If you’ve ever done any sort of international travel then you’ve probably experienced the joys of the geo-blocking. It’s the practice of restricting someone’s access to a website or resource based simply upon their physical location. So a typical scenario would be a British tourist, enjoying their summer holidays in Spain. They’ve got no plans that evening so log onto to the BBC iPlayer site to watch Match of the Day.
That’s the point when they’ll get disappointed and see something similar to this –
It’s a friendly enough message but it’s ruined thousands of evenings all over the world I can assure you. There’s a common held presumption that all you need to access any web site is an internet connection. It’s becoming increasingly untrue as companies block and filter access based on a variety of factors including location. Some will stop you, others will route you quietly to another version of their website. There’s even a worrying trend of charging different prices for the same product based on your location. Lots of airlines and holiday companies do this, maximizing their profits by overcharging certain locales.
It’s the entertainment and media sector that most uses this technology though, often to conform with complicated copyright restrictions. Virtually all the streaming services around the world, filter to some extent. So being able to access BBC iPlayer is not as straight forward as you would imagine irrespective of whether you have a TV license or not!
So what happens exactly? Well, when you go to the BBC iPlayer site, the web site checks and records IP addresses. These are then checked against a database to determine what location it’s registered in. If that location is not the UK then you’ll get something like this message and won’t be able to access, if it is in the UK then everything will work fine. What’s worse is that you actually have no direct control over the nationality of your IP address, well not unless you own and operate an ISP (internet service provider)!
There Must Be a Solution !
So that’s it, no more BBC live streams, no BBC iPlayer archives, no BBC Local radio broadcasts!! Basically you’re stuck with the very basic ‘International version’ of the BBC which is ok but has none of the media streaming capability. The whole vast store of BBC online resources, a complete entertainment centre is denied to you simply because of the nationality of your IP address.
Of course, there is a solution and a simple method to gain access to the BBC iPlayer from anywhere. You just need to srat using a VPN and you can watch BBC iPlayer and services like Netflix and ITV Hub wherever you are. It’s something that I personally have been doing for over ten years now, mainly from the USA but it works equally from anywhere else I travel to.
Here’s the one I use currently:
It’s using a VPN service to hide your IP address and watch the BBC (plus all other UK TV) from anywhere. All you do is connect to the VPN server either manually or using some software, and then access the BBC website. The BBC will only see the IP address of the VPN server, so as long as it’s in the UK then everything will work fine.
The VPN server sits between your computer and the BBC site, so you never actually connect directly. The BBC will assume you’re in the UK because it only registers the VPNs IP address, the same will occur for any other UK TV site like the ITV for example.
So What are the Best VPNs for BBC iPlayer ?
So the solution is fairly simple, but be warned typing in VPNs and BBC into Google will result in a confusing choice. You will also see lots of stories and reports about the BBC blocking proxies and VPNs. Both of these are linked in a way, the sheer number of VPN providers is because it’s not actually that difficult to set up a simple VPN or proxy server. However configuring it properly and ensuring it’s fast and secure is much more difficult, which is where most of these services fail. The result is that many of these services, have fancy websites and little skill or expertise in setting up and running a VPN server properly. They therefore get blocked, banned or simply fall over frequently often overloaded by a massive number of users. So you will find stories of the BBC iPlayer blocking VPN programs but they’re not all true. Similarly people will tell you that BBC iPlayer not working through a VPN anymore when it’s not the case.
The pot luck method of choosing a VPN is fraught with risks, alas you also have to be careful when choosing more prominent or established services too. Here’s a quick checklist of the sort of things you should choose particularly if you want a decent service. There is no doubt that the BBC iPlayer detecting VPN services much more successfully over the last few years. Here’s some things you should look for in picking the best VPN service for BBC iPlayer –
- UK Servers – seems an obvious point but it’s a crucial one. You need to connect through a UK based server in order for the BBC to work so it’s vital that the company has enough UK servers to support it’s users. If everything is routed through a couple of servers then you will have thousands of simultaneous connections on each address which is simple to spot and will result in automatic bans from the BBC.
- Connection Speeds – although you can download programmes to watch online, the majority of people stream videos directly from the BBC site. It is crucial that the VPN server has enough speed, otherwise programs will stutter, stall and buffer every few minutes – a uniquely frustrating experience especially on Match of the Day! You don’t want to be accessing BBC iPlayer through a slow server I can assure you, make sure you find something with fast speeds and the ability to stream BBC iPlayer video at the definition you need.
- Customer Support – it’s important to have a knowledgeable and responsive support department. It can be particularly useful if you want to access other resources where you need help accessing them. Also remember that the media companies including the BBC are constantly looking at ways to block VPNs and it’s likely only the most secure and technical will survive. Essential for keeping up with the latest developments who’s blocking who and how. Also for advising the customer, the best is an available 24 7 live chat which can help you any time but any support which is responsive and helpful is a bonus.
- Security and Privacy – although it’s not always the priority, a VPN is primarily a security service. It is in the best interests of it’s continuation to work with the BBC iPlayer that the connection is secure and the users identity protected. This is especially important if you want to use it for online privacy as well as using it to unblock BBC iPlayer. So check out that they have the latest security features like a kill switch, smart DNS and decent privacy and security logs policy.
- Discrete – sounds a silly option, but the most successful VPN services for watching the BBC are the low key ones. Anything openly advertising their TV watching credentials is likely to come onto the radar of the BBC legal department. That normally leads to a service closure so be warned. Pick a VPN service which is focused on security, but has fast UK servers too. Watching iPlayer with a VPN should be both a secure and transparent experience.
Of course, it’s difficult to assess these aspects without trying out a VPN service directly which is why you should always make sure that any service offers a 30 day money back guarantee. Not only will this give you a chance to check out the options, client software and support but you can also ensure it works with the BBC and any other channels you wish to access. Basically a well configured and set up VPN should allow access to any website as long as it has a server in that country. So if you want British sites then servers in the UK should be your priority, if you want US channels then ensure they have servers in the USA and so on.
Over the last few years it’s definitely got much harder to access the BBC iPlayer as the corporation seeks to restrict access to license holders who are physically in the UK. Yet it’s still perfectly possible to watch the BBC and all the other geo-blocked UK TV stations irrespective of your location. The reality is that the few which have kept a low profile and been around for a decade or more are still working perfectly. The market is unfortunately flooded with many operators who keep disappearing and getting blocked.
Our recommendation for a reliable BBC live VPN is to use one of the market leaders with servers all across the world. Particularly important it has a huge number of UK based servers and the company has extensive experience in supporting users who are trying to bypass geo-blocks particularly from the BBC and US sites.
Here’s the best servers for the BBC from my experience 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 .