One of the main reasons people subscribe to VPN services isn’t for their security or privacy: it’s to get around regional blocks on video streaming services including BBC iPlayer.
The broadcaster doesn’t do this for the sake of it: it’s all down to licensing, and it’s the same with all streaming services – including Netflix and other local TV channels such as ITV.
Using a VPN, you can connect to the internet via a server run by that provider. Choose a server in the UK, and any website you visit or any app you use will think you’re located in the UK because the connection appears to originate from that server.
So, you could be in Spain and – as long as the VPN connection is live – iPlayer will behave exactly as if you were in Manchester or Brighton, and you won’t see that annoying “This content doesn’t seem to be working” error message.
However, don’t make the mistake of thinking this applies to every VPN. Not all manage to successfully unblock iPlayer, and the BBC is hot on detecting and blocking VPNs.
We should point out that watching BBC iPlayer outside of the UK is technically breaking the Ts & Cs, but if you are a resident of the UK and pay your TV Licence (you do need a TV Licence to watch iPlayer), you are at least morally in the right.
But when it comes down to it, it’s still not technically how you’re meant to be using the service, so proceed at your own risk.
We’ve got a separate step-by-step guide which shows you exactly how to watch BBC iPlayer abroad, but here we’ll summarise why the six following VPN services are great choices for doing so.
Best VPN for BBC iPlayer
Lots of VPN services will allow you to watch iPlayer, but NordVPN is one of the best overall choices. That’s thanks to a speedy, reliable service, apps for all popular devices people usually watch iPlayer on and a decent monthly price.
Nord also has tons of servers, including multiple ones in the UK, so you’re unlikely to ever have problems connecting or with video buffering.
You might not think you’d use a VPN for anything else, but NordVPN offers a good selection of other features which will keep your web browsing private. It also includes CyberSec, an ad-blocker which also includes protection from dangerous websites.
NordVPN is available for as little as £2.68/$3.49 if you subscribe to the two-year deal.
Read more in our NordVPN review.
This simple-to-use VPN service is very competitively priced, which is one reason – but not the only reason – we like it so much.
It now has 1700 servers across 63 countries and will let you watch iPlayer when you choose one of its UK servers. It also unblocks Netflix and other streaming services.
There are quite a few other features, including multi-hop which routes your connection via two different countries and sometimes this helps to get around particularly difficult blocks.
Plus, Surfshark – unlike most rivals – doesn’t limit you to using a small number of devices with the service at the same time.
Go for the two-year and you’ll pay only £1.95/$2.49 per month, making Surfshark one of the cheapest VPNs around.
Read our Surfshark review.
Ideal for use with BBC iPlayer thanks to its selection of servers optimised for popular video streaming services, CyberGhost is another excellent option.
It offers more than servers than the others here (6,500) but you only need one in the UK to watch Top Gear.
But if you’re going to use a VPN for things besides bingeing on Dr Who and Killing Eve, then CyberGhost’s fast speeds and various apps will undoubtedly come in useful.
It’s also good value, with the 18-month subscription working out at £2.15/$2.75 per month. You’ll note that it’s called a 12-month plan with six months free, but like a lot of VPNs, CyberGhost divides the price of the subscription – which is paid up-front, not monthly – by 18 months, not 12, hence the figure of £2.15/$2.75.
Since that’s entirely cheeky, we’re calling it an 18-month subscription with no free months. Regardless, it’s still a great deal.
Read our CyberGhost review.
ExpressVPN is also a great option, though it is more expensive than its rivals here.
While it offers a fine service that’s technologically better than some of those rivals (all servers run in RAM and don’t write any data to hard drives) that may not be the top of your priority list when trying to unblock iPlayer.
There is currently a deal that offers 15 months for the price of 12, though, and there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee available.
ExpressVPN is reliable, has great customer support and thousands of servers across the globe available to connect to, including the UK.
Read more in our ExpressVPN review.
Hidden24 isn’t like other VPNs here because it doesn’t have an app. Instead you configure the VPN connection yourself and turn it on and off using your device’s settings. That’s not as convenient, especially if your device doesn’t support VPN connections in this way.
However, the reason we’ve included it here is that it’s not as well known as the big names, so it flies under the BBC’s radar and – in our experience – reliably unblocks it.
The lack of an app means there’s no kill switch (unless it’s provided by your device’s operating system), but don’t let the manual configuration put you off: but there are step-by-step instructions on Hidden24’s website which make it easy.
We’ve arranged a special deal so you get the first three months of Hidden24 for £3.33 per month, after which there is a 1-month option, 3-month option and 12-month option for £4.99, £13.47 and and £47.88 respectively.
You can read more in our Hidden24 review.
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