We expect that you have landed on this page because you are traveling abroad and you want to watch UK TV via the catchup services such as BBC iPlayer or perhaps 4oD and ITV Hub.
The good news is that this is entirely possible, although we should point out that you are technically breaking the rights agreement reached between rights holder and broadcaster. Arguably, if you are usually a resident of the UK (and a TV Licence payer), you are at least morally in the right, but it’s still technically not how you’re meant to be using the service.
BBC iPlayer lets you stream high-quality TV and radio shows, as well as movies. It is, however, limited to UK viewers, which means – in principle – you can only watch it from inside the UK. But there are ways to watch BBC iPlayer from outside of the UK, perhaps while on holiday or for those living abroad.
iPlayer knows where you are in the world when you visit by checking your public IP (Internet Protocol) address. The figure relates to your internet service provider or cellular connection. If it determines that your IP address is not in the UK, you will not be able to access content without using the following methods.
Use a VPN
The easiest way to watch BBC iPlayer abroad is to use a VPN.
VPNs (virtual private networks) are used for many purposes, as they allow you to surf the internet with anonymously and protect your privacy. They can also be used to virtually relocate your computer or mobile device by offering access to an IP address from the region you require. This is where they can come in handy for watching BBC iPlayer and other UK TV abroad.
Our pick of the best VPN for UK services is Hidden24, which only offers servers in the UK so is designed for connecting to UK IP addresses securely. You can get Hidden24 here.
You can find out more about VPNs and take a look at our pick of the services available in our guide to the best VPNs.
Once you’ve got your chosen VPN service up and running, you’ll need to set it to the UK and go to the BBC iPlayer webpage to start watching.
Change DNS settings
If you want to get UK TV via the browser on your Xbox or PlayStation then you will need to fiddle with some DNS settings. If you head to the network settings of the console/device and manually configure the settings then you can enter a primary and secondary DNS (Domain Name Servers) numbers.
You can search the internet for these (they change fairly regularly) and DroidKid has a good list which you can try. They are free but easily get clogged up and slow, and occasionally send you to someone’s own site rather than your desired TV source in an attempt to sell you VPN software or something worse.
BBC iPlayer and the UK TV Licence
As of 1 September 2016 the BBC requires that anyone using iPlayer is a UK TV Licence holder – to find out for sure if that affects you, check our guide to who needs a TV Licence.
From May 2017 the BBC expanded the policy to require that iPlayer users sign in with a free BBC account, which requires a UK postcode.
You’ll need an account if you want to watch or listen to iPlayer through the website or mobile apps, though for now the account remains option for iPlayer’s Smart TV and game console apps.
You can register for an account for free, but you’ll need to give your date of birth, gender, and email address, along with a valid UK postcode, and the BBC says that it will use the information to better understand its audience and improve its recommendations to users.
The BBC says that the aim of the account isn’t to pursue iPlayer users who haven’t paid for a TV Licence, but admitted that it will cross-reference the email addresses with people who’ve previously claimed not to need a Licence.
If you’re a British resident with a paid-up Licence Fee, the new account won’t change your ability to watch iPlayer abroad – simply sign into your account, and continue to use either a VPN or altered DNS settings as described above.
The only change will be if you don’t have a Licence because you live abroad or just haven’t paid for one, and are hoping to access iPlayer anyway, as you’ll need to give a valid UK postcode and your details to get access.