How Does BBC iPlayer Know I’m Using a VPN ? A 2023 Update

Last Updated on December 14, 2023

Can the BBC Detect VPN Connections?

To answer the question – how does the BBC Know I’m Using a VPN we must first detail a little background knowledge that’s important.

  • What is a VPN and how does it work
  • Why you should use a VPN for BBC iPlayer
  • How BBC iPlayer will detect if you are using a VPN
  • Which countries can access the full range of BBC programming on their website
  • Which VPN services work well with to watch BBC iPlayer

How Does BBC iPlayer Know I'm Using a VPN

What is a VPN and how does it work

A VPN is a virtual private network. It creates a secure connection from one computer to another computer through the Internet. Connecting to the internet using a VPN will make it appear as if you are in another location than where you really are. This means that if I live in the United States and connect through a VPN which is located in the UK then everyone will think I’m in the UK. There are many advantages to this beyond the privacy aspect.

The main one is that many sites restrict access based on your location. By using a VPN, you can bypass all these restrictions by effectively changing your location at will. The VPN service must have servers available in the countries you need to access though.

Can the BBC Track Your IP Address?

Absolutely, it’s pretty simple to track anyone’s IP address and many web sites do.  Indeed, nearly every website you visit can identify your location and many use this information to determine your experience. It’s called geo-targeting or geo-blocking so yes can BBC iPlayer track your address – yes absolutely.  In the BBC’s case, if your IP address is registered in a non-UK location then you’ll be redirected to the international version.  You’ll also find none of the amazing BBC iPlayer content will work.

Why you should use a VPN for BBC iPlayer

A VPN is generally used to protect data and privacy online although it can also help people access blocked content on the internet. Normally you cannot access BBC iPlayer over the internet if you’re based outside the United Kingdom. However, by using a VPN you can hide your real location and watch the site exactly like a UK resident free of charge.

Unsurprisingly this makes them very popular and millions of people across the world use VPNs to enjoy British TV like BBC1 and BBC 2 from the USA or elsewhere. In fact, in any ex-pat community, you’ll find most people have access to some sort of VPN to keep in touch with their favourite TV shows from home. It’s not just the BBC, the best VPNs can be used to access all the UK television stations online including ITV Hub.

So, if you want to access any geo-locked content like the BBC iPlayer the simplest solution is to use a VPN. Remember you must connect to a VPN server in the UK before visiting any website which restricts access based on location or IP.

How BBC iPlayer will Detect if you are using a VPN

So can BBC iPlayer detect VPN services?  There’s many rumours flying around the internet about this subject.  Although technically the BBC is unable to detect directly whether you’re using a VPN there are lots of tell-tale signs which are indicators. The biggest one is the IP addresses which are assigned to the VPN servers themselves.

BBC iPlayer Detecting VPN Methods

There are two main issues with these addresses –

  • IP addresses are usually registered as commercial ranges, unlike home users who will have residential IP addresses.
  • The VPN users will usually be sharing the IP addresses, meaning there can be thousands of connections from each address.

Both these are heavy indicators of a VPN connection and unsurprisingly BBC iPlayer will keep track of IP addresses and blacklists them so they can’t connect any more. These are the primary factors which stop specific VPNs from working with the BBC iPlayer. However, it’s also a big problem if you want to watch other restricted content like ITV player, 4OD etc using your VPN.

Why Does iPlayer Think I’m not in UK?

If BBC iPlayer won’t work and you get the “not available in your location” or similar then it’s usually because your IP address is not being registered as from the UK.  Obviously if you’re actually not in the UK this is perfectly correct and is working as designed.  The BBC has no real method of detecting your location other than where your IP address is registered to.  Unfortunately, sometimes these are wrong and the IP address is not registered to the correct location.

For example, I was recently in Belfast and the hotel Wifi supplied me with an IP address registered in the Republic of Ireland.  This meant that although I was in the UK (Northern Ireland), I was unable to access any BBC programmes directly because of my incorrectly registered IP address.

Which countries can access the full range of BBC programming on their website

As long as your VPN is not blocked by the BBC then you can access the full range of BBC programmes from anywhere in the world. Your actual physical location is immaterial as the only address seen is that of the VPN server itself.  Therefore, you can stream BBC from anywhere in the world.

It works for pretty much a geo-restricted site too, so you can unblock TV sites from all over the world. You will need access to a VPN server in that specific location though. The best VPN services usually provide plans that cover many countries – the NordVPN basic subscription includes servers in over 60 countries for example.

Which VPN services work well with to watch BBC iPlayer from anywhere

Whilst it’s true that the BBC iPlayer has become much more aggressive in blocking VPNs lately there are still many VPN services which work with this site.  So how you can still get around the BBC iPlayer VPN block! It’s difficult to list them all because they change all the time. Generally thought they come in two main categories that still work –

  • Smaller or Premium VPN services which have less users on each server.
  • Larger VPN services which have committed to maintaining access and rotate their IP addresses regularly and monitor the numbers on specific servers.

A great cost-effective VPN that does still work is called NordVPN.  However, you should ensure that you use the specific servers that are optimized for accessing the BBC iPlayer in particular.  If you do try them, make sure you use one of these servers before connecting to the BBC – UK# 1840-1847, 1850-1863, 1865, 1869, 1873, 1875-1878, 1880-1881, 1900-1901, 1903-1904, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1919-1920.

Here’s the link to the latest deals – best deal on NordVPN.

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