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The best iPlayer VPN in 2020

best iPlayer VPN
(Image credit: BBC)

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 lesser services fall at the first hurdle.

What makes a great iPlayer VPN?

Besides offering a swift connection 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.

When you get down to it, it’s not hard to see why ExpressVPN is our top choice for the best iPlayer VPN. It simply does everything right, especially when it comes to server choice. Its vast selection of servers – more than 3,000 in 94 countries – includes a huge amount in the UK, enabling you to easily find a way to unblock iPlayer content.

  • 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. ExpressVPN – simply the best iPlayer VPN
If you need access to iPlayer – whether that's because you're abroad or it's blocked on your network – ExpressVPN is the most 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

2. 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 £1.89/$2.49 a month, it's the most affordable way to reliably unblock iPlayer whether you're in Hull or Hungary.View Deal

3. Hotspot Shield – the fastest iPlayer VPN on the market
If you just want to get streaming with absolutely no slow-down, Hotspot Shield could be the best choice for you. With great streaming performance and simple, useful apps, it's a great choice as an iPlayer VPN – and at just £2.69/$2.99 a month, it's great value.View Deal

The best iPlayer VPNs today

ExpressVPN iplayer VPN

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

Unblock iPlayer without sacrificing your connection speed

Unblocks BBC iPlayer: Yes | 24/7 customer support: Yes | Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Also unblocks : Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Hulu | Streaming devices supported: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox | Simultaneous connections: 5

Reliably accesses YouTube
Great speeds
Top-tier 24/7 support
Powerful privacy 
Five device limit

ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPNs around. 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.

ExpressVPN’s split tunneling feature is also worthy of mention. Using this, you can pick and choose which of your apps and programs connect directly to the internet, and which are routed through ExpressVPN’s servers. This is ideal if you want to watch iPlayer without interrupting your connection to other sites.

Overall, if you want the best VPN for iPlayer on the market, ExpressVPN should be at the very top of your list.

Get three months free of the best iPlayer VPN
Simply put, ExpressVPN is the best iPlayer VPN on the market today. With unfailing reliability when it comes to accessing the streaming service, you'll also get blazing speeds and excellent privacy. What's more, Tom's Guide readers can claim three months free, meaning you'll get 15 months for the price of 12.View Deal

Surfshark iplayer VPN

(Image credit: Surfshark)

2. Surfshark

Stream iPlayer on as many devices as you want

Unblocks BBC iPlayer: Yes | 24/7 customer support: Yes | Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Also unblocks : Netflix, YouTube, Hulu | Streaming devices supported: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited

Bargain prices
Over 1,700 servers
Unlimited connections
Struggles with Amazon Prime

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 Express in terms of sheer power and configuration, Surfshark is a cheap 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.

Hotspot Shield

(Image credit: Hotspot Shield)

3. Hotspot Shield

The fastest iPlayer VPN on the market

Unblocks BBC iPlayer: Yes | 24/7 customer support: Yes | Money-back guarantee: 45 days | Also unblocks : Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Hulu, Disney+ | Streaming devices supported: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Smart TV | Simultaneous connections: 5

Incredible speeds
45-day money-back guarantee
Great streaming performance
Simplistic apps

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.

NordVPN iplayer VPN

(Image credit: NordVPN)

4. NordVPN

Audited security so you can stream iPlayer safely

Unblocks BBC iPlayer: Yes | 24/7 customer support: Yes | Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Also unblocks : Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Hulu | Streaming devices supported: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox | Simultaneous connections: 6

Security and logging practices audited
Blocks malware
Great speeds
Mobile apps are awkward
iPlayer sometimes needs browser extension

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 2048-bit 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 – and that's why CyberGhost, while not as well-rounded, beats NordVPN in this battle.

VyprVPN iplayer vpn

(Image credit: VyprVPN)

5. VyprVPN

A great iPlayer VPN for advanced users

Unblocks BBC iPlayer: Yes | 24/7 customer support: Yes | Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Also unblocks : Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Hulu | Streaming devices supported: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Apple TV | Simultaneous connections: 5

Super secure
Wide variety of apps
Speeds aren't the best everywhere
Customer support could be better

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 ExpressVPN.

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.

  • Guide-User
    Top ranking of ExpressVPN when it doesn't currently access iPlayer, how does that work?
    A year ago I subscribed to ExpressVPN in order to access iPlayer.

    When it works, it works well and is good fast connection. Also, for anonymization purposes in the US, it's quick. However, over the past 12-months service with iPlayer has been spotty at best. It gets blocked by the Beeb frequently.

    When ExpressVPN has been blocked in the past we usually fall back to the slow but steady NordVPN as an alternative. It's ok'ish for caching downloaded content, but not so good for watching live streams (it's just too slow).

    Usually ExpressVPN is able to open up BBC iPlayer access again within a week or so of being unable to connect. However, we've been unable to access iPlayer to cache (download) programs via ExpressVPN for over a month this time around despite me trying all of the UK server locations multiple times.

    It's shocking that you rate ExpressVPN as the best possible option when it hasn't worked for iPlayer for the last several weeks--and this is a known issue on ExpressVPN's part.

    The latest support email I received from ExpressVPN (the fourth in a series as I continued to work with them towards a solution) suggested that we log in to a server based in Switzerland so we can create an account on zattoo.com so we can watch BBC or, as a helpful alternative, we could subscribe to Britbox.com here in the US. Useless waste of time.

    Neither of those are useful or viable solutions. I've cancelled our account and then turned to Tom's Guide to find an alternative service, but if your top recommendation is so untested (naming it the best when it doesn't work at all), that makes me wonder how valid any of the other reviews are.

    ########################
    FWIW here is ExpressVPN's latest support email text:

    Hi XXX,

    Thanks for contacting ExpressVPN Support.

    We understand that you're experiencing an issue when accessing BBC iPlayer. We are aware of the issue, and our engineers are currently working on a fix.
    We still wish to try troubleshooting as it may work for you. Please try connecting to all of our UK server locations. Instructions in changing server locations can be found here.

    If you still encounter issues when connected to East London, there are great alternatives for watching both BBC live TV and VOD.

    Live TV
    zattoo.com
    : Connect to any of our Switzerland locations and visit zattoo.com in your browser. Zattoo requires you to register, but it's completely free, and once registered you'll be able to access BBC live TV channels, along with many additional channels. See supported devices here: https://zattoo.com/ch/en/zattoo-free/
    VOD/recordings
    1. zattoo.com
    : Connect to any of our Switzerland locations and visit zattoo.com in your browser. You can register to Zattoo for free, enabling you to record up to 20 shows (including BBC programming) and store these for 20 days each. You can delete recordings to reset the quota. Their paid service costs 10 CHF per month and allows up to 500 recordings and the ability to watch on demand all shows from the past 7 days, regardless of the recordings you set.
    2. britbox.com : Connect to any of our US locations and visit britbox.com in your browser. Britbox is a paid VOD subscription service that carries most BBC content and is available in the United States. Britbox is operated by BBC themselves, costs about 7 USD per month, and does not require a US credit card to sign up (only a US IP address).

    We hope that you find this information useful and can continue to enjoy the BBC programming you love, using the above methods. ExpressVPN continues to unblock other British programming sites like ITV Hub, Channel 4/5, etc.

    To compensate for the issue, I've added another 2 weeks to your account.

    We apologize for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your understanding. Please let us know if we can provide any additional assistance.
    Regards,
    XXX
    ExpressVPN Support

    ##################
    Can you explain how you gave this non-operative service your highest ranking?
    Reply