The United Kingdom’s BBC (British Broadcasting Company) is known around the world for the quality of its programming. The BBC iPlayer streaming service makes beloved content like EastEnders, Peaky Blinders, Celebrity Master Chef, Blue Planet 2, and Dr. Who, available across the UK (United Kingdom) for free.
But like so many other streaming websites in today’s world, access to BBC iPlayer content is geo-blocked. BBC iPlayer uses geo-blocking technology to ensure that their content is only available to viewers located in the UK, or those with a UK IP address (wherever you are located). Fortunately, you can get access to geo-blocked iPlayer content, without having to physically travel to the UK.
The solution is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to virtually appear to be in the UK. Some of the best VPNs in the world can make BBC iPlayer think you are physically located in the UK, even when you are on another continent. This gets you around the BBC geo-blocking and gives you access to the service. We’ll explain this more in our FAQ section below.
Note: While iPlayer content is available to people who are (or appear to be) in the UK, since late 2016, users must also have a UK television license and be able to enter a valid postcode to get full access to the streaming media on the site.
Unfortunately, most VPN services cannot evade iPlayer’s geo-blocking. Finding ones that can reliably do so is tough, since the BBC is constantly improving their defenses against VPNs. Pointing you to three VPNs that can reliably get around iPlayer’s geo-blocking is what this guide is all about.
The criteria for making our list of the Best VPNs for BBC iPlayer
Here are the criteria to join our list of the best VPNs for accessing BBC iPlayer, wherever you are located:
The ability to evade BBC iPlayer geo-blocking.
Connection speeds sufficient for HD video streaming.
A large network of fast, reliable VPN servers with many locations in the UK.
Apps for computers, mobile devices, and other systems so you can access BBC iPlayer content wherever is convenient for you.
Consistent, reliable performance across all supported devices and all the VPN servers in the network.
The ability to function as a quality VPN in addition to evading the geo-block thrown up by BBC iPlayer.
Tech support available 24/7 to quickly help you with iPlayer geo-blocking as well as any other problem you might experience.
Extra credit if the VPN can get around the geo-blocking on other top streaming services such as NetFlix and Amazon Prime.
Note: Please keep in mind that the primary focus of this post is on access to BBC iPlayer. Each of the VPNs discussed here has more capabilities than those we will discuss. If a VPN doesn’t have things like a kill switch, unlimited bandwidth, P2P support, and strong encryption, it won’t even be considered for a task like this. You can get much more information about each VPN in our full reviews. You’ll find links to those reviews in the relevant sections of this post.
Using the criteria listed above, here are the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer:
1. ExpressVPN – Great for BBC iPlayer and all-around excellent VPN
British Virgin Islands
No logs (audited)
24/7 Live chat
ExpressVPN has perhaps the best reputation of any VPN service when it comes to defeating geo-blocking attempts by streaming services. This reputation is well-earned as shown by their ability to Unblock BBC iPlayer and many other services. With four VPN server locations within the United Kingdom, the ExpressVPN team can easily get you access to your iPlayer content.
As their name implies, ExpressVPN is fast. Their high-quality network of VPN servers has more than enough speed to stream HD video from iPlayer without buffering or stuttering. This network spans across 94 countries, with excellent speed results in all the locations we tested.
ExpressVPN clearly puts a lot of effort into their VPN apps. They have virtually any system you might want to stream videos on and those apps are all high-quality, with a consistent look and feel. Here is the Windows VPN app that we tested for streaming:
But sometimes a full VPN client isn’t the right answer. Even in situations like this, ExpressVPN still has you covered with their MediaStreamer smart DNS service. This will allow you to use the VPN service on Smart TVs, for example, and gain access to BBC iPlayer and your favorite streaming content.
What about general VPN use, you say? ExpressVPN is a winner here too. Beating geo-blocks is just one of its many talents. There are good reasons that they were crowned best VPN service in our recent showdown. Fast and reliable, ExpressVPN just works. Multiple successful third-party audits have confirmed that the security and privacy provided by this no-logs VPN are top notch.
Meanwhile, the company’s location in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands (BVI) means they are extremely unlikely to get pressured to give up personal data on you. And with their fleet of diskless bare metal servers, there are no logs to surrender, not even any hard drives to be analyzed.
And if by some chance you do have a problem connecting to iPlayer or something else goes wrong, ExpressVPN has an excellent Customer Support department. Their 24/7 live chat support can get you up and running again quickly, day or night.
Sound good? You can try ExpressVPN without any risk since the company gives you a 30 day money-back guarantee.
About that extra credit…
Streaming services unblocked: Beyond BBC iPlayer, ExpressVPN unblocks Netflix (US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Japan, and Germany, along with other non-English-speaking regions), Amazon Prime, ESPN, HBO, Hulu, SlingTV, and more.
Four data centers in the UK means you have plenty of options for connecting to BBC iPlayer
3,000+ VPN servers in data centers located in 94 countries around the world
Beyond BBC iPlayer, it can unblock Netflix and most other streaming services worldwide
Fast, reliable, and secure VPN apps
MediaStreamer service for all types of streaming devices
The server network is highly reliable and offers excellent speeds
Third-party audits confirm no-logs status and great security
You are protected by 24/7 live chat customer support
30 day money-back guarantee
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Want to learn more? Check out our full ExpressVPN review.
2. NordVPN – Unblock BBC iPlayer and much more with this huge, fast network
No logs (audited)
24/7 Live chat
NordVPN is another solid choice when it comes to defeating the BBC iPlayer geo-block. This may have something to do with the fact that NordVPN has over 400 servers in the UK, meaning you have many server options for breaking past any obstacle BBC iPlayer puts in your way. All in all, NordVPN runs an enormous network of 5,400 fast VPN servers, strategically located in 59 countries.
Is the NordVPN network fast enough to stream HD video? Without a doubt. This is the fastest VPN network we have ever tested. In one of our recent speed tests, we saw a download speed of 445 Mbps on our 500 Mbps internet connection! That’s plenty of speed for streaming, torrenting, gaming, videoconferencing or pretty much anything you might want to do.
This level of performance is great if you need a fast VPN for torrenting, or any other high-bandwidth activities.
NordVPN is in the midst of a major speed-up of their network right now. They have NordLynx protocol support to all their VPN clients. NordLynx is a custom implementation of the highly-regarded, highly-secure, and high-speed WireGuard VPN protocol.
In addition to being fast, NordVPN’s diskless servers are very reliable, and when combined with the company’s strong no-logs policy give you great privacy protection as well. And like ExpressVPN, NordVPN has undergone third-party audits confirming both security and its privacy (no-logs) policies.
If a device can stream video, NordVPN probably has an app for it. Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android and iOS, plus Chrome and Firefox browser extensions. Single-board computers, Network Addressable Storage (NAS) devices, and numerous types of routers, including beasts like the Vilfo which has built-in support for both NordVPN and ExpressVPN.
Beyond all that, NordVPN is one of the VPN services we like best. They are based in Panama, which is a great jurisdiction for privacy with no data retention issues. The server network and security have also been audited by Versprite.
While we are on the subject of privacy and security, you should know that NordVPN offers some of the most advanced VPN capabilities, including:
CyberSec – A feature that blocks ads (and the trackers that tend to accompany them) from messing with your devices, while also protecting you from domains known for hosting malware or phishing scams.
Double-VPN servers – Encrypt your internet traffic twice by passing it through two NordVPN servers one after the other, providing perhaps the tightest security in the VPN industry.
Tor-over-VPN servers – Send your encrypted NordVPN traffic through the Tor network to make it extra difficult to track your online activities.
Obfuscated servers – Make your VPN traffic look like boring old HTTPS encrypted traffic so snoops or censors won’t even know you are using a VPN. And don’t worry. Your traffic remains encrypted, it is simply packaged to make it look innocuous. This feature can come in handy if you need VPN for UAE, China, or other repressive countries.
While NordVPN is reliable and easy to use, it is comforting to know that their Customer Support department gives you 24/7 live chat support. This is exactly what you want when you need to get logged into BBC iPlayer right now, or if you have some sort of technical issue you need help with.
If you like what you are reading about NordVPN, you can test the check out of the service without risk thanks to their 30 day money-back guarantee.
Additional streaming services unblocked: Beyond BBC iPlayer, NordVPN unblocks Netflix (US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Australia, India, Italy, and possibly other regions), Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO, and many more.
400+ VPN servers in the UK means great access to BBC iPlayer
5,400+ VPN servers in all, with server locations in 59 countries
Unblocks Netflix, Amazon Prime and many other top streaming media services
Usable and high-quality apps for most any device or OS
The Fastest VPN service we have ever tested
Third-party audits show that NordVPN privacy and security claims stand up to scrutiny
Leaders in useful VPN technologies like CyberSec, Double-VPN, Tor-over-VPN, and NordLynx
Customer Service provides 24/7 live chat support
30 day money-back guarantee
You need to invest in long-term subscriptions for the best prices
No dedicated router app (but most routers are still supported)
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Want to learn more? Check out our full NordVPN review.
3. Surfshark – A low-cost VPN that works great for BBC iPlayer
British Virgin Islands
24/7 Live chat
Only about two years old, Surfshark has grown into one of the most impressive VPN services around. Among other things, they have developed the ability to defeat the geo-blocking systems at major streaming media services like BBC iPlayer. Surfshark has three server locations in the UK that consistently work to unblock BBC iPlayer. This is a smaller presence than ExpressVPN or NordVPN. But the fact remains that the infrastructure Surfshark has in the kingdom is sufficient to bypass BBC iPlayer’s geo-block and deliver HD quality video to you computer, phone, Smart TV or whichever device you might choose to stream video content on.
Overall, Surfshark’s network includes 1,700+ VPN servers in 63 different countries. While the Surfshark network might not be able to keep up with ExpressVPN or NordVPN in raw speed tests, it is definitely fast enough, and reliable enough, to get the job done.
As we alluded to previously, Surfshark offers a large collection of quality apps for most any streaming device you are likely to have access to. Whether you need a VPN for Android, iOS, desktop, or other devices, Surfshark has you covered. They also offer Trust DNS, a free browser extension that works with the rest of their server network to simplify switching DNS services.
But since evading geo-blocks is only part of a VPN’s daily work, you’ll be happy to know that Surfshark easily handles all the expected VPN tasks. Cure53, a German cybersecurity firm, found Surfshark’s browser extension to be secure in their audit. The extensions did well, which strengthens our confidence in Surfshark’s design.
Surfshark is no slouch when it comes to advanced and specialized VPN services. They offer several, some of which are very similar to those offered by NordVPN:
CleanWeb – Comparable to NordVPN’s CyberSec
MultiHop – Comparable to NordVPN’s Double-VPN servers
Camouflage mode – Comparable to NordVPN’s Obfuscated servers
Okay. Here are two more Surfshark features you might be interested in.
Unlimited simultaneous connections – In an industry where supporting 5 or 6 simultaneous connections to the network is the norm, Surfshark gives you unlimited connections. Got seven kids who all want to stream video at the same time? No problem. Your internet connection might fall over, but Surfshark can handle the load.
A crazy low price – Surprisingly, Surfshark has an incredibly low subscription price, and is one of the best options in the ‘cheap VPN‘ category. If you use the discount coupon at the end of this section, you will be able to get all the premium benefits of Surfshark, at a price you would expect from some stripped-down service.
How about a Customer Service department with 24/7 live chat support. And a 30 day money-back guarantee. Color us impressed.
Streaming services unblocked: Beyond BBC iPlayer, Surfshark unblocks Netflix (US, UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Italy, South Korea, Germany, Japan, Norway and working on more), Amazon Prime, HBO, Hulu, SlingTV, and more.
BBC iPlayer unblocking power from their data centers in the UK
Unblocks the majority of top streaming media providers including 10+ regional Netflix libraries
A presence in 63 countries for their 1,700+ server network
Unlimited simultaneous connections to their network
VPN network offers good speeds and quality that support HD video viewing
A large selection of high-quality apps
Challenging NordVPN on the advanced features front
24/7 live chat support
30 day money-back guarantee
Some variability in VPN server speeds across the network
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To learn more about Surfshark, check out our full Surfshark review.
Best VPNs for BBC iPlayer – FAQ
Here is a collection of common questions people have related to using a VPN with BBC iPlayer.
How does a VPN make BBC iPlayer think I am in the UK?
To answer that question, we first need to talk about how BBC iPlayer knows where you are in the world.
There are various ways to find a device’s physical location, particularly for mobile devices with their built-in GPS receivers. However, the most common way is to look at the device’s IP address.
Everything connected to the internet is assigned an IP address, which identifies your device and the general area where your device is located. If your IP address isn’t located in the UK, then you will be blocked from accessing BBC iPlayer, and get something like this:
When BBC iPlayer isn’t working, just use a good VPN.
This was the message I got when connecting from my location in the US. Fortunately, a VPN allows you to hide your IP address — your real IP address that is — and gain access to media around the world.
In most cases, your IP address doesn’t pinpoint your exact location, but for geo-blocking, it doesn’t have to. BBC iPlayer only needs to know if you are located in the United Kingdom or not. And knowing your IP address is sufficient for that.
When you use a VPN to connect to the iPlayer site, your computer first connects to a VPN server located somewhere in the UK. The VPN server now knows your device’s IP address. And by looking at the header of messages from your device, it knows the IP address of the website you want to connect to (BBC iPlayer in this case). So the VPN server replaces your IP address and location and replaces it with the VPN server’s IP address and location.
When you access the BBC iPlayer page when connected to a UK VPN server, you will appear to be in the UK. Access granted!
How do I access BBC iPlayer with a VPN?
Here’s how to use a VPN to get connected to BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world.
Step 1: Get a VPN that can unblock BBC iPlayer
Get yourself a VPN with the ability to unblock BBC iPlayer. Here are the three we recommend:
Go ahead and sign up for one now. We’re not going anywhere.
Step 2: Install the VPN
Follow the directions on the VPN website to download and install it. Make sure you get the correct app(s) for the device(s) you have. The sites should offer the correct ones automatically, but it never hurts to check.
Step 3: Get connected
Run the VPN app you just installed. Each of our recommended VPNs makes it easy to select a specific country. In the case of BBC iPlayer, that country is the United Kingdom (UK). Regardless of which streaming service you want to work with, you always want to choose a VPN server in the same country as the streaming service. If you are trying to connect to a service like Netflix that has regional libraries, you should choose a server in the same country as the library you want access to.
Step 4: Log in to BBC iPlayer normally
Now that you are connected, you can log into your BBC iPlayer account normally. iPlayer’s defenses should see you as a legitimate user and not try to block you.
Do I need a VPN for BBC iPlayer?
Unless you are physically present in the United Kingdom, you will need a VPN to use BBC iPlayer. If you do live in the UK, you might still want a VPN for its ability to protect your privacy while using iPlayer or doing anything else online.
Best VPNs for BBC iPlayer – Conclusion
The war between streaming media services like BBC iPlayer and VPN services shows no sign of abating. That’s why finding a VPN with a good track record of defeating BBC iPlayer geo-blocking is so important.
We recommend these three VPNs in the table below because they stand out in our ranking criteria, namely:
Excellent performance throughout the server network
Full ability to unblock BBC iPlayer with a good selection of UK VPN servers
Secure and reliable VPN apps for all major streaming devices and operating systems
Good track record
24/7 live chat to help you out if there are any issues
Never hesitate to contact customer support if you can’t unblock BBC iPlayer. If anyone can help you quickly get access to the content you seek, it will be them.
Beyond the iPlayer-specific benefits, these best VPNs for BBC iPlayer will work for many other streaming situations. Whether you need a reliable VPN for Netflix or a VPN for Amazon Prime, these three will do the trick.
Before you go, remember if any of these VPN services look interesting to you, we have published detailed stand-alone reviews of each, which include more test results and info.
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