Updated February 2021 – just checking this information and the video below is up to date and valid with regards unblocking BBC iPlayer with a VPN.
So is BBC iPlayer detecting VPN connections now ?
Well no, at least not all of them. The situation has changed a little over the last twelve months and there’s no doubt that the BBC has started to employ more aggressive tactics. However there are still plenty of companies who actively support the ability to unblock BBC iPlayer. There are a few changes though. You now also need to create an account on the BBC iPlayer to watch or download anything. There’s no need to worry though as long as you have an email address then it’s no problem. Make sure you check your browser settings and clear your cookies before you start and ensure you connect to a UK VPN server.
Just create an account, you will be asked for a postal code (ZIP code) just make sure that it’s a valid UK one. You will also be asked if you have a valid TV license, just click on yes, there’s no checks or anything. You only have to do this once.
I can confirm that BBC iPlayer is still working well with this VPN as long as you use their BBC optimized servers – # 729-732, 757-764, 1044-1045, 1022-1025, 717-720, 745-752, 81-84, 974-977, 481-483, 689, 1057. You should use these for all the live streaming channels including BBC One, BBC Two, BBC News, BBC three, BBC Parliament, BBC Alba and all the other channels. You don’t need to enable the VPN or a dedicated IP address for the radio channels including BBC Radio 1 unless there’s a special event.
A couple of years ago, for the very first time the BBC started to block access from people who were using various methods for watching BBC iPlayer from abroad. First they blocked access from simple proxies which is a relatively straight forward process. This was pretty much expected, in fact it was more surprising that they’d not done this earlier. Every other media firm blocked proxy server access years ago yet they worked without problems since the initial release of BBC iPlayer at the end of 2007.
Proxies are now officially dead for all region locking purposes, in fact the likes of Netflix, Hulu and all other major media companies blocked them years ago. Fortunately the BBC iPlayer workaround is still working ok and the vast majority of people now use VPN (Virtual Private Network) connections to access these sites and indeed to watch the BBC online too. However the next step was much more surprising when the BBC started blocking VPN connections too.
First to clarify, when you hear that the BBC is blocking all VPN connections it sounds like they’ve developed some method to detect all VPNs. This simply isn’t the case, they simply targeted many of the more obvious companies. When you see many reports of BBC iPlayer not working through VPN, it’s usually because a company like Express VPN have made themselves a target openly advertising the functionality. The Chinese Government have spend huge amounts of resources trying to automatically detect and block VPNs without complete success so the BBC obviously haven’t either. They have however utilized different methods to combat the global BBC live VPN phenomena.
They’ve been doing this in two distinct ways, firstly via a technical solution and secondly using the BBC legal department. The technical method really focused on identifying potential VPN access using a simple fingerprinting method and blocking manually. This was combined with the legal department targeting VPN and Smart DNS companies which openly advertised the ability to watch the BBC or any of it’s other channels.
The result was pretty brutal, hundreds of VPNs stopped working in a matter of weeks. Others who had infringed on copyright actually disappeared as their hosting providers received threatening legal letters.
BBC iPlayer Blocking VPN Connections – Who are the Survivors
It’s difficult to say how many VPN services have survived this purge because it is ongoing to some extent. However, fortunately some of the more technically advanced and best VPNs continue to operate and still allow access for streaming BBC iPlayer. Here’s a brief rundown of the characteristics you need to look for in services that both work now and can be expected to work into the future.
- Market themselves as a VPN Service (not a TV Viewing one) – pretty much all the services which openly marketed themselves as tools or services for watching TV and media sites have disappeared or don’t work anymore with the BBC. Don’t worry about a service not advertising the functionality of removing geo restrictions – BBC iPlayer only works with UK servers that are not blocked.
- Large Infrastructure – basically having lots of server with fast speeds, the smaller VPN providers have only a few UK servers. This means that they have thousands of users on the same IP addresses which are easy to detect and get blocked quickly. The more servers in the correct GPS location (i.e. UK) the better.
- Secure Configurations – many VPN services are unfortunately run by people with little technical knowledge and as such are easily detected. A well configured VPN with proper leak protection and a diverse server location is almost impossible to detect directly. Make sure you try out short trials or demos before subscribing and test it works in the UK too. You should be able to watch the BBC online from anywhere within minutes.
- Residential IP address Support – although currently not essential to access the BBC online, this is something that is may happen in the future. Netflix this year restricted access to IP addresses classified as ‘residential’ , many expect the BBC and other media sites to follow this example. Hopefully this won’t happen as this support especially with a dedicated IP are extremely expensive.
- Customer Support – things change, who knows what any major streaming service will do tomorrow. Having great customer support means that your VPN will change too. A decent customer service team should ensure that you maintain access and those fast speeds. Ideally check for live chat support as they can help you quickly if you’re trying to watch Match of the Day live ! Especially useful if you use it on a mobile device.
How to Choose a VPN Which Unblocks BBC iPlayer
There’s no doubt that the last 12 months have been very tough for VPN companies particularly those who focus on the region unlocking market. Many thousands of people suddenly found that their favorite BBC iPlayer VPN blocked overnight, often after many years of use. However the better and more professional ones still work perfectly. Some people think that the BBC are detecting and blocking all VPN access automatically however this is not the case. The reality is that a well configured VPN connection cannot be reliably detected, even the Chinese haven’t perfected a method yet. It may look like BBC iPlayer is detecting VPN services but this is not strictly the case.
The BBC though have managed to block a huge proportion of these services simply by identifying them manually from their websites and detecting IP addresses with loads of users connecting concurrently. So make sure the company you choose has plenty of fast UK based servers and it doesn’t advertise itself directly as a way to watch the BBC or ITV abroad.
You’ll see a lot of talk online about how the BBC iPlayer VPNs are not working anymore but it’s not entirely true. There are some good ones still out there, and arguably it is easier now to choose a reliable, well configured service. The best VPN is usually safer than ever before – just make sure you test them out before subscribing for a long period.
My favorite and probably the best value VPN still works and you can see it in action here –
The program has worked perfectly with all the major UK TV stations including the BBC iPlayer for many years now. I’ve used it all over the world including this year on my holiday to the USA. They are constantly expanding their networks with new UK servers and also have a special network of servers specifically dedicated to this task. These have switchable IP addresses which will ensure that this VPN will continue to work with the BBC. It’s also the simplest way to learn how to watch BBC iPlayer abroad on iPad , Smart phones or other tablets – they have a version for almost every device. They regularly update their software introducing new security features like split tunnelling and in 2021 have expanded their network to over 94 countries.
So in summary, although the BBC have blocked many VPN services, there are still some working. Our recommendation is NordVPN who have some of the most competitive deals in the industry, some of their longer plans are available for less than $3 a month.
There are literally hundreds of UK servers in the NordVPN connection list but for the BBC – I would suggest using these. Some work better from Europe, others from the USA –
– but try out them all # 729-732, 757-764, 1044-1045, 1022-1025, 717-720, 745-752, 81-84, 974-977, 481-483, 689, 1057 .
The Future Developments of Geotargeting and Blocking from Large Websites and Corporations
The whole history of the use of geotargeting technology and why most of us are now using VPNs for everyday browsing is a fascinating one. The technology started in quite a benevolent fashion being used by the search engines for content localization. Basically it made sense, if you where looking for an electrician using a search engine like Google it made sense to send you local results and route your data through the matching location. After all although it’s easy to type your location into each query it’s kind of annoying having to do it every single time. Geotargeting or Geolocation meant that it wasn’t necessary, adding a layer of intelligence to your search engine didn’t really upset anyone.
However little did we know, that it was actually starting a creeping invasion of our privacy which has begun to spiral out of control. Although customizing our search results sounds innocent enough in reality it means that the search engine determines your location every time you use it. Yes it still uses your location to send you local tradesmen results but it also target advertising and offers based on your location too.
Now virtually every single large website gathers demographic information about their users. Even if you’re careful every time you use the internet you are revealing huge amounts of very personal information about yourself. Imagine what a company like Amazon knows about their average user through their purchases and consumption of streaming services. You’ve probably bought all sorts of stuff over the years just like all of us. We order clothes, food, technology and watch films, listen to music and read books all through a single portal. You can be sure there there are some incredibly clever (and intrusive) algorithms profiling us from all this data to !
There’s a lot to learn from the actual goods and services that you purchase but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. What about those casual clicks on adverts, those search queries, the general idle browsing through social media. Every click from your computer potentially reveals something about who we are, where we are and what we believe in. Without wanting to sound too Orwellian, we really are being watched like never before in human history. I’m afraid the KGB and Stasi don’t even come close to the amount of surveillance that happens online in 2021.
Blocking and Bypassing those Blocks – the VPN BBC Challenge
For many of us, me included, starting to use the best VPN we can find to change our IP address is only the start of it. In the beginning it’s usually a very functional solution to being denied access to a particular site. Obviously this page it’s about bypassing the blocks to access BBC iPlayer or some other streaming services. You can generally use a VPN with a UK server to access all the free UK television sites for instance. For an English speaker this makes the cost very reasonable – you can unblock a BBC iPlayer account, ITV Hub, Amazon Prime Video and lots of TV shows from anywhere in the world. Someone I know purely uses a VPN just to watch Channel 4 online mainly because they’re addicted to Escape to the Chateau! Indeed even if you just use a VPN to stream BBC it’s great value when you consider the cost of cable subscriptions that don’t come close to what you can watch iPlayer.
There’s no doubt though that using the fastest VPN you can find brings a lot more control back to the individual in all sorts of ways. Obviously there’s the ability to bypass all these blocks and filters that these sites use to control what you can watch from all the popular streaming sites. However there’s more than just being able to stream BBC programmes or those from ITV Hub when you’re on holiday, there’s the very real benefit of maintaining some actual privacy online at least by hiding your IP address.
Potentially any VPN service will work with BBC iPlayer although as we’ve seen mentioned it’s not always true in practice. The fact is that no streaming services are able to block access from outside the UK. There’s no way to automatically detect any VPN server although there are certainly some countermeasures that can be employed. When you connect to any streaming service using a VPN obviously your priority is to hide your IP address. The problem of being identified relies primarily on the fact that many people will be using the same server addresses.
In the earlier years, any VPN company could bundle thousands of users on a small amount of servers in the UK. Everyone would be accessing BBC without issues as long as the network had enough bandwidth. Now though, one of the primary detection methods is not something technical like a DNS leak but to look at how many connections work with BBC iPlayer servers on each IP address. If one address has thousands of connections then it’s highly likely that a proxy or VPN app is being used. The iPlayer not working error message was largely due to over-utilization being detected by the iPlayer server. This is why the free VPNs have never worked for unlocking BBC iPlayer or any streaming servers – they’re just too easy to detect.
Problems and Fixes Using a VPN to Watch BBC iPlayer
As mentioned above there’s no inherent block or way that the BBC can stop all VPNs from working. Everyday millions of people unblock BBC using a all sorts of VPNs from all over the world. Yet you’ll also read many reports that ‘my vpn doesn’t work’ or BBC has ‘iplayer app is blocked’ – so what’s the problem.
The fact is that most of the time is simply a case of volume. If an individual connects through a single IP address to the BBC server then they’d always be fine. However when thousands connect using the exact same IP address (of the VPN) then it’s going to look suspicious. Obviously sometimes people share addresses, colleges, flats shared houses on the same TV license too etc but there’s a realistic limit to how many.
The BBC then can work out which addresses are ‘suspicious’ and are more likely to be a proxy or VPN being used to unblock BBC from abroad. The more popular the VPN is and the more the servers are used to access iPlayer then the greater the chance of it being blocked. Unless you’re going to pay for a dedicated private internet access where you don’t share an IP then this situation is always a risk.
Most of the decent VPN companies though will suffer a few blocks but will regularly switch the address ranges of their UK servers. It’s vital they do this as often as possible to protect their connections, otherwise addresses will be blacklisted. Whatever VPN provider you use, just ensure it has lots of different servers and switch between them regularly. If you’re interested in primarily watching British Tv or something like iPlayer radio stations then it’s UK servers which are important. Don’t worry about different server locations unless you want to access somewhere specific.
So to summarise –
- VPN Still Work to Connect to BBC iPlayer
- Individual IP Addresses Though will get blocked if shared too much
- VPN Provider must monitor IPs Which are Blocked and Rotate them.
- VPN Should Avoid Advertising the ability to Access BBC
These points count for every single VPN service and how well they manage their IP Pools and keep a low profile. So as long as the connection is secure and you don’t need extra leak connection (check out dnsleaktest.com) if you’re having issues using any VPN.
What to Watch Out For in the Future Regarding VPN Services and Access to BBC iPlayer
It’s difficult to be completely sure that us expats will never see the BBC iPlayer Not Working cries for help again. Without doubt this iplayer app will continue to be the subject of restrictions and blocks. Hopefully most VPN companies who advertise the functionality will maintain plenty of servers in the UK to support this major streaming platform for those of us located in other countries.
To be honest there is a chance that access may disappear altogether or at least become as difficult as some of the other popular streaming services. There are two main factors which could lead to this happening, at least when you assess current technology.
Firstly it’s possible that the BBC will start looking at the classification of different IP addresses when they connect to BBC iPlayer. Some other companies have already started doing this like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. They basically look to ensure the connections are coming from residential addresses and not commercial ones. If this happens then the majority of current VPN options will stop working and it will be irrelevant whether you’re connecting through a UK server or not.
The fix is simple but not that easy to implement – you just have to make sure that all the UK servers have residential IP addresses for their internet access. The difficulty with this is that they are difficult to acquire certainly with the numbers required to access a major streaming site like the BBC iPlayer. It’s possible though and certainly feasible that some of the larger companies like NordVPN would continue to support access to the BBC iPlayer. There would probably be a significant increase in costs though to finance the additional costs.