As many of us probably know it’s kind of difficult to enjoy British television stations outside the UK. Sure, pretty much everything from the major broadcasters is streamed online but by default all these sites block access to anyone based abroad. That’s everyone, it doesn’t matter if you’re a premium subscriber or have been paying for your UK TV license for years. If you’re physically outside the United Kingdom then you won’t be able to access sites like the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub or All Four. It’s hugely frustrating that all these channels are available online yet watching UK TV abroad is not technically allowed. You can’t even download the software to play them – try to access BBC iPlayer or the ITV Hub from the app store and you’ll not be allowed either.
Of course, restrictions like this don’t often stand unchallenged online and fortunately there’s several ways to bypass them. It’s fairly straight forward and indeed millions of people use these ‘workarounds’ all over the world. What’s more it works with just about every country restricted site too, including sites like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and virtually every media site. The method
To enforce these rather ridiculous blocks the technology used is called geo-targeting. This involves looking up where your IP address is registered and then applying a rule based on the location. It could sometimes be routed through to an appropriate language version but more often that not it simply blocks access. It happens across all sorts of channel both free and premium ones. Here’s me getting blocked from my beloved Britbox subscription simply because I was in the wrong country at the time.
Here’s a current list of the most popular UK TV sites which are restricted when you leave the United Kingdom. Some access was allowed in the European Union because of the EU digital rules, however this finished when Britain left the community at the beginning of 2021.
- BBC iPlayer – including all the BBC TV sites and some of the radio channels.
- ITV – ITV Hub was accessible in EU but finished 1/1/21.
- Channel 4 – All 4
- Channel 5 – My 5
- Sky TV – Sky GO access was allowed in EU but that finished 1/1/21 when Britain left.
- Now TV – access restricted outside the UK.
- BT/BT Sport – access restricted outside UK.
Basically every decent UK station including subscription and free to air channels now won’t work outside the United Kingdom.
It seems rather old fashioned and backward for a global communication network like the internet. Yet it happens all the time and on all sorts of platforms. Of course, it’s worse for some people than others but happens in every country on the planet to some extent. It seems especially bizarre for subscription channels that you actually pay for like Britbox or Sky Go.
How People Watch UK TV Abroad – Using a VPN to Stay Hidden
VPN services are a relatively recent tool but something which has become increasingly important for people who use the internet a lot. It stands for virtual private network and is essentially an encrypted tunnel between your computer/device and a secure managed server. It’s prime purpose is security, it ensures everything you online is protected by the encryption. However it also provides another level of privacy – by hiding your location and identity from the websites and servers you use online. Instead of seeing how you are and where you’re logging in from, only the VPN server is visible.
This facility to basically hide and change your real location has spawned a huge market for VPN services all over the world. For instance anyone who wants to watch British TV online from outside the United Kingdom simply has to use a VPN. As long as they connect to a server based in the UK then they are able to watch any TV channel they like. So for example normally you can’t watch BBC iPlayer or ITV Player online as soon as you step outside Britain, however with a VPN service it doesn’t matter. You can essentially watch TV online from any country you want and use any streaming service in any country anywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter where your internet connection originates from only the location of the VPN servers that you connect to.
Sounds complicated but it really isn’t – here’s a quick demonstration on how to use a UK VPN to watch British TV content..
Here’s my favorite the best VPN for most of use – a great combination of speed, value and fantastic support with a money back guarantee too. I use it primarily for the BBC iPlayer to watch Match of the Day and to watch BBC News. Remember speed is important too especially if you want to watch full ultra HD or HD streaming using the connection.
However sometimes a VPN is not the right solution for bypassing these blocks and enabling TV channels like these. For example you can’t always install VPN software on some network enabled devices like Smart TVs or media streamers. However there is another option, which although has less security is useful in many situations.
How to Watch UK TV Abroad Free Online Without VPN Services
So what do you do if you don’t or can’t use a VPN, is there an option to use something else to hide your location? Well for many years people did use something called proxies which worked in similar way to a VPN without the encrypted layer. You could certainly use a UK based proxy for watching UK TV and other streaming services too. However those days are long gone, most proxy servers are detected by the TV and media sites very easily and will rarely work. It’s probably about 5 or 6 years since you could use a proxy to watch most of the major UK TV channels or TV services.
The latest solution is actually something called Smart DNS which is kind of a combination of a VPN and a proxy server. It still hides your location but doesn’t route all your connection through an intermediate server. It’s also important to remember that Smart DNS doesn’t encrypt your connection in any way so is of limited value as a security system.
There are however two advantages to using Smart DNS solutions particularly to watch UK TV channels and other TV streams.
- Faster as it doesn’t route your entire connection through an external VPN server
- Easy to set up, the system works through DNS so you only need to change the DNS servers
The speed difference can be significant in some situations as the majority of traffic is routed directly to your device after the initial connection phase. The setup just involves pointing your DNS settings at the Smart DNS servers, which is usually possible through the network connection settings on most devices. There’s no requirement for any software to be installed to make this works.
It’s become so useful that the biggest VPN services like Nord now supply a Smart DNS service included. For example you can use Smart DNS service as part of your NordVPN subscription at no extra charge when required. However if you think Smart DNS might be enough for you on it’s own perhaps just to access a particular streaming service like BBC News then here’s a free trial option.
It’s a Smart DNS service which works with the vast majority of streaming services and has a 14 day free trial which you can try out for nothing. What’s more there’s no credit card requirement so there’s no risk of testing the technology entirely without risk.