use a specific DNS server provided by the Smart DNS service instead of your local one.

When you access a geo-restricted website, your Smart DNS server intercepts the DNS request and redirects it to a server located in a region where the content is available.

The website then sees the IP address of the Smart DNS server in that region, allowing you to access the content as if you were physically located there.

If you encounter a VPN not working issue, Smart DNS offers a great alternative that will get you past geo-restrictions online.

Will Smart DNS work with BBC iPlayer?

The short answer: Yes.

Much like using a reliable VPN that works with BBC iPlayer, Smart DNS can work with BBC iPlayer to help you bypass its geo-restrictions and access it from anywhere in the world. Like getting past BBC iPlayer’s VPN blocks, Smart DNS can do the same.

When you’re not using a specialist DNS server, your IP address will be assigned by your ISP. This allows websites – such as bbc.co.uk/iplayer – to see where you’re connecting to the internet from. 

If you’re outside the UK, your IP address won’t be from the UK’s range of IP addresses, meaning you won’t be able to watch BBC iPlayer outside the UK.

By changing your DNS settings, you can reroute your internet via your DNS server of choice. This means websites will see requests from your DNS server’s IP address(es), not your actual IP address. In this scenario, the end result is BBC iPlayer seeing your connection coming from a UK IP address. 

We recommend using services such as Smart DNS Proxy ($4.90/month) or Getflix ($4.95/month), as they allow you to configure which IP address locations are served to specific websites. BBC iPlayer, for example, will be served a UK IP address, while Netflix can be configured to be served a US IP address. 

What’s the difference between Smart DNS and VPNs?

While both Smart DNS and VPNs will let you access BBC iPlayer, there are a few key differences that set them apart:

  • Unlocks geo-restricted content by hiding DNS: While a VPN masks your IP address, Smart DNS hides your DNS so you can access streaming services like BBC iPlayer and others from different regions.
  •  Faster streaming: Compared to VPNs, SmartDNS doesn’t encrypt your traffic, resulting in potentially faster streaming speeds.
  •  Less resource-intensive: It doesn’t affect your overall internet speeds as much as a VPN.
  •  No security or privacy: Smart DNS doesn’t encrypt your traffic, so your ISP or other third parties can still monitor your activity.
  •  Not all services supported: Smart DNS may not work with all geo-restricted content, and compatibility can vary across providers.
  •  BBC iPlayer may detect and block Smart DNS: BBC iPlayer is constantly working to crack down on methods to bypass its geo-restrictions, and some Smart DNS services may not always be reliable.

There are pros and cons of using a VPN with BBC iPlayer, as well as using Smart DNS. However, both will allow you to watch BBC iPlayer.

Should I use Smart DNS or a VPN for BBC iPlayer?

Smart DNS can be a good option for accessing BBC iPlayer if you want a quick, easy solution with good streaming speeds. However, if you’re concerned about privacy or security or need to access other geo-restricted content, a VPN may be a better choice.

While Smart DNS provides fast streaming, a good VPN for BBC iPlayer can also offer fast VPN speed so your internet barely slows down. That way, you’ll have a safe VPN that encrypts your traffic while being able to watch BBC iPlayer without any buffering.

If you want the best of both worlds, you can get a VPN and Smart DNS. The best VPNs for BBC iPlayer, including ExpressVPN ($6.66/month) and NordVPN ($3.79/month), have their own Smart DNS services. ExpressVPN uses its MediaStreamer feature to unblock geo-restricted content on streaming services, while NordVPN has its SmartDNS feature to get past blocked content.

These are great options, especially if you experience BBC iPlayer not working with VPN, as you can the switch to using Smart DNS instead.

Does BBC iPlayer block Smart DNS and VPNs?

BBC iPlayer blocks Smart DNS and VPNs to stop users outside the region from watching content, as the streaming service needs to uphold its licensing agreement.

It does this through various blocking techniques, such as scanning your IP address when you connect to its service. When you go online, you’re given a unique IP address. This IP address contains information disclosing your location. However, the connection is flagged for potential blocking if an IP address is associated with a known VPN provider.

Other blocking methods include inspecting VPN traffic using DPI (Deep packet Inspection), detecting VPN browser extensions with JavaScript detection, and more.

Fortunately, using one of the best VPNs to connect to a dedicated server in the UK will often get past these tactics. Don’t fret; it’s safe to use a VPN with BBC iPlayer.

BBC iPlayer on TV

Best VPNs for BBC iPlayer with Smart DNS

1. ExpressVPN ($6.66/month) 🥇

The best VPN choice for seamless BBC iPlayer streaming in 2024.

  • Specialized servers for BBC iPlayer
  • 5 simultaneous devices
  • Live chat support for streaming issues
  • Over 3,000 global servers
  • >80% connection speed
  • Unlimited bandwidth for uninterrupted viewing
ExpressVPN review - Top choice for BBC iPlayer

ExpressVPN ($6.66/month) remains the top choice for streaming platforms, consistently bypassing restrictions for BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+, Amazon Prime Video, and more.

Discover more in our detailed ExpressVPN review and see why it’s the favorite for BBC iPlayer enthusiasts.

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2. NordVPN $3.79/month

An excellent and affordable choice for streaming BBC iPlayer.

  • Optimized for BBC iPlayer streaming
  • 6 simultaneous devices
  • Dedicated UK servers
  • Fast NordLynx protocol
  • Excellent privacy policies
  • User-friendly apps
NordVPN Best VPN for BBC iPlayer image

NordVPN stands out as one of the most reliable VPNs for accessing BBC iPlayer from any location. With its vast server network and optimized streaming capabilities, it ensures a buffer-free iPlayer experience.

What sets it apart is NordVPN’s commitment to consistently bypass iPlayer’s geo-restrictions. They’ve a dedicated team ensuring continuous access to BBC iPlayer, along with other streaming giants like Netflix, Hulu, and more.

Read our full NordVPN review to see how it excels in other areas too.

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3. Private Internet Access $2.03/month

A good choice for BBC iPlayer streaming

  • Exceptional performance with BBC iPlayer
  • Unlimited simultaneous devices
  • 24/7 chat support
  • 35,000 servers worldwide
  • MACE ad blocker included
  • Supports multiple protocols
Best VPN list - PIA

Private Internet Access is a preferred choice for BBC iPlayer enthusiasts, known for its consistent ability to bypass geoblocks.

This VPN not only excels at granting access to BBC iPlayer but also provides reliable connections with US Netflix, Hulu, MAX, Disney+ Amazon Prime, and many more.

With the bonus of allowing an unlimited number of devices simultaneously, it’s a great fit for households keen on UK shows.

Discover more in our comprehensive Private Internet Access review.

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4. CyberGhost $2.19/month – Great for BBC iPlayer

A decent choice for BBC iPlayer streaming.

  • Optimized servers for BBC iPlayer
  • Servers in 91 countries
  • 7 simultaneous devices
  • Deloitte verified no logs policy
  • Proprietary NoSpy servers
  • High-speed streaming
CyberGhost Best VPN for BBC iPlayer image

CyberGhost is a standout for accessing content on BBC iPlayer from abroad. It offers high-speed servers, ensuring seamless streaming of your favorite BBC shows.

With the added advantage of NoSpy servers, CyberGhost ensures that your streaming activities remain confidential.

Read our full CyberGhost review for its BBC iPlayer capabilities.

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Is watching BBC iPlayer with Smart DNS or a VPN legal?

Whether watching BBC iPlayer with with Smart DNS or a VPN is legal depends on various factors, including the country you are in and the specific terms of service of BBC iPlayer.

In the UK, the legality revolves around licensing. The BBC requires viewers to hold a valid TV licence to watch live television and access iPlayer. Using a Smart DNS or VPN service to access iPlayer, in itself, is not illegal. However, using a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer without a TV licence could be considered a breach of the licensing requirements.

From a broader perspective, using a VPN is legal in most countries. VPNs are commonly used for enhancing privacy and security online. However, the act of using a VPN to access geographically restricted content can sometimes be a grey area. It often violates the terms of service of streaming platforms like BBC iPlayer, which may have agreements restricting content to certain regions. While this doesn’t necessarily make it illegal, it does mean that the service provider could block your account if they discover you’re accessing their service via a VPN.

In some countries, there are specific regulations regarding VPN use, and in a few, VPNs are restricted or banned. It’s important to be aware of and understand the legal implications in your specific location. But overall, using a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer is legal.

Darragh Murphy
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from the mischievous world of online security to washing machines designed for earbuds. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for laptops into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. When he's not checking out the latest devices and all things tech, he can be found swimming laps, watching terrible shark movies, and trying to find time to game.  Previous Editor at Laptop Mag and News Editor at Time Out Dubai, specialising in food culture, nightlife events, gaming, tech and entertainment.

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