BBC iPlayer is a free video streaming service offered by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The service allows viewers living in the United Kingdom to watch the latest programs available on the BBC networks, as well as programs from previous seasons.
However, there is just one catch. The BBC iPlayer service is available only to viewers located inside the borders of the United Kingdom.
A good amount of BBC programming is available in other countries, via networks, streaming services and Blu-ray and DVD boxed sets. However, there are numerous shows unavailable outside of the U.K.
However, fans of British television and U.K. expats can still access BBC iPlayer from outside the U.K. by using a tool known as a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
A VPN provides access to geographically-blocked content by temporarily assigning a new IP address to an internet-connected device. The new IP address makes it appear as if the device and its user are located in a different part of the world. This means that a user in Phoenix, Arizona can appear to the rest of the internet to be in Manchester in the U.K.
This “location-spoofing” ability is what makes a VPN such an excellent tool for unblocking geo-blocked content, like that which BBC iPlayer offers.
In this article, I’ll share with you how to use a VPN to access BBC iPlayer for free from the United States (or just about anywhere else for that matter). I’ll also provide information about the 5 most reliable VPN providers to use, as well as which channels and shows you can access by using a VPN.
How to Watch BBC iPlayer for Free Using a VPN
Using a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer from the U.S. for free requires just a few simple steps. They are as follows:
- Subscribe to a VPN provider capable of unblocking BBC iPlayer. (ExpressVPN is my #1 recommendation.)
- Install the provider’s VPN app on your device(s).
- Sign into the VPN service.
- Select a server located in the U.K.
- Connect to the BBC iPlayer website or run their app and start bingeing!
Important Note: Although access to the BBC iPlayer service is free, the site requires viewers to confirm they have a U.K. television license. The annual cost for a license is £154.50 ($195) for a color license and £52 ($65) for a black and white license. The fees generated from the licenses help fund the television, radio and online services of the BBC.
Luckily, paying the license fee is not actually required to access the BBC iPlayer service. Once you’ve used a VPN to gain access to the service, all you need to do is click “I have a TV licence” when the service prompts you.
One final note: when you sign up for a login to the BBC iPlayer website, you’ll be required to enter a U.K. postcode. You can use Google to find one, or you can use this U.K. postcode generator.
But how do you know which VPN you should subscribe to?
Best VPNs for Viewing BBC iPlayer from the States
After extensive testing of numerous VPN providers, the following 5 providers have proven to offer the best access to BBC iPlayer from the United States. Here’s a summary:
- ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN is the best way to open up access to your favorite BBC shows and movies. The provider offers reliable access to numerous streaming services around the globe, and its fast download speeds are an excellent way to stream HD and 4K content.
- NordVPN: This provider does an admirable job of unblocking streaming services, BBC iPlayer included. In addition, users on a budget will appreciate the low-priced, multi-year subscription that this provider offers.
- CyberGhost: New VPN users will appreciate this provider’s easy-to-use apps. Plus, fast download speeds and a BBC iPlayer-optimized server option make this VPN an excellent way to access your favorite BBC shows.
- PrivateVPN: This provider is a newcomer when compared to most of its competitors, but PrivateVPN has quickly earned a reputation for reliable access to numerous streaming services, BBC iPlayer included.
- Surfshark: This is another bargain-priced provider that provides fast connections. It should prove to be an attractive option for large families or businesses that require protection for multiple users at once, as it allows unlimited simultaneous connections.
When ranking the best VPNs to use to view BBC iPlayer from the United States, I considered the following factors:
- Servers located in the United Kingdom
- Reliably unblocks BBC iPlayer from the U.S.
- HD-capable download speeds
- No data caps or bandwidth limitations
- Level of security and privacy protections
- Comprehensive multi-platform support
Here is my list of the 5 best VPNs to use to watch BBC iPlayer for free from the U.S.:
ExpressVPN is the most reliable VPN for reliably unblocking access to BBC iPlayer from the United States or other locations outside of the United Kingdom.
The provider’s global server network includes over 3,000 servers, stationed in 160 locations in 94 countries around the world. 5 of those locations are inside the United Kingdom.
ExpressVPN’s connection speeds can easily handle the HD content that BBC iPlayer offers, and depending on your usual connection speeds, also up to delivering 4K content as it becomes available. There are never any bandwidth limitations or data caps imposed to spoil your viewing enjoyment.
Privacy is also a top priority with this provider, as it follows a strict no-logs policy on its servers and offers a Bitcoin payment option to protect your subscription payment information.
ExpressVPN has native apps for the Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, Amazon Fire, Chromebook and Linux platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are also available.
The provider’s MediaStreamer DNS service opens access to streaming services like BBC iPlayer for streaming boxes, smart TVs and game consoles, although it doesn’t encrypt your internet connection like their VPN offering does.
If you need to protect other connected devices, or if you need more than 5 concurrent connections, you can make use of the provider’s excellent router compatibility.
- Unblocks BBC iPlayer and other streaming services
- Comprehensive global server coverage, with servers inside the U.K.
- HD- and 4K-capable connections
- Excellent privacy and security protection
- Top-notch multi-platform app support
- More expensive than many competitors
BEST VPN FOR BBC iPLAYER:ExpressVPN is the best choice for opening access to BBC iPlayer from the U.S. and numerous other countries. The provider offers super fast connections, which are well-protected from prying eyes. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN made this list thanks to a low price that belies its high level of service. The provider offers excellent access to BBC iPlayer and other streaming services.
With over 5,300 servers in 58 countries around the world (with nearly 580 of those stationed in the U.K.), this service provides optimal access to content around the globe, including BBC iPlayer.
While NordVPN’s download speeds are the slowest in this lineup, the provider is by no means deficient in the speed category, delivering HD-capable speeds. No data caps or bandwidth limitations are to be found.
NordVPN keeps no logs of their users’ online travels and accepts cryptocurrency in return for their services. All of the above adds up to total privacy protection.
Native app support from NordVPN includes apps for the iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Android TV and Linux platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions protect your in-browser viewing sessions.
For other connected devices, or in case you need more than 6 concurrent connections, you can use the provider’s support for numerous router models to protect all of your devices via a single point of access.
- Plenty of servers located in the U.K.
- Excellent privacy protections
- 6 simultaneous connections
- Bargain price
- Slowest connection speeds in this roundup
BEST LOW PRICE VPN OPTION:NordVPN is the best VPN option for BBC iPlayer viewers on a budget. The provider’s excellent level of service is somewhat unexpected, considering their low price. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of NordVPN.
CyberGhost is an optimal choice for BBC iPlayer viewers looking for reliable VPN protection that’s easy to use, without a lot of mind-numbing options.
CyberGhost’s global server network is impressive, as it’s made up of over 5,600 servers stationed in 81 countries. Many of those servers are stationed in the U.K., and those include BBC iPlayer-optimized servers.
This provider’s connection speeds are some of the best in this roundup. HD streams begin playing almost immediately. Data caps and bandwidth limitations are never an issue with this provider.
Those speedy connections boast excellent protection, including bank-grade encryption, kill switch protections, and DNS leak and IPv6 leak prevention. Plus, the provider offers the ability to block ads, malicious websites and tracking, and can also force websites to serve up HTTPS versions of their pages if available.
Privacy is also well covered thanks to the provider’s no-logs server policy and their acceptance of Bitcoin.
CyberGhost’s app support includes options for the macOS, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire and Android TV device platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are available.
If you need to protect other devices or need more than 7 simultaneous connections, make use of the provider’s top-notch router support.
- Servers in 81 countries, streaming-optimized servers in the U.K.
- Excellent download speeds
- Reasonably priced
- Easy-to-use apps on all major platforms
- Advanced users may prefer more customization
EASY-TO-USE VPN OPTION:CyberGhost is the best option for BBC iPlayer viewers looking for an easy way to protect and enhance their online activities. The provider offers one-click access to streaming-optimized servers around the globe. A 45-day, no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of CyberGhost.
PrivateVPN snagged 4th place this time around thanks to its speedy connections and reliable access to BBC iPlayer servers.
Admittedly, a server count of 150+ servers spread thinly around 60 countries isn’t the most impressive. However, the few servers PrivateVPN has stationed inside the U.K. do a good job of unblocking BBC iPlayer streams.
PrivateVPN may lack a bit in the server department, but they score well in the connection speed column. The provider’s download speeds can easily handle both HD and 4K video streams. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about bandwidth restrictions or data caps of any kind.
Your online privacy is kept in place thanks to government-level encryption, kill switch protection, and IPv6 and DNS leak prevention. Plus, the provider’s proprietary “Stealth VPN” feature makes your VPN activity look like normal browser activity.
A no-server-logs policy and a Bitcoin payment option keep your privacy well in place.
App support is a bit limited, but it does cover the big 4 (iOS, Android, Windows and macOS). No browser extensions are available. PrivateVPN’s router compatibility will take care of the rest of your devices, or if you require more than 6 simultaneous connections.
- Reliable BBC iPlayer-unblocking
- Speedy downloads
- Up to 6 simultaneous connections
- Server numbers definitely need improvement
- Multi-platform support could also be much better
STEALTHY CONNECTIONS:PrivateVPN provides reliable access to BBC iPlayer on up to 6 devices at once. The provider’s impressive connection speeds mean the action will start playing immediately and there won’t be any mid-scene buffering issues. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of PrivateVPN.
Surfshark qualified for the final spot in this gang of 5 due to its reliable ability to unblock BBC iPlayer, as well as its somewhat unusual unlimited simultaneous connections allowance.
Surfshark’s global server coverage measures up fine, with 1,000+ servers in 60+ countries. While that’s somewhat below average when compared to many other providers, the service’s U.K. servers do a reliable job of unblocking BBC iPlayer.
This VPN’s connection speeds are more than up to keeping up with the HD content that the BBC offers. Plus, your streaming enjoyment is never hindered by data caps or bandwidth limitations.
In addition to military-grade encryption and the usual IPv6 and DNS leak prevention, the provider also protects you with the ability to block ads and trackers.
Your privacy is also well protected, as this VPN follows a strict no-logs policy, and a cryptocurrency payment option protects your payment privacy.
Surfshark covers most popular devices, with apps for the Android, iOS, macOS, Linux, Windows and Amazon Fire platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are available. The provider’s router compatibility will take care of all of your other connected devices.
Connect and protect as many devices as you’d like thanks to Surfshark’s total lack of a simultaneous device limit.
- Reliable global network provides BBC iPlayer connectivity
- No simultaneous connection limit
- Excellent security and privacy protection
- Lacks advanced options that some other providers offer
- 2nd-slowest download speeds in this roundup
PERFECT FOR FAMILIES:Surfshark is the best BBC iPlayer-unblocking option for users who require VPN protection for small businesses, large families or even good-sized towns. The provider also offers fast download speeds and excellent online protection. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of Surfshark.
What’s Available via BBC iPlayer?
The BBC and its associated channels offer a wide variety of content, ranging from hard news to dramas to comedies to soap operas to children’s programming. A large number of channels are available through the BBC iPlayer website and app.
- BBC One
- BBC Two
- BBC Three
- BBC Four
- BBC News
- BBC Scotland
- BBC Parliament
- BBC Alba
- Radio 1
Popular shows available on BBC iPlayer include:
- Killing Eve
- Top Gear
- Blue Planet 2
- Doctor Who
- RuPaul’s Drag Race UK
- Peaky Blinders
- Many, many more
Many of the above shows are available in the U.S. on the BBC America network, or via various streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. However, not all of the BBC shows are available in the states, or they are not available until long after they’ve aired and streamed in the U.K.
Can I Use a Free VPN to Watch BBC iPlayer?
While you might be able to make a free VPN service work to access BBC iPlayer content, I’m willing to bet that you won’t be pleased with the overall experience.
First, many freebie VPN providers offer a limited number of server options to their free users. And many of them will automatically connect you to a server of their choice. This makes it unlikely that you’ll connect to a VPN server anywhere near the U.K.
Plus, many gratis VPN providers will throttle their users’ internet speeds and place daily or monthly data caps on their usage.
Then, there is the subject of privacy and online security. Free VPN providers don’t do an acceptable job of protecting either one.
First, privacy. Guess how some “free” VPNs keep their lights on? They track their users’ online travels, save that valuable info into a big ol’ file, and then sell it to the highest bidder.
Plus, freebie VPNs have been known to inject unwanted advertisements and tracking cookies into their users’ browsing sessions. And, those tracking cookies stick around even after you’ve disconnected from the provider’s network.
So, if substandard performance and a lack of optimal privacy and security protections sound like a good deal, by all means, go for it. Otherwise, spring a few bucks on a reliable VPN. You’ll be happier if you do.
What Else Can I Do With A VPN?
In addition to unblocking BBC iPlayer and other popular streaming services around the globe, a VPN opens access to other online sites and services, and provides privacy and security protections.
A VPN also does a good job of preventing your ISP from throttling or blocking your connection simply because you’re engaging in online activities they don’t approve of, like P2P file sharing or streaming from certain streaming services.
A VPN also prevents hackers, your ISP and even your government from monitoring your online travels. It does this by encrypting your internet connection, placing it in an impenetrable tunnel of protection.
That encrypted connection comes in handy when you’re using the unprotected Wi-Fi hotspot down at the coffee shop, or when you’re in a hotel room. It prevents the hacker at the next table or room from monitoring your activities and stealing your important personal and business information.
BBC iPlayer offers some of the most admired and viewed TV shows and movies of any network around the world. There is no reason to allow a little thing like international borders to spoil your viewing enjoyment.
My #1 VPN choice, ExpressVPN, offers wide-ranging global server coverage, fast download speeds, and comprehensive privacy and security protections.
This makes the provider an excellent option for accessing BBC iPlayer content from the United States or anywhere else in the world. It also makes it the top choice for protecting and enhancing all of your other online activities.
For more information or to purchase a subscription, visit the ExpressVPN website.