Updated May 2021
Many people use VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) for security reasons, primarily because they create a secure, encrypted tunnel across the open architecture of the internet. Many firms use them as a secure method of allowing remote users to access corporate file servers and email systems from anywhere in the world. It has to be said that if you travel for any length of time, it’s probably one of the smartest moves you can make for keeping your data secure.
However there is another use of VPNs and it’s arguably becoming the primary reason and that’s to bypass internet censorship and filtering. This is a huge problem and one that you will find exists on many levels. At a country level – filtering used to be relatively rare, with only places like China, Iran and North Korea who did any serious censorship.
BBC iPlayer not working with VPN? Here’s the fix!
However now there’s rarely a country in the world that doesn’t censor their internet feeds to some extent. In many countries there are literally hundreds of thousands of web pages that are not accessible due to some sort of filtering. Countries like Turkey enforce their religious beliefs by blocking all sorts of sites including women and gay rights web sites.
On another level companies and corporations are increasingly blocking access mainly as a profit maximization technique. What happens in this case is that access is selectively restricted based on your physical location. This means you might find that parts of a web site are only accessible in particular countries and you’ll be blocked if you’re actually outside those locations. So if you’ve tried to watch Hulu from outside the US then you’ll have seen these blocks and similarly try and access the BBC from outside the UK and the same thing will happen.
In this post we’re going to focus on using a VPN to unblock BBC iPlayer although the principles apply to almost any blocked content online. Once you’re comfortable using a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer you’ll find yourself using it more and more to access other sites and TV shows.
The BBC iPlayer VPN Workaround Still Works in 2021
What’s more they’re becoming very easy to use. A simple VPN program in your task bar allows you to bypass pretty much all blocks online, whenever you need. That includes both commercial and political filtering and lets you watch most entertainment channels including British TV. This is because the website you visit only sees the IP address and location of the VPN server not your real one. So if you’re connected to a VPN in the right country you can access whatever you like including allowing you to access BBC iPlayer anywhere in the world.
Indeed, millions watch the BBC from all over the world using a simple VPN to hide their location. If you go to any expat community you’ll find lots of VPNs which still work with BBC iPlayer. Indeed the BBC iPlayer VPN workaround is well known. Unfortunately things are beginning to change and the technology war between the web site and the VPN service providers has started to escalate.
Over the last few months for example the BBC have started blocking VPN connections from accessing the BBC iPlayer application outside the UK.
This is significant as up until this point, the BBC have made very minimal effort to restrict the use of these programs. Many millions used them routinely, connecting to UK servers to watch British TV online wherever they happened to be. It’s no understatement that there was some element of panic when it was initially discovered BBC iPlayer not working! Many people had been using their favorite VPNs for lots of streaming services. It affected lots of people using all sorts of VPN providers. A friend of mine was upset when he found Express VPN had stopped being able to stream BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and other UK TV channels too.
We’re Still Watching BBC iPlayer Abroad, You Can Too
There is still some hope though, mainly because it is still extremely difficult to completely block access to VPNs completely. Also companies involved in this tactic tend to make aggressive noises initially then stop, it looks like BBC iPlayer blocking VPN might be one of them, simply because of the cost and effort it involves.
The Chinese after all have not yet succeeded in completely blocking them through their infamous firewall. The reality is that although many of these media companies can block access through VPNs it is actually quite a difficult process which involves a lot of manual intervention. The best VPNs actually still work fine for unblocking BBC iPlayer.
There are potentially ways that VPNs could be completely blocked for example by restricting access based on the classification of IP addresses. This has already been implemented once and stopped the Netflix VPN workaround for some time. However as Netflix discovered there is inevitably some impact on other users too. The problem for the companies trying to block these workarounds is that people watch media streams on all sorts of different devices from lots of locations.
How Does BBC Know I Am Using VPN?
A well configured VPN is still pretty much undetectable, so they instead focus on identifying IP addresses with multiple concurrent connections. This is very time consuming and also unreliable as often legitimate proxies in various establishments will look pretty much identical. It’s even harder to identify people accessing through other methods like the BBC iPlayer app too. They still actively do block though, and you’ll find BBC iPlayer only works with the better VPNs who are able to rotate addresses and don’t stick everyone on a few dedicated IP addresses which never change.
After all if a single IP address has 5000 connections streaming different programmes from the BBC, then it’s not hard to suspect that a proxy or VPN is being used.
If a VPN provider has plenty of servers in the UK and ensures that the IP addresses are rotated regularly then you won’t have a problem. For instance Nord VPN have created a set of servers specifically for being able to stream BBC iPlayer.
It’s worth checking the latest servers but currently these are the BBC optimized VPN servers to use – UK# 1840-1847, 1850-1863, 1865, 1869, 1873, 1875-1878, 1880-1881, 1900-1901, 1903-1904, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1919-1920.
The VPN is still one of the most useful internet tools especially for travelers, holiday makers and expats. The only company which has managed to block the majority of access is the media streaming giant Netflix. What this company has done is to restrict access from any server with a commercially registered IP address. This blocked a huge proportion (over 95%) of VPN services with only a few having the ability to use residential addresses. You can read about one company that has bypassed this issue here – supplying Netflix IP addresses. It is unclear whether other companies will follow suit to this method or they are simply evaluating the success of the method.
Give it a try and watch the BBC iPlayer from Anywhere
Some Further BBC iPlayer VPN FAQS
We try and keep this page updated as the situation changes quite often. Here are a couple we’ve received in 2021 and willl attempt to briefly answer them below. Hopefully this will help other people too.
Is BBC iPlayer Not Working with your VPN ?
Although the VPN workaround is fine in 2021, there’s many VPNs which won’t work anymore. If the company has too many users on each IP address or overloads it’s servers then they’ll get blocked. Not all VPN companies monitor these things, so you should move if your provider doesn’t support sites like the BBC.
The Best VPNs for BBC iPlayer (2021)
This changes all the time but there are a few who actively try to ensure access to BBC iPlayer. NordVPN are one of the biggest, and as long as you use their BBC optimized servers should work fine. If you’re unsure just email support, no decent VPN will openly advertise this functionality but many do.
Is there a Free VPN for BBC iPlayer ?
There are free VPNs but unfortunately none that will currently work for accessing the BBC iPlayer from abroad. The problem is that the servers are usually overloaded and the IP addresses already blacklisted. If you don’t mind letting others use your internet connection, the Hola VPN might work occasionally.