While more and more streaming services are popping up, Netflix is losing shows left and right. Its biggest losses in 2020 were probably The Office and Friends, which went to NBC and HBO Max, respectively. Netflix paid $100 million for Friends in 2019, so it’s obvious there were still enough people watching the series 16 years later to be worth keeping around. And The Office – well, it’s The Office.
But what if Hulu, Disney+, Apple TV+, or the other million services with a plus sign in their title don’t appeal to you? Maybe their selection is lacking, or you don’t want to shell out more subscription money. After all, budgets are tight nowadays. How about checking out the overseas selection? You can pretty much watch BBC iPlayer in the US for free nowadays – using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
If you’re one of the thousands of Britons stuck outside the UK, watching BBC iPlayer abroad with a VPN is also a possibility. No use letting that TV license money go to waste. Here’s how to do it.
How to Watch BBC iPlayer with a VPN
Normally, this streaming platform is restricted to residents of the UK. They have to pay a TV license to watch BBC iPlayer shows, so it’s to be expected. There used to be a Global iPlayer app that worked in select countries, but the company shut that down in 2015. Of course, that doesn’t stop over 65 million people from watching UK shows for free nowadays.
Using a VPN allows you to mask your actual location and make the streaming service believe you’re accessing it from the UK. All you need to do is connect to a VPN server in the UK, create an account (with a valid postal code you can find online) – and you’re set.
How does that even work? Well, your IP address is what gives out your location to these services. Think of it as your device’s “phone number” through which it makes calls to websites and services. When you use a VPN, your real IP address is hidden and replaced with the VPN server’s IP. That’s how you can watch BBC iPlayer in the US – or any other streaming service from around the world.
Can I Use Any VPN to Watch BBC iPlayer?
We wish it were that simple. As mentioned, UK residents pay a TV license for the service. Moreover, there are outdated licensing issues keeping most of the shows restricted to their platform. So it’s in the BBC’s best interest to keep it that way.
They’re also aware that people are using VPNs to access BBC iPlayer – they’re the ones who reported that 65 million figure, after all. To keep people away, they constantly purchase VPN IPs from specialized companies that collect them – then block them from their service.
VPN providers that can unblock BBC iPlayer keep one step ahead by purchasing new IP addresses for subscribers. Or they find different ways of getting around the blocks. Whatever the case, it’s still a huge time and money sink, so you’re unlikely to access BBC iPlayer with a so-called “free” VPN. They simply can’t afford to do the same thing as a subscription-based VPN.
What Can I Do?
Over 25% of total Internet users around the world use a VPN nowadays. 29% of North American VPN users say their main reason is to watch geo-restricted content. Subscriptions are pretty cheap right now, so it’s obvious VPNs are going to be a booming market for streaming use. Especially when everyone’s stuck at home with nothing to do.
But if you’re still not convinced, there are quite a few decent providers who offer free trials or money-back guarantees. Keep in mind that free trial versions might be limited in features. Take a peek at their terms and conditions to find out if that’s the case. That’s where you’ll find their refund policies as well. Most providers have your best interest in mind, but it can’t hurt to look at “the fine print.”
Can I get in Trouble if I Watch BBC iPlayer in the US?
Think of it this way: do you believe the UK government would spend all that time and money pursuing more people than live in the entire country? Just because they like Doctor Who, no less? Yes, it is a legal gray area because technically you have to pay a TV license for it. But there have been no reports of anyone being fined or prosecuted for watching BBC iPlayer with a VPN.
So, to TL;DR – you’re perfectly fine to watch BBC iPlayer in the US. There is the complicated aspect of the legality of VPNs, but that only applies to already restrictive countries: China, Iraq, the UAE, and so on. Using a VPN in the US is perfectly safe and legal, as long as you use it for legal purposes, of course.