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It’s easy to watch iPlayer from the U.S. Here’s how

If you’re trying to watch BBC iPlayer in the U.S. (or Ireland, Europe, Australia, or anywhere else outside the U.K.) you’ll find it’s not as easy as logging in and pressing play. This is because you need to be inside the U.K. to watch.

Fortunately, however, it’s quite simple to watch iPlayer from outside the U.K. and in this article, we explain how to watch BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world.

iPlayer is one of the biggest streaming services in the U.K., offering a range of high-quality television both live and on-demand across popular channels including BBC One and CBeebies, radio shows and feature films, entirely free from advertising. You can watch hit shows such as Doctor Who, Ghosts, Eastenders, Strictly Come Dancing, Wimbledon, Match Of The Day, The Apprentice, and more, live and on-demand on BBC iPlayer. To watch iPlayer you should pay for a TV licence (£169.50 a year) and when you log in to iPlayer you need to confirm you have a licence (but it is possible to watch without one).

iPlayer is only available inside the U.K. This makes a certain amount of sense; after all, U.K. TV owners fund the BBC through the license fee. But what about British holidaymakers and those with homes in two countries? If you’ve paid for it, you might want to be able to watch BBC iPlayer when overseas and avoid missing an episode of your favorite show. Alternatively, you may also be desperate to watch a show that isn’t on TV where you are, or that is behind a paywall, in which case, if it is available on iPlayer, you might be wondering if you can watch it there.

Note that you do need a TV license to watch on-demand content on the iPlayer. Previously, you only needed a license to watch TV being broadcast live, but a rule change means all iPlayer content now requires you to pay up. Our sister title Tech Advisor explains all here: Do I need a TV license? For more information on the legalities and whether it is safe to use a VPN read: Is a VPN safe for Mac?

How to watch BBC iPlayer from outside the U.K.

You can access BBC iPlayer outside the U.K. by using a VPN. Here’s a quick rundown of the steps you’ll need to follow. This method works on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and even PC and Android.

Be aware, though, that this breaks the terms and conditions of BBC iPlayer; proceed at your own risk. You’re not going to get fined or arrested, but you could have your account suspended. (In practice even this is unlikely, but you have been warned.)

  1. You’ll need a subscription to a VPN. We’d recommend NordVPN or Surfshark, but you can find some great options in our roundup of the best VPNs.
  2. Download your VPN app of choice on your Mac, iPhone, iPad, or other device.
  3. Log in.
  4. Choose a server based in the U.K.
  5. Browse to BBC iPlayer and log in.
  6. You will see a message asking for confirmation that you have a TV license, confirm that you have one.
  7. You should now have access to BBC iPlayer content.

How does a VPN enable you to watch iPlayer in U.S. and abroad?

Officially you’re not allowed to watch the BBC while you’re outside the U.K.

How is this enforced? When you open the BBC iPlayer app on your iOS device or log on to iPlayer on your Mac or PC, it checks your public IP address. This address is a four-part number, such as (A quick way to find yours is by typing “IP Address” into Google.)

This figure relates to your ISP or cellular connection, linked to the server sending you data. Enter the digits into IP Location and you’ll find where the server is located as well as the host. If this location isn’t in the U.K., then BBC iPlayer will refuse to show you content.

In other words, to use BBC iPlayer abroad, you need to convince the BBC that you’re using an IP address based in the U.K.

Don’t worry. This is a lot easier than you think, thanks to VPNs, or virtual private networks. Instead of connecting directly to iPlayer’s servers, you log into the VPN, and that connects using a British IP address, letting you access all the iPlayer content you normally would.

As mentioned, this breaks the terms and conditions of BBC iPlayer so you proceed at your own risk.

The best VPNs for watching BBC iPlayer

Here are three of the best VPN services, in our experience, to use for accessing BBC iPlayer outside the U.K. They offer apps for both Mac and iOS/iPadOS, so you can use them to watch from just about any Apple device.

  • NordVPN: This service offers a complete VPN service at a fair price, and currently sits at number one in our VPN chart. Your data is encrypted so you can surf worry-free wherever. It offers speciality servers designed for streaming, so is ideal for watching BBC iPlayer. Sign up here.
  • Surfshark: This is a great-value VPN that offers several features beyond the core VPN service for a low monthly price. It’ll work well for BBC iPlayer, but it does miss out on the speciality servers offered by NordVPN. Sign up here.
  • ExpressVPN: Another of our favorite VPN services with top security and privacy features and simple-to-use apps. It’s a bit pricier than NordVPN and Surfshark but is certainly a premium service. Sign up here.

These cover the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, but if you want to access iPlayer from an Apple TV things are a little trickier: try our dedicated guide to using a VPN with the Apple TV.