From Killing Eve and Fleabag to Doctor Who and Gavin and Stacey, BBC iPlayer is full of incredible content – the only problem is that it's only available to those in the UK, and this is strictly enforced. However, by using the best iPlayer VPN you can crack it wide open and access all the great BBC content wherever you are in the world.
Although usually considered privacy tools (and that’s still true), the best VPN can get you access to iPlayer from abroad by directing your traffic through one of its UK-based servers.
As a result, any website you visit will assume that you’re browsing from within the UK. However, iPlayer uses some serious VPN blocking tech – more so than even Netflix – so many services fall at the first hurdle.
- Get to the nitty-gritty – see who wins in ExpressVPN vs NordVPN
- Or perhaps you want to see the outcome of IPVanish vs NordVPN
- Brits will want to know what we rate as the best UK VPN
What makes a great iPlayer VPN?
Besides offering swift connections so that you can stream in HD, the best iPlayer VPN will have a good amount of servers within the UK and regularly change its line-up of available IP addresses.
That’s important because the BBC only has the rights to distribute content for free to TV-license-paying UK households. Outside of the UK, BBC Worldwide – the service’s commercial arm – sells those rights to distribution networks such as Netflix. To prevent competition with those networks, the BBC puts a lot of effort into blocking users from streaming iPlayer abroad – and only the top iPlayer VPN services can get you access.
- Save your money with the best cheap VPN
- Rubbish for streaming, but there are decent free VPN services out there
- PC users should get a Windows VPN, and Apple users need a Mac VPN
1. Surfshark – the best-value iPlayer VPN on the market
For bargain hunters who want to watch Bargain Hunt, Surfshark will be a seriously tempting proposition. At just £1.84/$2.49 a month, it's the most affordable way to reliably unblock iPlayer whether you're in Hull or Hungary.View Deal
2. ExpressVPN – excellent security and iPlayer performance
If you need access to iPlayer – whether that's because you're abroad or it's blocked on your network – ExpressVPN is a reliable way of doing so. With tons of UK servers and super intuitive apps, it's never been so easy to unblock content. Plus, you'll now get three months free with a 12-month plan.View Deal
3. NordVPN – big name is excellent for iPlayer
If you want all-round online protection and the power to watch iPlayer anywhere in the world, NordVPN is also a great choice. With over 5,000 servers worldwide a good selection in the UK, it's fast and reliable, plus it's good value at just £2.86/$3.71 a month.View Deal
The best iPlayer VPNs today
Surfshark demonstrates that there’s no need to break the bank in order to access a top-quality iPlayer VPN. As long as you’re willing to take out a lengthy contract, this is easily one of the cheapest VPN service providers on the market today.
Happily, even though it’s affordable, Surfshark hasn’t skimped on any important VPN features. Your browsing data will be secure with thanks to 256-bit AES encryption and protocols like IKEv2 and OpenVPN – plus the apps are incredibly easy to use no matter what platform you’re on, making iPlayer access super simple.
One of Surfshark’s party pieces is its unlimited connections policy – this is almost unheard of in the industry, and having it combined with such a rock-bottom price offers excellent value. Overall, while it can’t quite compete with the likes of ExpressVPN and NordVPN in terms of sheer power and configuration, Surfshark is a cheap iPlayer option that doesn’t scrimp on quality – plus you’ll also have 30 days to claim your money back if you don’t love the service.
ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPNs around, and in our ExpressVPN review, we saw little change to our download speed when connected, meaning you shouldn’t have any problem streaming HD iPlayer shows.
What’s more, ExpressVPN is renowned for its excellent customer service. If something goes wrong while you’re watching iPlayer, you’ll be able to launch a live support chat immediately as agents are available 24/7.
Another ExpressVPN bonus is a diverse set of client apps for devices such as the Fire TV Stick and game consoles. With other VPNs, you could end up spending hours fiddling with your Wi-Fi router to connect these devices – not so here, as you’ll have a dedicated app right in the store, ready to download.
It’s worth noting that some of these devices rely on Express’s MediaStreamer tech, which allows you to access blocked content through the use of Smart DNS rather than using VPN servers – but it works very well and allows you to use the service on tons more devices.
However, while ExpressVPN tops a huge number of our guides, we can't give it the top spot here thanks to the fact that in late 2020, we experienced some iPlayer difficulties. It's all up and running now, and we'd certainly rate it as the best all-round VPN on this list, but if we're judging purely on iPlayer performance there is a small blot on its copybook.
NordVPN has been a fixture of our best iPlayer VPN list for a long time now thanks to its large UK network and value-adding bonus features. While connected to the web via Nord, you’ll be protected from malware and phishing ads through NordVPN’s CyberSec tech.
Also, you can rest assured that your information will stay private because NordVPN employs powerful encryption and DNS leak protection. And, if you’re still not convinced, thanks to a 30-day money-back guarantee you’ll have the freedom to figure out whether the NordVPN package is right for you.
However, be aware that in our most recent testing, it was necessary to install Nord's browser extension to unblock iPlayer. While that's not too hard to sort out, it's not quite as seamless as the VPNs above.
In our latest round of testing we noticed that the BBC may have upped its game in terms of VPN blocking, but Hotspot Shield was one VPN that was totally unfazed.
Known as the fastest VPN on the market, Hotspot can deliver speeds well above 400Mbps, which means no matter how fast your internet connection is, it'll be able to keep pace. That's great when it comes to streaming on BBC iPlayer, as you won't be left buffering.
Beyond streaming, you'll also get a few neat features on desktop like Smart VPN (which can be used like split tunneling), auto-connect, and a list of your recently used servers. It's not nearly as comprehensive as some other services, but if you're looking for a simple and effective way of streaming iPlayer abroad, that won't really matter to you.
If you're a true streaming fanatic, Hotspot Shield has got you covered too, and it's able to unblock just about every other service, including Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime.
So, for hyper-speed streaming and simple, easy-to-use apps, there's a seriously compelling argument for choosing Hotspot Shield as your iPlayer VPN.
VyprVPN stands out from the crowd thanks to the level of control it grants over how you connect to iPlayer. Users get to choose exactly which protocol to use from options that include OpenVPN, PPTP, and VyprVPN’s proprietary standard known as Chamaeleon (which, by the way, allows Vypr to function great as a China VPN).
In effect, this means you can decide whether to prioritize encryption and security or connection speed and streaming quality. VyprVPN is also notable for its audited no-log policy and NAT firewall that blocks unrequested inbound traffic.
The only problem we encountered with VyprVPN is that connection speeds can be a little patchy for certain server locales. However, if this happens, you shouldn’t have a problem finding an alternative server – but, while functional, the customer support lags behind class leaders such as NordVPN.
Why doesn't every service work as an iPlayer VPN?
While almost every VPN has the power to relocate you by routing your connection through a server in a different country, relatively few have the power to unblock streaming services.
Most can act as a YouTube VPN, unblocking region-restricted content, thanks to the fact that YouTube has relatively lax VPN usage rules. Essentially, it's pretty easy to get around it.
Other service like Netflix and Amazon Prime are trickier, though. To access Netflix a VPN has to put work into avoiding the blocks and check in place, and Amazon also take into account where your subscription is based/being paid from.
However, in terms of VPN blocking, iPlayer is usually the most difficult to unblock. That's probably because there are no ad and it's free to use in the UK – so there's a lot of reasons why people overseas would want to get access. Thus, only the very best services can get you watching.