How to watch BBC iPlayer from abroad

BBC iPlayer logo
(Image credit: BBC)

BBC iPlayer is your one-stop shop for all the latest and greatest BBC content. There's a catch, however—the platform is geo-restricted. That means you can't check it out unless you're in the UK.

That's obviously an issue if you're a UK resident on holiday overseas or someone living on the other side of the earth. Luckily, a VPN masks your real location, tricks the platform into thinking you're in Britain, and allows you to enjoy as much iPlayer programming as you want. All you need to do is sign up for one of the best VPNs and connect to a server in the UK.

If it all sounds a bit technical, don't worry—VPNs are incredibly easy to use (even if you're not tech-savvy). I'll walk you through the process, from installing your VPN on different devices to unblocking shows and movies, and let you know which of today's best BBC iPlayer VPNs I recommend for the job.

Can I watch BBC iPlayer outside the UK without a VPN? 

You can, but your choices will be very limited.

The BBC says, on its website, that the best way to watch its iPlayer content while traveling is to download your favorite shows onto the iPlayer app itself while you're still in the UK.

That's a decent solution for UK-based folks who want to re-watch content that's already aired, but what if you're in the US? Or if you want to keep up with your favorite series or sports team?

In the past, proxies were used to bypass geo-blocks, but the BBC has since wised up to the technology. It's capable of blocking proxies, now, which is why you'll need the help of a VPN to access iPlayer.

BBC iPlayer open on an internet browser

(Image credit: chrisdorney / Shutterstock)

How to unblock BBC iPlayer content in 5 easy steps

Rerouting your IP address can sound like a demanding task but the most popular VPNs all have user-friendly interfaces that will make the process as easy as downloading and logging in to a new app on your phone, tablet or computer.

  1. Sign up for a VPN: NordVPN is my favorite and the best streaming VPN I've ever put to the test. It's also the provider I'll be using throughout the article.
  2. Download your VPN: downloading and installing your VPN is a piece of cake—just follow along with the on-screen instructions (and make sure you pick the right app for your device).
  3. Connect to a UK server: use your VPN's server list to find a server in the UK, click to connect, and you're almost ready to go.
  4. Log in to BBC iPlayer: you'll need to create an account if you're a new viewer.
  5. You're finished, sit back and relax.
NordVPN: The best BBC iPlayer VPN

NordVPN: The best BBC iPlayer VPN
NordVPN is the cream of the crop, and unblocks BBC iPlayer in just a few clicks—and you don't have to be a VPN veteran to get started. All of NordVPN's apps are sleek, easy to use, and compatible with all devices, so you can check out iPlayer content at home or on the go.

Better yet, NordVPN is also my top Netflix VPN, and can access all sorts of other streaming platforms. Basically, you won't run out of shows to watch for a long time. Take NordVPN for a risk-free test drive with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

How to install your VPN on different devices 

If you want to set up your chosen VPN service on a smartphone or laptop, you will find this task as easy as downloading and installing a new app. 

When it comes to streaming devices, it may be a bit more complicated. While Amazon Fire Stick offers dedicated VPN apps easy to use, others like Apple TV and Roku do not. 

With Apple TV, you can either manually configure your DNS IP address with one you find on your VPN website or connect it through your router (we have a full guide on how to use VPNs on Apple TV). While the only way to make your VPN work with Roku is to install the service on your router – it takes a few extra steps – it isn't difficult to set up your VPN on Roku.

If you want to watch BBC iPlayer through a VPN on an Android TV, simply go to the Google Play Store and look for your VPN's provider app. For all the other operating systems, the easiest way is probably installing a Smart TV VPN on your router as you would do with an Apple TV or Roku streaming device.

NordVPN running on a TV

(Image credit: NordVPN)

Can I access BBC iPlayer with a free service?

Finding a good free VPN that can unblock BBC iPlayer content is a far greater challenge. The Beeb is constantly trying to prevent the use of such software, and most free services just can't keep up with it. Some – like ProtonVPN – deliberately prevent streaming unless you upgrade to its Plus plan. Limited data and potential safety risks of other services are other common downsides that come with free versions.

The good news at least is that many premium VPNs have free trials, usually in the form of a 30-day money-back guarantee. That's a great advantage for users who want to test their premium features without spending a penny in the long run.

The Outlaws' characters with a graffiti on the background

(Image credit: BBC)

Is watching BBC iPlayer with a VPN illegal? 

The simple answer is no. 

If you are paying a UK TV licence, you are legally allowed to watch BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world. A VPN will just allow you to stream your favorite content no matter where you are, by hiding your real location and bouncing you to a UK IP address. 

The good news: it's perfectly legal to do so! As the UK broadcaster states in its terms of use, 'If we detect that you might be using a VPN, you'll be unable to play programs. This is because we need to be confident you're in the UK.' The only possibility could then be that of not being able to stream, without breaking the law. 

Whilst, even though BBC iPlayer does not check if you are actually a payer, you are technically not allowed to use the service without a licence – whether or not you access the BBC catalog with a VPN. So, you will be able to do so, but at your own risk. 

What to do if your VPN does not work with iPlayer

The BBC is constantly trying to prevent users from accessing their online catalog when outside the UK. As a result, iPlayer can make your VPN’s job challenging at times. 

Below there are some hacks that can help you to fix your VPN problems with BBC iPlayer:

  • Clear your cookies and then reload the page
  • Try with a different browser
  • Report the issue to your VPN customer support team, asking for a recommendation to the best server to use
  • Sometimes your real IP address can leak information. Enable the leak protection option in your VPN’s settings menu to stop this from happening
  • If you are watching iPlayer from your smartphone, try to switch on your PC. Doing that prevents GPS data from being cross-referenced with your IP address

If none of these steps is working, your VPN may simply not be suitable for iPlayer. So the final suggestion is to check our list of working iPlayer VPNs to ensure that you're getting fully functioning software. 


We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:
1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).
2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.
We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to