If you live outside the UK, you’ll get blocked if you try to use BBC iPlayer– unless you know the secret of how to overcome location-based content filters. Read on for a quick guide that’ll show you how to watch BBC iPlayer in the US and abroad.
The best VPN for watching BBC iPlayer in the USA
NordVPN is a great solution for side-stepping the BBC’s geographic blocks when you’re in the USA. The feature that seems to have put it over the top is its obfuscation mode, which makes it very difficult for streaming services to determine that you’re using a VPN. You can activate obfuscation mode with just a few clicks, and all you have to do to log into the internet through the UK is connect to one of NordVPN’s UK-based VPN servers.
No Credit Card Needed for NordVPN Trial
Every other VPN service I’ve tried requires you to whip out your credit card or provide your PayPal info to begin its trial. However, NordVPN doesn’t ask you for your payment info until you sign up for a paid account.
You can use NordVPN for 3 full days before you run into the paywall.
NordVPN’s trial period allows you to verify for yourself that you can get to BBC iPlayer before you give out your credit card or PayPal credentials.
How to Configure NordVPN for BBC iPlayer
You’ll have to tweak NordVPN’s settings a bit to get it to work with iPlayer, but the process is pretty easy.
Step 1: Sign up for NordVPN
The first thing you have to do to get NordVPN is open an account.
To get the 3-day trial mentioned above, click here and then scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and click FAQ.
Once you’re on the FAQ page, scroll down to the question entitled “Do you offer a free trial?” and follow the link to create your free NordVPN account.
Alternatively, you can choose a payment plan and start service right away. The most cost-effective NordVPN plan is the 2-year subscription, which allows you to buy 2 years of service up front for $80.
Step 2: Get your password
After sign up, NordVPN will automatically send you your login credentials via email. Your first password will be randomly generated. However, you can change your password to something that’s easier to remember after you log onto the NordVPN website.
Step 3: Download and install the NordVPN app
After you log in, you’ll reach a screen that looks like the one depicted below. Click the appropriate section to get to the software download page.
After you pick out an operating system, you’ll be able to download the NordVPN installer to your desktop. From there, just follow the wizard’s instructions to complete the installation process.
Step 4: Sign in and configure NordVPN for BBC iPlayer
The first time you open NordVPN, you’ll need to type in (or copy-and-paste in) your login information and password. If you opt to allow NordVPN to save your credentials, you’ll be able to login with a single mouse click the next time you open the app.
Once you’re in, jump over to the settings menu and click Show advanced settings.
Next, flip the Obfuscated Servers toggle switch to the on position.
Step 5: Connect to an obfuscated VPN server
Not all of NordVPN’s servers work with iPlayer. You have to choose an obfuscated one to get iPlayer to work.
To find NordVPN’s obfuscated servers, click the Countries tab and then select Specialty Servers. Next, click Obfuscated to open up the full list of obfuscated servers.
Now, just scroll down until you find NordVPN’s obfuscated United Kingdom servers. Finally, click the obfuscated server you want to connect to and press the round power button.
I didn’t notice any lagging when I watched iPlayer videos with NordVPN. However, if you do run into slowdowns, disconnect and try switching to a different obfuscated UK server.
Step 6: Create a BBC iPlayer account
If don’t already have a BBC iPlayer account, you’ll need to visit the iPlayer website and create one.
Step 7: Log into BBC iPlayer and enjoy
Once you’re in, just pull up BBC iPlayer and pick out something to watch.
What Is BBC iPlayer?
BBC iPlayer is a streaming service that contains live TV feeds and video content from the UK’s British Broadcasting Corporation.
The iPlayer app lets you live stream every BBC channel, including S4C, BBC Alba, BBC News, BBC Parliament, CBeebies, CBBC as well as BBC 1, 2, 3 and 4.
In addition to live channels, iPlayer also has on-demand shows and movies.
Best of all: there are no monthly fees or annoying embedded advertisements.
However, to use BBC iPlayer legally you do have to buy a UK TV license.
How it works
If you log into BBC iPlayer via your computer, you can switch live channels by clicking the channel icons located on the bottom of the screen.
If there isn’t anything good on, you can opt to watch on-demand shows and films instead of live TV.
The BBC’s film library is by no means vast, but it does contain a handful of recent flicks. Currently, Gone Girl, Mister John, Noah and several other new movies are available for streaming.
Though BBC iPlayer’s on-demand library isn’t as big as Netflix’s or Hulu’s, it does contain titles you won’t find anywhere else.
Movies and shows are available on iPlayer for around 30 days, and then they vanish and are replaced with new videos.
How to Watch BBC iPlayer In the US and Abroad
You don’t need to be in the UK to enjoy BBC iPlayer. If you use a VPN provider that works with iPlayer, you can stream BBC content from location in the world.
Overcoming the BBC’s geo-block
The BBC uses a simple geographic filter combined with VPN detection technology to prevent people located outside the UK from streaming BBC content.
To overcome the BBC’s content barriers, you need a VPN that’s equipped with an obfuscation feature. Obfuscation technology can help stop the BBC from detecting that you’re using a VPN with iPlayer.
Common error messages
If you try to connect to BBC iPlayer from outside the UK without any type of VPN, you’ll get the “This content is not available in your location” error message:
If you have a VPN but it doesn’t work with BBC iPlayer, you’ll see the “BBC iPlayer only works in the UK. Sorry, it’s due to rights issues” message:
Which VPN service works best with BBC iPlayer?
As an expat living abroad in Budapest, I depend on VPNs to access content from Pandora, Netflix, VRV, Shudder and other sites that are blocked or restricted here in Hungary.
Unfortunately, StrongVPN — the VPN I ordinarily turn to for overcoming geographic filters — no longer works with BBC iPlayer.
StrongVPN does have an obfuscation feature, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to do the trick anymore when it comes to streaming BBC iPlayer content.
IPVanish is another popular VPN that has an obfuscation feature, yet still doesn’t work with iPlayer.
So far, the only VPN service I’ve tried that lets me into iPlayer is NordVPN.
Before I found out that StrongVPN no longer works with iPlayer, it was my personal favorite VPN. I often used it for accessing the American version of Netflix outside the US. However, now that StrongVPN doesn’t work with iPlayer, I’m beginning to prefer NordVPN.
NordVPN works with pretty much any site. I have yet to find a geographic block that NordVPN can’t overcome.
Works on iOS and Android, Too
In addition to Mac and Windows, NordVPN works on Android and Apple mobile devices.
Once you install the NordVPN app, the process for using BBC iPlayer is the same. Just pick out an obfuscated UK server and connect, then enjoy.
How to Solve Common VPN Problems
Here’s a quick guide that should help you resolve common issues associated with accessing blocked sites with a VPN.
Empty out your cache
Every app / web browser has a different method for clearing cache, but generally all you have to do is open up settings and look for a “clear cache,” “clear browsing data” or “delete temporary files” option.
Switch your timezone
In addition to cache, your time zone also provides a clue about your location. Changing your system time to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) is a second workaround you can try if you run into any errors.
Open up a support chat
If you’ve followed all the instructions provided above and you still can’t get into iPlayer abroad, try opening a support chat with a NordVPN customer support representative. They usually respond to questions immediately.
A Quick Guide to BBC TV
Just in case you aren’t familiar with British TV, here’s a quick summary of the 10 live channels you can access via BBC iPlayer.
BBC One is the most watched TV channel in the UK behind iTV. The channel features a mix of movies, news and entertainment shows for adults. In 2012, the BBC moved all its kids’ content over to CBBC and CBeebies.
The BBC One website does a pretty good job of explaining what BBC One is all about:
“BBC One’s remit is to be the BBC’s most popular mixed-genre television service across the UK, offering a wide range of high quality programmes. It should be the BBC’s primary outlet for major UK and international events and it should reflect the whole of the UK in its output. A very high proportion of its programmes should be original productions.”
BBC Two is similar to BBC One, only it features more “highbrow” programming.
In 2010, BBC Two Controller Janice Hadlow described BBC Two as a “mainstream alternative” channel:
“BBC Two’s remit is to be a mixed-genre channel appealing to a broad adult audience with programmes of depth and substance. It should carry the greatest amount and range of knowledge-building programming of any BBC television channel, complemented by distinctive comedy, drama and arts programming.”
BBC Three’s programming caters to the 16 to 34-year-old age group.
In 2010, BBC Three Controller Danny Cohen described his channel’s commitment to tackling thoughtful subjects in a way that appeals to young people.
“The remit of BBC Three is to bring younger audiences to high-quality public service broadcasting through a mixed-genre schedule of innovative UK content featuring new UK talent. The channel should use the full range of digital platforms to deliver its content and to build an interactive relationship with its audience. The channel’s target audience is 16-34 year olds.”
BBC Four is a sort of miscellaneous channel that contains a little bit of everything, from comedy shows and sports programs to vintage dramas and foreign shows.
Here is BBC Four’s remit:
“BBC Four’s primary role is to reflect a range of UK and international arts, music and culture. It should provide an ambitious range of innovative, high quality programming that is intellectually and culturally enriching, taking an expert and in-depth approach to a wide range of subjects.”
Unless you speak Welsh or want to learn Welsh, you’ll most likely want to skip S4C. Though S4C was once bilingual, it’s now an exclusive Welsh language channel. Its program lineup is similar to BBC One, except that S4C still has programs for kids. S4C has some original shows, but it also broadcasts English language programs with Welsh subtitles.
BBC Alba is similar to S4C, only it caters to Gaelic speakers instead of Welsh speakers.
BBC News is the world’s largest news organization. Though BBC News is funded by the UK government, it operates independently. The UK government has no power to appoint or dismiss its director-general.
Like CSPAN in the US, BBC Parliament broadcasts live coverage of governmental affairs.
CBeebies broadcasts content for children under the age of 6 years old. Its programs focus on science, history, music, storytelling, imagination, simple puzzles and other kid-friendly themes.
CBBC is like CBeebies, only its programming caters to older kids. CBBC’s target demographic is children ages 6 through 12.
The BBC has built a virtual wall around iPlayer for licensing reasons. Many popular VPN services don’t allow access to iPlayer. However, NordVPN does.
One reason why NordVPN succeeds where other VPN systems fail could be that its obfuscation feature is more advanced compared to the competition.
In addition to having a robust set of features, NordVPN is also cheap and fairly easy to install and use. Also, NordVPN is the only VPN I’ve seen that lets you try it out with no strings attached. Other VPN services make you enter your payment info when you sign up for a free trial.
Alex Munkachy is a freelance writer, game developer and hobby robotics enthusiast. You can find his blog about robotics news and reviews at robotfanatics.com.