BBC iPlayer is a free video- and audio-streaming service offered by the BBC. It allows viewers in the United Kingdom to catch up on the latest programs of the BBC network, including the popular Blue Planet 2 series.
Unfortunately, BBC iPlayer is available only to viewers located in the U.K.
While the BBC makes much of its programming available to other countries, such as the United States, via its internet, cable and satellite offerings, there’s still a large amount of BBC content that’s only available to viewers residing in the U.K.
Luckily, there’s an excellent tool available that can open up access to BBC iPlayer while abroad, as well as other types of blocked content, such as that provided by Netflix and other streaming services. That tool is a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
A VPN opens access to blocked content by temporarily assigning a connected device a new IP address, making it appear as if your device is physically located in another location, such as – you guessed it – the United Kingdom.
While using a VPN has long been a reliable method of unblocking content from geo-restricted providers like the BBC, streaming services have begun to catch onto the trick and have begun blocking VPN users from accessing their content streams.
That makes finding a reliable, streaming-capable VPN more important than ever.
In this article, I’ll share information with you about the 5 best VPNs to open up access to BBC iPlayer. I’ll be concentrating on what makes each VPN a reliable method of accessing BBC iPlayer from outside of the U.K.
In addition, I’ll also discuss the various other features that make a VPN an indispensable tool in your online arsenal.
How to Watch BBC iPlayer Using a VPN
Using a VPN to access BBC iPlayer entertainment from outside of the U.K. requires a few easy steps:
- Subscribe to a BBC iPlayer-capable VPN provider. (I recommend ExpressVPN.)
- Install the provider’s VPN app on your favorite device(s).
- Log into the VPN service.
- Select a server located in the U.K.
- Open the BBC iPlayer app or connect to their website and start bingeing!
But how do you know which VPN you should subscribe to?
Best VPNs for BBC iPlayer
I’ve put my favorite VPN providers through rounds of extensive testing, and the results show that the 5 VPN providers below are best VPNs for viewing BBC iPlayer content while outside of the U.K.:
- ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN is your best option for watching your favorite BBC shows when outside U.K. borders. The provider has a knack for unblocking geo-restricted streaming services, and BBC iPlayer is no exception.
- NordVPN: This provider is an excellent low-cost provider, and it does an admirable job of unblocking BBC iPlayer and other streaming services. Comprehensive multi-platform app support allows viewing on most popular devices.
- Surfshark: Low-priced Surfshark provides unlimited simultaneous connections, making it the best choice for large families or small businesses. Does a good job of unblocking BBC iPlayer and other services.
- CyberGhost: This provider is a great option for first-time VPN users. Works well with BBC iPlayer and other streaming services, like Netflix.
- PrivateVPN: While this provider hasn’t been around as long as its competitors, it’s quickly gaining a reputation as a reliable, streaming-compatible VPN. While the company’s global server coverage could use work, its connection speeds are impressive.
When ranking the best VPNs to use to watch BBC iPlayer content from outside U.K. borders, I considered the following factors:
- Servers located in the United Kingdom
- Works to unblock BBC iPlayer for users outside of the U.K.
- Provides fast, HD-capable connection speeds
- Imposes no data caps or bandwidth limitations
- Excellent multi-platform support
Here is my list of the 5 best VPNs for watching BBC iPlayer:
ExpressVPN is your #1 best option for reliably unblocking BBC iPlayer from outside the United Kingdom. The provider also offers access to numerous other streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.
The provider currently has 3,000+ servers stationed in 160 locations in 94 countries around the globe. 7 of those server farms are located in the United Kingdom.
ExpressVPN-provided connection speeds easily have enough horsepower to smoothly stream the high-definition content that the BBC provides. If you’re planning on bingeing your favorite series, no worries, as ExpressVPN never limits their users’ bandwidth or ever puts a data cap on their VPN usage.
Security is a top priority at ExpressVPN. The provider’s connections are protected with military-grade encryption and a kill switch.
Privacy is also job one, as ExpressVPN keeps no logs of any kind connected to a customer’s online activities and offers a Bitcoin subscription payment option.
Since BBC iPlayer is available on most popular devices, extensive multi-platform support is a must for any VPN provider worth your consideration. ExpressVPN’s native app support includes apps for iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Amazon Fire TV, Kindle Fire, Chromebook and Linux devices.
BBC viewers who prefer to use their browser to view the service can use ExpressVPN’s Safari, Firefox and Chrome extensions to protect their viewing sessions.
The VPN’s MediaStreamer DNS service allows game console and streaming boxes to access BBC iPlayer. (However, this service does not encrypt your connection like the provider’s full-blown VPN service does.)
While ExpressVPN allows only 3 simultaneous connections on a single account, it does offer expansive router support, which allows you to protect all of your connected devices via a single connection.
- Reliably unblocks BBC iPlayer and other streaming services
- Global server coverage includes numerous choices inside the U.K.
- HD-capable connections
- Optimal privacy and security protections
- Impressive multi-platform app support
- Concurrent connections limited to 3
BEST VPN FOR BBC iPLAYER:ExpressVPN is my top choice for a reliable tool for opening access to BBC iPlayer content when you’re traveling outside of the United Kingdom. The provider also does an excellent job of protecting your identity, both online and off. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN easily snagged 2nd place in this lineup thanks to a low price, top-notch native app support and a plentiful number of servers located in the U.K. The provider also delivers access to Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Netflix.
The provider has over 5,100 servers placed in 60 countries around the world, with a plentiful number of those being located within the borders of the U.K. Check NordVPN’s BBC iPlayer info page for their recommended BBC iPlayer-capable servers.
NordVPN offers speedy connections, quickly delivering smooth HD streams from the BBC iPlayer service. Those connections have no bandwidth limitations or data caps imposed upon them.
The provider’s connections are secured via 256-bit encryption, and a kill switch option ensures your online activities will never be exposed if you lose your connection to the provider.
Privacy isn’t a worry if you subscribe to NordVPN, as the service keeps no logs of their customers’ internet activities and accepts cryptocurrencies as payment for subscriptions.
Native apps are available for the Android, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android TV and Linux platforms. Meanwhile, Chrome and Firefox users can make use of handy browser extensions.
If you have devices not covered by NordVPN’s app support, you can take advantage of their support for numerous router makes and models to protect all of your connected devices via a single connection.
That router support also comes in handy if you need more than the 6 concurrent connections that the provider allows.
- Servers in 60 countries, including the U.K.
- HD-capable speeds
- 256-bit encryption and kill switch protection
- Low price
- The app interface needs improvement
BEST BARGAIN VPN:NordVPN is the best VPN for BBC iPlayer fans looking for reliable BBC iPlayer access without breaking the bank. The provider has multiple BBC iPlayer-ready servers in the U.K. and also unblocks other streaming services. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of NordVPN.
Surfshark took the 5th and final spot in this roundup thanks to its ability to unblock BBC iPlayer, its unlimited simultaneous connections allowance and its excellent privacy and security protections.
While global server coverage of over 500 servers in 50+ countries is somewhat below average, the provider’s U.K.-based servers do a good job of unblocking BBC iPlayer.
Surfshark’s connections easily keep up with the HD content that the BBC supplies. It also does a good job of keeping up with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other streaming services.
The provider’s connections are never hindered by Surfshark-imposed data caps or bandwidth limitations.
The connections are protected by high-level encryption, and the provider also offers kill switch and ad-blocking protection.
Your privacy is well-protected with this provider, as the firm keeps no logs of their users’ online activities and accepts various forms of cryptocurrency in return for their services.
Surfshark should have your device needs covered, as it offers native app support for the iOS, Android, Linux, Windows, macOS and Fire TV platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser users can make use of the provider’s extensions.
If you have a device that isn’t covered, you can make use of the provider’s router compatibility to protect all of your devices as soon as they connect to your network.
You can connect as many devices simultaneously as you’d like thanks to Surfshark’s unlimited simultaneous connections allowance.
- U.K. servers provide reliable BBC iPlayer connectivity
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Top-notch privacy protection
- Global server coverage could stand improvement
- Connection speeds could be faster
PERFECT FOR FAMILIES:Surfshark is the best BBC iPlayer-unblocking option for users with large families due to its unlimited simultaneous connections allowance. The provider’s top-notch security and privacy protections give its users peace of mind. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of Surfshark.
CyberGhost is my #3 choice for best BBC iPlayer VPN due to its blazing-fast download speeds and generous simultaneous connections allotment.
CyberGhost has 3,700+ servers in 60 countries. Many of those servers are located in the U.K., and a large number of those are streaming-optimized. (Windows users can select a U.K. streaming server with a single click.)
The servers also do an admirable job of unblocking streams from Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix.
CyberGhost offers the fastest connection speeds in this top 5. BBC iPlayer’s high-definition streams began playing almost instantly during testing.
And you can binge to your heart’s content, as you’ll never have to worry about this provider imposing data caps or bandwidth limitations on your use.
The VPN provides military-grade encryption and kill switch protection to keep your online travels incognito.
Your privacy is in safe hands with CyberGhost, as the provider has a strict no-logs policy when it comes to tracking its users’ online activity, and they accept Bitcoin, so your payment info is kept secret, too.
The provider delivers apps for the Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV and Amazon Fire TV platforms. Browser extensions are available for Chrome and Firefox.
For devices not on the above list, or if you need more than the 7 simultaneous connections that CyberGhost allows, you can take advantage of the provider’s excellent router support.
- Servers in 60 countries, with numerous streaming servers in the U.K.
- Top connection speeds on this list
- Value pricing
- Online security protection second to none
- Simplistic controls might not be a good fit for advanced users
STREAMING-OPTIMIZED CONNECTIONS:CyberGhost is the best option for BBC iPlayer fans who are in the market for the fastest connections available. Streaming-optimized servers are available in the U.K. 45-day, no-risk money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of CyberGhost.
PrivateVPN’s 4th-place finish is thanks to their speedy connections and its reliable access to BBC iPlayer and other popular streaming services.
While PrivateVPN’s server count of 150+ servers in 60 countries isn’t very impressive, they did do a decent job of spreading them around the globe. They have about 6 servers located in the U.K.
PrivateVPN has some of the fastest connection speeds around, providing plenty of speed for BBC iPlayer’s HD streams (and even the 4K streams that providers like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime offer).
The provider imposes no data caps or bandwidth restrictions on their customers’ connections.
Those speedy connections are well-protected by 256-bit encryption and a kill switch, ensuring your online travels will be kept secret.
A strict no-logs policy and a Bitcoin payment option means your privacy is completely protected.
Apps are available for the macOS, iOS, Android and Windows platforms. Plus, users can take advantage of PrivateVPN’s router compatibility if they need to protect other devices, or if the provider’s 6 simultaneous connection limit begins to chafe.
- Reliable BBC iPlayer access
- Fast connection speeds
- Allows up to 6 simultaneous connections
- Server numbers very low
- Multi-platform support needs to be expanded
IMPRESSIVE CONNECTION SPEEDS:PrivateVPN reliably unblocks BBC iPlayer on up to 6 devices at once. The provider’s impressive connection speeds mean you’ll never have to wait long for the action to start. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of PrivateVPN.
How Do I Access BBC iPlayer With a VPN?
In addition to using a VPN, there are a few other steps you need to take to be allowed access to BBC iPlayer content.
While access to the BBC iPlayer website is free, as of September 2016, the site requires viewers to have a U.K. television license. The site also requires viewers to enter a U.K. postcode.
Luckily, once you’ve fired up your VPN and made it appear that you’re connecting from within the United Kingdom, you can simply click “I have a TV licence” when prompted.
As for the postcode, you can easily Google those, or if you’re really lazy, use this U.K. postcode generator.
Can I Use a Free VPN to Watch BBC iPlayer?
The answer is a qualified “maybe.” But even if you do find a free VPN that works to unblock BBC iPlayer, I assure you that you won’t be happy with the experience.
First of all, you’ll find that many free VPNs will throttle your internet connection, making it possibly unsuitable for streaming high-definition streams like those that BBC iPlayer provides.
You may also have to wait awhile before the entertainment begins. Some free VPNs will force their users to sit in a queue, where they wait until a slot becomes available on one of the few servers the provider designates for free users.
Once you’re allowed to connect, you may find that you don’t have a choice as to which server you’re allowed to use. That server may not be in the U.K. If it’s not in the U.K., then it won’t help you unblock BBC iPlayer.
Privacy is not a priority when it comes to free VPNs. Many “free” VPNs make money by selling information about their users. They log their users’ online activities, then sell the information to interested third parties, such as advertisers.
“Free” providers have also been known to inject unwanted ads and tracking cookies into their users’ browsing sessions. UGH!
You are certainly welcome to try a free VPN. I mean, what’s the worse thing that can happen? You lose all of your online privacy. No big deal, right? (Where’s the sarcasm button on this thing?)
What Else Can I Do With A VPN?
In addition to opening up access to BBC iPlayer and other geographically-blocked streaming services, a VPN can also open up access to online gaming servers and other content and websites you might not normally have access to.
You can also use a VPN to prevent your ISP from throttling your internet connection simply because of the online activity you’re engaging in.
A VPN also keeps your ISP, the government, hackers and other interested third parties from monitoring your online activities. It does this by encasing your internet connection in an encrypted tunnel, preventing anyone from getting a peek at your online travels.
An encrypted connection really comes in handy when you’re connecting to the internet through a public Wi-Fi connection, such as the one your favorite coffee shop supplies.
The BBC offers some of the best entertainment to be found anywhere, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to enjoy it, no matter where you are.
A VPN like ExpressVPN – which offers comprehensive global server coverage, speedy connections and top-notch privacy protections – is an excellent way to access BBC iPlayer content from anywhere around the world, while also protecting your other online activities.
For more information or to purchase a subscription, visit the ExpressVPN website.