Skip to main content

How to watch BBC iPlayer and live broadcasts anywhere

How to watch BBC iPlayer live
(Image credit: BBC)

The BBC is a bastion of British journalism and entertainment. It remains the go-to provider for Brits both at home and abroad for world news, quality original programming, comprehensive sports coverage, and its almost unheard-of zero advertising policy.

While it has its critics, the BBC is widely regarded as a trustworthy, relatively unbiased network that delivers world-class news reporting alongside iconic TV shows like Doctor Who, Sherlock, Line of Duty, Fleabag, Top Gear, and so many more. Plus, its sports coverage rivals many paid services elsewhere in the world – but it's entirely free.

However, while it's relatively simple to access the BBC in the UK, you might run into problems if you're outside the country – even if you live in the UK and pay for your TV licence. So, here we'll explain exactly how to watch BBC iPlayer live, anywhere in the world.

How to watch BBC iPlayer live - Fleabag

(Image credit: BBC)

How to watch BBC iPlayer live in the UK

If you're in the UK, it couldn't be easier to watch BBC live.

If you've got a TV, PC, mobile device or streaming device, you'll be able to get access to every live broadcast from the BBC. On your TV, all you need to do is switch over to the correct channel. On PCs you can head over to the BBC website and start watching on iPlayer. You can do the same on mobile devices, but the app is better optimised for touchscreens. 

Remember, though, while the BBC doesn't technically have a subscription price, anyone who uses the service is obliged to pay the UK's TV licence fee. This is enforced through trust on the BBC's site, but the law demands you pay it if you do use the BBC.

How to watch BBC iPlayer live abroad

Watch BBC live abroad

Surfshark logo

(Image credit: Surfshark)

Surfshark is our #1 recommendation for accessing the BBC outside the UK. With seriously quick connections, over 3,000 servers, and easy-to-use apps, it's the perfect choice for streaming the BBC. Plus, at just $2.49 a month with a 30-day money-back guarantee, it's great value.

Things are a little different when you're outside the UK.

Those not in the UK will find that all of the BBC's streaming content is unavailable. This is thanks to distribution rights and the aforementioned TV licence fee. However, if you're out of the country there's a nifty trick you can use to get around this.

If you sign up for the best VPN, you'll be able to change your location to the UK and trick the BBC website into thinking that you're in the country. Our top iPlayer VPN recommendation is Surfshark, thanks to its simple yet powerful apps, excellent unblocking power, and incredibly good-value longer plans. 

We'd usually recommend the more premium provider ExpressVPN, but a few months ago we experienced issues with unblocking iPlayer. It seems resolved now, but on this occasion it's not our #1 choice.

So, for example, if you're in Europe visiting family or for work, you won't be able to watch BBC live, even though you've paid your TV licence. But, by using ExpressVPN you can select a UK VPN server and virtually relocate. 

How to sign up to the BBC

On your TV, you don't need to sign up or input any information. However, if you've never used BBC iPlayer before, you'll need to make a free account to watch on your PC or mobile.

All you need to submit is a date of birth, an email address, and a UK postcode (a random postcode can easily be found if, for any reason, you don't want to submit your own). 

You'll be asked to verify your email address, although it appears that's not a necessary step for actually watching content on-site.

From there, all you need to do is either click 'channels' and select which live broadcast you want to watch, or pick something to stream on-demand. 

How to sign up to the BBC outside the UK

Without a VPN you won't be able to sign up or watch anything from the BBC if you're outside the UK.

If you want to get access, all you need to do is sign up to a service like ExpressVPN, change your location to the UK, and head over to the BBC website as usual. Then sign up as outlined above with a date of birth, email and postcode, and get watching.

Seeing as there's no payment necessary to watch BBC iPlayer live, anyone from anywhere can sign up and sign in if they've used a VPN to spoof their location.

How to watch BBC iPlayer live - Fiona Bruce presents Question Time

(Image credit: BBC)

How to watch BBC live on Roku

If you're a Roku user, it's super simple to get set up with BBC iPlayer. All you need to do is download the iPlayer channel, sign in with your free account and get watching.

However, if you want to use a VPN to watch BBC on your Roku outside the UK, you'll have to install a router VPN. This is because Roku devices don't support VPNs themselves. It's a little more complicated than on a desktop or smartphone, but our top choices Surfshark and ExpressVPN make it super easy with simple set-ups and clear walkthroughs.

How to watch BBC iPlayer live on Fire TV stick

BBC iPlayer is available on the Amazon Appstore, and all you need to do is download the app and sign in with your relevant credentials.

Plus, because the Fire Stick is Android based, it supports VPNs. If you want to watch BBC iPlayer on Fire Stick outside the UK, check out our guide to the best Fire Stick VPN services available.

Why should you use a VPN to watch BBC live?

The first and most important reason to use a VPN with BBC iPlayer is to get access to free content anywhere in the world. So, if you're in Canada, the US, or anywhere else, you can connect to a UK server and log in to the BBC as if you were in your living room.

There's more to it than that, though. If you have a good Internet connection but still find that iPlayer is buffering or playing at a low quality, it could be because you're being subjected to network throttling.

This happens when your ISP detects high-bandwidth usage of your connection and intentionally slows you down to make sure everyone gets a similar speed. High-bandwidth uses include torrenting, gaming, and, of course, streaming HD content.

A VPN anonymizes what you're using your connection for, which means your provider can't tell you're streaming. Subsequently, it can't choose to slow down your connection.

Plus, a VPN gives unrivalled privacy and security for any kind of browsing, so if you want to watch iPlayer live abroad as well as keep your personal info safe, a secure VPN is the perfect solution.

What is the best VPN for the BBC?

THE #1 VPN FOR BBC

If you want cheap, effective access to BBC iPlayer live outside the UK, we recommend giving Surfshark a go. You get excellent streaming performance alongside around 3,200 global servers, plus super simple apps that get up and running in a matter of second. Plus, at just $2.49 a month, it's incredibly good value for what you're getting.

Try the best BBC VPN risk-free for 30 days