You are not limited to viewing iPlayer from within the UK.
BBC iPlayer is a video streaming service that allows you to watch live TV as well as on-demand shows. It does not require a subscription like Netflix, but you can only watch if you pay a licensing fee. Surprisingly, anyone can create a free iPlayer account without having to prove you've paid - all you need is a UK address.
Watching within the UK's borders is simple for paying viewers. They can also download shows to watch them offline from any location in the world.
If you're in another country and want to watch Doctor Who, Top Gear, or Frozen Planet II, you'll get a message saying you can't.
Foundry / Dominik Tomaszewski
According to the BBC, the proper way to watch iPlayer content outside of the UK is to "download a programme on BBC iPlayer when you're in the UK, and you can watch it anywhere in the world." ”
That's great, but what if you're away before the next episode of your favorite show airs? You won't be able to download it, so you'll have to wait until you get home.
Maybe you don't live in the UK, but you still want to watch. We won't go into the pros and cons; instead, we'll show you how to do it if you want to.
And the solution is straightforward: use a VPN.
A VPN, for those who are unfamiliar, is an app that routes your internet connection through a UK server before it reaches the BBC. This means that your true location is hidden from iPlayer, and it believes it is serving EastEnders to a UK viewer. You could be in Australia, Spain, or any other country.
There were previously other options, such as proxy servers, but the BBC has tightened its grip and will simply block any attempts to use one.
In fact, it is critical to understand that it works hard to block VPNs as well. It doesn't want people watching from outside the UK, so the Beeb and VPN services engage in a cat-and-mouse game of blocking and evading those blocks.
Because not all VPN apps can unblock iPlayer, it's best to use one that has a proven track record of doing so. There are no guarantees, of course.
To watch from abroad, you must first install a VPN on your device (which could be a TV, phone, laptop, tablet, Mac, or PC) and connect to a UK server. You may need to select a server from the list that is optimized for iPlayer.
Once connected, you should be able to access iPlayer (create an account if you don't already have one) and watch shows as if you were in the United Kingdom.
Which VPN services allow you to access iPlayer?
Unfortunately, there are few free VPN services that unblock iPlayer if you're looking for a no-cost option. Learn why in our roundup of the best free VPNs.
This means that watching iPlayer abroad will cost you money, though not much. VPN services cost less than a cup of coffee per month if you subscribe for a year. If you only want to watch one show, you can sign up for a month for around -12 (£6-12).
However, having access to a VPN service is worthwhile because it will be useful for much more than just iPlayer.
As previously stated, not every VPN is capable of unblocking the streaming service. Choose one of the three below that are consistently good at unblocking it, and if you have problems, contact customer service, and they'll usually tell you which servers are working, or suggest another solution.
Others will unblock iPlayer, but those are the ones that have consistently unblocked it when we've tried them over the years.
If you're watching iPlayer on a smart TV or streaming device (such as an Amazon Fire TV), pick a service that includes a VPN app that you can install on your TV. Some VPN services provide smart DNS, which can be used on TVs, game consoles, and media streamers like the Apple TV that do not support VPN apps.
Foundry / Dominik Tomaszewski
Once your VPN service is up and running, select the United Kingdom as the country (or server) and connect to it. There is usually a prominent Connect button, but tapping on the server in the list frequently initiates the connection.
Then, launch the iPlayer app or visit the iPlayer website to begin watching.
Here are some more VPN providers with UK servers that we recommend.
Watch iPlayer on Xbox, PlayStation, and Apple TV from abroad.
If you want to watch iPlayer on an Xbox or PlayStation outside of the UK, you can change your console's DNS settings to some that will unblock the service.
If you go to the network settings and manually enter the DNS addresses, you may find that iPlayer will start playing videos for you.
You can look online for free DNS servers for streaming, but they are usually overcrowded and thus slow.
That is why it is preferable to use a VPN service that has its own DNS streaming servers. NordVPN (SmartDNS) and ExpressVPN (MediaStreamer) are two of them.
Simply enter the DNS addresses provided by these services into the network settings of your console or media streamer.
Another option is to configure your router to run a VPN, allowing all connected devices to connect to the VPN's UK server. However, this is a last resort because not all devices will function properly when forced to connect to the internet via a VPN.
BBC iPlayer subscriptions and the UK TV Licence
The BBC requires that anyone who uses iPlayer has a valid UK TV licence. We have a separate guide on who needs a television license.
You will also need a BBC account, which requires a UK postcode (and you must be over the age of 13).
When you sign up for a BBC account (which is free), you must provide your date of birth, gender, and email address, as well as a valid UK postcode.
The BBC claims that the account's goal is not to pursue iPlayer users who haven't paid for a TV Licence, but it has admitted that it will cross-reference email addresses with people who have previously claimed not to require a licence.
Simply sign in to your BBC account and use the VPN service described above if you are a British resident with a paid-up licence fee. You're still violating the terms and conditions by using a VPN, just like anyone from outside the UK who signs up with a fictitious UK address.
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