How to watch UK TV abroad - stream BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4 and more anywhere

Child watching TV with remote, sitting on Union Jack blanket
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's fair to say UK TV not only offers some of the best - quintessentially British - entertainment, but it also generously gives much of it away for free. In fact, you can watch Peaky Blinders from start to finish without the need of a Netflix subscription. Conversations with Friends will also be free to watch in full from May 15. The same goes for Derry Girls and the next instalment of Love Island this summer - which promises to be so muggy.

However, TV licence payers and expats alike will find themselves shut out if they try to access the likes of BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, and My5 when outside of the UK. This is due to content on these on-demand platforms being tightly kept behind geo-locks.

Whether you want to tune into your native broadcaster, or get a free live stream from overseas, you'll be stuck when it comes to watching UK TV abroad, even across the likes of premium UK packages like Sky Go, BT TV, and Now. Worry not, though, because the use of a VPN service will ensure you can always watch your preferred broadcasters no matter where in the world you hop to - and we explain how below.

Derry Girls

(Image credit: Netflix/Channel 4)

Why can't I watch UK TV abroad?

As previously mentioned, for anyone trying to use any of the UK's on-demand streaming services - whether it's its generous offering of free-to-air channels, or one of its satellite packages - watching from anywhere else other than the UK will likely throw up some issues when you try to hit play.

That's because its library of live and on-demand content can only be accessed when you're physically within the UK. This is due to licensing agreements i.e. Netflix bought the rights for Peaky Blinders international release outside of Ol' Blighty.

If you try, say, to watch BBC News abroad while its broadcasting live, you'll get the message: This content is not available in your location. Alternatively, on any of its on-demand content it will say: BBC iPlayer only works in the UK. Sorry, it’s due to rights issues.

Similar error messages will appear across ITV Hub, All4, and My5, as well as Sky Go, BT TV, and Now. While BBC iPlayer is the only on-demand platform that requires you have a TV licence to watch its content, all are geo-restricted to the UK.

That's where the likes of a BBC iPlayer VPN comes in - and the best one is likely to work across the board with BBC proving the most tricky for VPNs to circumvent in our past testing.

How can I watch UK TV from abroad?

It's incredibly frustrating, especially when paying for a service or licence, to find you can't watch the platform when you're holidaying abroad or overseas for any other reason. Thankfully, a trusty VPN will do the business. This means you won't have to miss that Premier League live stream or weeknight episodes of spritely twenty-somethings 'doing bits' in 2022's summer series of Love Island.

While the innerworkings of a VPN may sound complex, in laymen's terms a VPN is able to alter your IP address (the very thing that identifies where you're browsing from), encrypt your data, and make it appear as though you're somewhere else.

In the case of watching UK TV abroad, this means taking you away from a sun-lounger in Spain, or your year abroad in the States, and landing you - virtually - slap-bang in the middle of the UK.

man united vs

(Image credit: Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Which is the best VPN for watching UK TV abroad?

ExpressVPN - the best VPN for watching UK TV abroad (opens in new tab)

ExpressVPN - the best VPN for watching UK TV abroad (opens in new tab)
There's a reason ExpressVPN finds itself at the top of most of our VPN buying guides, and that's because of its wealth of servers and security features. It's also the best when it comes to unblocking streaming services, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, and My5. Try now and get 3 months free and a 30-day money-back guarantee on top.

Step-by-step guide on using a VPN to watch UK TV abroad

Using a VPN to watch UK TV abroad is super straightforward. Simply...

  • Sign up and install a VPN (opens in new tab) on your device
  • Locate and connect to one of its UK servers
  • Head to the website or app of the streaming service you wish to use
  • Hit play and enjoy!

When it comes to the order in which you do this, it's a good idea to connect to the UK VPN server first before heading to the website or app of the streaming service you wish to watch. This covers all bases in case the platform otherwise detects use of a VPN and continues to shut you out. ExpressVPN is pretty tight, but this has been a problem for other VPN providers before.

It's also worth noting that, while some of the UK's streaming platforms are free-to-watch, you'll likely need to make an account first before you can stream. But don't worry, you won't be asked for any card details.

Alice Marshall
eCommerce Editor

Alice is eCommerce Editor at Future with a focus on streaming services, such as Disney Plus and HBO Max, and VPN. She predominantly writes buying and streaming service guides, as well as how to watch articles. Previously a Commercial Content Writer at Trusted Reviews, Alice has five years experience giving online buying advice, and over two years writing about consumer tech.