BBC iPlayer launched in 2007 and is the British Broadcasting Corporation’s streaming service. It has a good mix of live TV, sporting events, movies and on-demand shows, allowing you to enjoy your favorite ones while on the go. If you’re out of the UK, though, you’ll need to use one of our best VPN for BBC iPlayer picks to access it.
The BBC is a popular television network for the British audience. It has a vast array of content, including documentaries, drama, sports and news, to name a few. With lots of people cord-cutting or needing an on-the-go streaming solution, it made sense for the network to introduce its very own online streaming platform.
You can watch all of the BBC’s channels online, but BBC iPlayer gives flexibility to people who aren’t able to watch a show when it’s being broadcast. Nearly all of the programs are available to watch on-demand for a while after broadcast. It also gives you access to live events, exclusive material and some content from the BBC archives.
However, anything broadcast by the BBC is meant for British eyes only, or at least UK residents, and you’re technically meant to buy a TV license to watch it on cable or online. That gives you a couple of small hurdles to jump over before you can get access.
If you’re in a hurry to get that BBC One live stream outside the UK, though, ExpressVPN is the best VPN choice for getting into the service.
Best VPNs for BBC iPlayer
- Hotspot Shield
What Makes a VPN the Best for BBC iPlayer
There are a few criteria to keep in mind when choosing the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer. Many of the providers in our best VPN reviews have great features, but that doesn’t mean they’re capable of accessing the platform, as well as performing well once connected. The following criteria set a benchmark for possible VPN choices.
Getting Past Geoblocks
Making sure the VPN can get into BBC iPlayer is a top priority. If it can’t do that, then there’s no point in choosing it. Streaming platforms are often intelligent enough to detect when you’re using a VPN, but there are some that can go unnoticed.
Thankfully, though, it’s not as hard of a task as getting past the Netflix ban (read our best VPN for Netflix piece for help on that).
All of the VPNs we’ve chosen can get into BBC iPlayer, though with some, you may need to play around with different servers before gaining access. You’ll also need to make sure that the VPN has servers within the UK, too. Some may offer a dedicated IP address at an extra charge, but it may prove to be more reliable (read our best VPN for dedicated IPs piece if that’s something you’re interested in).
A VPN’s speeds are important for streaming. If it’s slow, you’re not going to have a great experience with the long loading times and annoying buffering. Not all of our picks are the fastest VPN services you can get, but they’re still good enough for binge-watching.
You should not overlook the VPN’s bandwidth allowance. It’s beneficial to choose one that comes with unlimited bandwidth because if you pick one that has a limit, you’ll be forever keeping an eye on it. Once you reach the limit, the VPN will stop working and you’ll be left wondering what happened at the end of Dr. Who.
Ease of Use
The VPN’s user-friendliness is important, especially if you’re a newbie. A simple interface with a quick-connect button is great, but because you’ll need a UK server, you’ll also want to be able to easily select a specific server. If you’re a bit more technical, you might want a VPN with some settings to tinker with.
Though there are some great choices out there, you’ll have to pay if you want all the bells and whistles included with a VPN service. Plus, some free VPNs aren’t a good idea, as you can read in our worst free VPN piece. Prices, discounts and subscription terms vary with each provider, though, so you should choose one that you feel comfortable with.
Our regular readers will probably have guessed that ExpressVPN would be the top contender of all the VPN providers for BBC iPlayer, especially as it’s our overall best VPN for streaming.
It can break through BBC iPlayer’s barriers without issue and in multiple regions. Plus, it has many servers to choose from within the UK, giving you a chance to try different UK IP addresses for access.
If you don’t want to download the app and prefer to stream from the browser, Express VPN is one of the best VPN for Chrome picks, so you could say it’s the best VPN for BBC iPlayer Chrome.
Its speeds are the fastest we’ve tested, as you can read in our ExpressVPN review, meaning you can watch without interruption in full HD and 4K. It also comes with unlimited bandwidth, so your popcorn time won’t be cut short.
It’s a great choice for beginners, as it’s one of the easiest VPNs to use, but tech-minded people can play around with the settings, as well. There’s a large “connect” button in the center of the interface, but you can easily pick a specific server by clicking the “choose location” button, too.
A downside to ExpressVPN is its price. It’s pretty expensive compared to other VPNs, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. You get a whole package of beneficial features, as well as an easy way into BBC iPlayer. You can save money by opting for a longer plan, plus, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
- Multiple UK servers
- Fast speeds
- Easy to use
Another decent choice is NordVPN. It’s able to easily unblock BBC iPlayer, though you may need to try a few different servers for the best performance.
Once you pick a good server, though, you’ll have a good experience, as you can see in our best VPN for Amazon Prime Video piece. You can read more about our streaming experience in our NordVPN review.
Although it does have fast speeds, certain servers are slower, especially those that are further away. So, if you’re in, say, Australia, you might find your speeds dip a little. It’s easy to select a particular server, though, and there are almost 600 to choose from in the UK. Plus, there’s no bandwidth limit to get frustrated at, and it’s easy to use.
NordVPN may be a better choice if your wallet is spitting dust. Its monthly price isn’t great, but longer plans work out pretty good overall. If you’re worried about committing for such a long period, though, there’s a 30-day refund window in place.
- Almost 600 UK servers
- Fast on certain servers
- Inexpensive on long-term plans
- Can be slow over long distances
Next up we have CyberGhost. It has servers dedicated to streaming platforms and can get into BBC iPlayer without a hitch. It has a massive server count (5,600 at the time of writing), so it was no surprise to see that nearly 500 of them were located in the UK.
It has decent speeds but, as you can read in our CyberGhost review, it can suffer from the same long-distance dips that NordVPN does. There are no bandwidth caps to worry about, though, and it has an easy-to-use interface. Selecting which server you want to connect with it easy, especially as you could just choose one that is specifically for BBC iPlayer.
One thing to note, though, is that with CyberGhost’s great security, you get a permanently enabled kill switch. A kill switch will sever your connection if the VPN fails, which is good, but in the case of streaming, you may find that you’re suddenly interrupted while watching BBC iPlayer.
The monthly rate isn’t good, but longer plans work out cheaper in the end. There’s a free trial, but you only get one day on desktop, whereas mobile devices get seven days. There’s also a money-back guarantee with standard subscriptions (find out how to get a CyberGhost refund).
- Almost 500 UK servers
- Dedicated streaming servers
- Can be slow
You can also use Windscribe to stream BBC iPlayer. It has paid Windflix servers that are built for streaming, but in our testing for our Windscribe review, we found that we were able to access BBC iPlayer on its free servers, making it possibly the best free VPN for BBC iPlayer.
You get access to UK servers with the free plan, so you can play around a bit if you do have any trouble. The plan you choose in the end will really depend on what features you want to have included with it.
Its free plan is generous, even taking the title for the best free VPN, but it obviously doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles.
For instance, both the free plan and the paid Pro plan get unlimited simultaneous connections, but the free plan is limited to 2GB per month of bandwidth. There are ways to increase that, though, without needing to jump straight into the full paid option.
For one, if you enter a valid email at signup, you’ll automatically be given 10GB instead of the 2GB, but through its “build a plan” feature, you can add countries, including individual Windflix server locations. For each server you add, you’ll get a further 10GB of data, or you can add on the unlimited data option for an extra $1.
Its speeds are ok and fine for streaming, but others are faster. Beginners will like its simple interface. It’s easy to see where you need to be, and you can pick a server without difficulty.
If you decide to go for the paid plan, the monthly price isn’t the best option. Longer plans save you money in the end. There’s no refund policy, but if you ask for a refund within three days of purchase, they’ll issue one.
- Generous free plan that can get into BBC iPlayer
- Unlimited connections
- Dedicated streaming servers
- Expensive full plans
- A bit slow
ProtonVPN is a good service that’s only let down by a few features. It’s able to get into BBC iPlayer without an issue, but its speeds affect performance. They’re not slow, but they’re not very fast either.
While testing for our ProtonVPN review, we found that BBC iPlayer took forever to load. That may depend on the server you’re on, though, so you might want to have a play around. It has servers in the UK, but you can only get access to them if you’re on the top-tier plans.
All plans include unlimited bandwidth, though, including its free plan. That said, the free plan will only let you access servers in the U.S., Japan and the Netherlands, so it’s not an option for BBC iPlayer. The UK servers are available on all the remaining plans, but each comes with its own benefits, too.
The Basic plan gives you two connections. The Plus plan comes with five connections and the use of its Secure Core, streaming and Tor servers. The Plus plan’s fair price and benefits make it a more popular option, especially as the top Visionary plan bumps the price up way too high.
Plus, with the top plan, you only get 10 connections and the use of an encrypted email service, and that does not justify the price hike. You’d be far better off going instead for our first pick, ExpressVPN.
Despite there being a free plan that you could technically use to try the service, there is still a 30-day refund window in place, for extra peace of mind.
- Gets into BBC iPlayer easily
- Unlimited bandwidth with any plan
- Fair price if you choose the right plan
- Limited customer support
- Hard to set up alternate VPN protocols
- No automatic protection for WiFi
Our next pick is Ivacy. It’s a good pick for an inexpensive streaming VPN, but there are some annoyances you’ll have to put up with if you choose it. For example, it is capable of getting into BBC iPlayer, and it has a dedicated list of streaming server, but they don’t always work on the first try, as you can read in our Ivacy review.
Still, it has 58 UK servers, so you can bounce around on those until you get the best experience. Its speeds are impressive but, like the streaming servers, they’re inconsistent. You do get unlimited bandwidth, though.
Its interface is a strange one. It looks like it’s simple to use, but in reality, you have to jump through some hoops to get things set up. Once you get the hang of it, you should be fine, and its streaming servers are all in one tab.
Its price is fair, and lengthier subscriptions work out better in the long run. A 30-day money-back guarantee is in place, but if you choose the monthly plan, you’ll only have a one-week refund window.
- Dedicated streaming servers
- 58 UK servers
- Streaming servers don’t always work
- Inconsistent speeds
VyprVPN is up next. It’s a good VPN, notably for its security, but it has some great streaming qualities about it, too. In our VyprVPN review, you’ll notice that it was able to get into all streaming services right off the bat.
Its proprietary Chameleon protocol is at the ready to help you access BBC iPlayer, as it conceals the fact that you’re even using a VPN, but in our testing, we didn’t need it. The UK servers are at the ready, and BBC iPlayer can be accessed without issue.
That said, there are some areas that let VyprVPN down. Its speeds aren’t the best, but to be fair, it didn’t let us down in streaming performance. Plus, if you run into any issues, its customer service is a little slow and the live chat is manned by an AI representative. You get unlimited bandwidth and an easy interface to play with, though.
VyprVPN’s pricing will depend on the plan that you choose. The Standard plan comes with three connections, while the Premium plan comes with five connections and the use of its Chameleon protocol.
Plus, you can choose either the monthly or yearly subscription. The yearly one makes it more affordable, though. A 30-day money-back guarantee is in place, too.
- Accesses BBC iPlayer easily
- Chameleon protocol
- Consistent performance
- Can be slow
8. Hotspot Shield
Our last pick is Hotspot Shield because its service has some questionable aspects. It has servers in the UK, and during testing for our Hotspot Shield review, it was able to get into BBC iPlayer.
Its proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol focuses mainly on getting a fast connection. However, while the figures we were getting back looked excellent, it didn’t feel that way. On many occasions, it took a few lengthy tries to get connected to a server, and the actual speeds were inconsistent.
You get unlimited bandwidth, and there is a free plan that gives you 500MB of data per day. However, you only have access to a handful of U.S. servers, meaning you won’t be able to access BBC iPlayer.
Its interface has a good layout, and it’s easy to use. The settings menu makes it simple to configure the VPN to your own preferences, too.
Hotspot Shield’s pricing is standard for a VPN, but you can save money by choosing a longer subscription. As for a refund policy, it’s not directly advertised on the website, but when we looked through the FAQ, we saw that you can request one within 45 days by contacting customer support.
- Fast speeds on paper
- Good interface
- Inconsistent performance
- Free plan only has U.S. servers
BBC iPlayer Geoblocks
Geoblocks are one of the hurdles you’ll have to get past, and they are a pretty common issue. Most streaming services have regional restrictions in place because of copyright and license agreements. For that reason, you’ll need to connect to BBC iPlayer with a UK IP address.
If you try to connect from any other country, you’ll get an error message saying “BBC iPlayer only works in the UK. Sorry, it’s due to rights issues.”
That’s when a virtual private network can help. It’ll help you spoof your location, making you look like you’re accessing BBC iPlayer from the UK. All you have to do is use the VPN to choose a UK IP address before you open the BBC iPlayer app. There are other benefits, too, such as security and privacy.
Plus, because the BBC is funded through the license fee that UK households pay, you may need to “confirm” that you have one. A notice may pop up saying that a TV license is required to get access, but you can simply click “I have a TV license” and access the platform. You don’t need to provide evidence of having a Britain TV license.
If you’re asked to enter a postcode — the UK equivalent of a zip code — just enter any UK postcode that you can find on Google. You’ll be fine, provided that you’re connected to a UK server.
BBC Streaming Plans
Previously, any program on BBC iPlayer was only available for 30 days. In August 2019, though, Ofcom approved the BBC’s plans to keep programs on there for one year or more.
Plus, the BBC recently joined forces with ITV to launch a new streaming service called BritBox, which became available in the U.S. in 2017 and in Canada the following year. It was only launched in the United Kingdom on Nov. 7, 2019, though.
Many BBC and ITV programs will move to BritBox after they’ve been broadcast on TV and finished their time on the broadcasters’ catch-up service, so it could possibly house some of the best BBC shows.
However, some shows are made by independent production companies, so they may be sold to another streaming service, much like what happened with Peaky Blinders.
Even Channel 4 has been roped in and will provide some shows for the service. There is some exclusive content with BritBox, too.
We hope we’ve helped you find the best VPN service for BBC iPlayer. Whether you’re after some BBC news streaming or want to watch top BBC shows, all of the above recommendations will allow you to watch the BBC online. Remember, though, that the performance with each VPN varies, so keep that in mind.
ExpressVPN is the best to access BBC iPlayer abroad, and it works for BBC radio iPlay, too. You’ll be able to easily watch UK TV online outside of the UK for free, as it can get into BBC iPlayer without a problem. Plus, its fast speeds and unlimited bandwidth make it a pleasant experience. Plus, with the 30-day money-back guarantee, you’ve got nothing to lose.
If you have experience loading a BBC iPlayer stream from another country with a VPN, let us know about it in the comment section below. Check out our other VPN articles and our streaming archive, too. As always, thank you for reading.