Who would have thought that award-winning series like Killing Eve and Sherlock, or beloved franchises like Doctor Who would bring people in droves to the BBC’s streaming platform? Certainly not the BBC, after they made the genius decision of shutting down their Global iPlayer in 2015. That same year, they put out a report saying that around 65 million people watch BBC iPlayer from abroad.

Why they threw away the chance to get more people on board and gain more revenue is anyone’s guess. Until they bring back Global iPlayer for their foreign audiences, here’s how people are watching UK shows right now.

Watch BBC iPlayer from Abroad with a VPN

If you’re outside the UK and try to watch any show on the platform, you’ll be hit with the following message: “BBC iPlayer only works in the UK. Sorry, it’s due to rights issues.” We’re not going to debate how outdated geographical licensing issues are in the Internet age. Unfortunately, they’re going to be around for a long while – at least until broadcasting execs get the memo.

Until then, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is your best bet to watch all your favorite shows, no matter the streaming platform. Services can see your geographical location through your IP address. it’s how they block access to their shows and even the entire platform in some cases.

A VPN simply hides your true IP address and replaces it with the one from the VPN server you’re accessing. In this case, you’d gain a UK server IP, which would allow you to watch BBC iPlayer from abroad. This guide from ProPrivacy lets you know how to do all that in seven easy steps. It also includes several VPN providers that can actually unblock iPlayer in your area.

Will Any VPN Work with BBC iPlayer?

As mentioned before, not all VPNs can unblock streaming services. These companies are aware that people use VPNs to access geo-restricted content, so they try their best to block VPN IP addresses as they find them.

To get around this, VPN providers need to acquire new IPs for their users on a constant basis – which costs a great deal of time and money. Free VPN providers usually can’t keep up with this requirement because they don’t have a reliable revenue source. This means you most likely can’t use a free VPN to watch BBC iPlayer.

Fortunately, paid VPN providers tend to offer free trials or 30-day money-back guarantees; so you can try them out without a worry. Make sure to check their Terms and Conditions to get an idea of their refund policy. Most providers will refund you no matter what; but sometimes they might limit how much data you can download (e.g. 100 GB) before a refund is off the table.

Is It Legal to Watch BBC iPlayer from Abroad?

Short answer: you won’t get in trouble for it. Long answer: it’s a gray area. Technically, you need to be a resident of the country and pay for a UK TV license to watch BBC iPlayer. But, as shown in the ProPrivacy guide above, all you really need is a valid email address and a UK postcode you can easily find online. When you sign up for BBC iPlayer using a VPN, you’ll need to agree that you’ve paid for a UK TV license, and that’s it.

There have been no reports of anyone getting in trouble for watching BBC shows outside the UK, aside from downloading illegal torrents, of course. Also consider that there are almost more viewers abroad than there are people in the entire country. It’s highly unlikely that the UK government would spend that much time and money to pursue someone just because they like Doctor Who.

Of course, you have to consider the legality of VPNs in your home country. Their usage is generally legal everywhere, even in censorship-heavy countries like China. In fact, it’s believed that 38.5 million of the 65 million international BBC iPlayer viewers are from China.

Still, some countries such as Iraq, Belarus, and North Korea ban VPN usage. It’s a good idea to research whether you can use VPNs in your country, especially in more restrictive regimes.

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