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7 Best VPNs for BBC iPlayer 2020 + Step-by-Step Sign up Guide

Last updated: August 20, 2020 By Dean Chester

This article will be useful not only for those who temporarily leave the United Kingdom and don’t want to lose access to BBC content but also for those who want to sign up with BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world. This article lists 5 paid and 2 free VPNs and provides a simple step-by-step guide to sign up at www.bbc.co.uk.

My name is Dean Chester, and I am professionally involved in testing VPN apps and services for a variety of needs. Today I will share the result of a 3-month testing of all VPNs that support streaming video that I’ve done in 2020. This research aims to select the best VPN services for the BBC iPlayer video service.

I have also prepared some guidelines for signing up with the BBC website to help people. Non-residents of the United Kingdom can access not only iPlayer but also news, podcasts, and other popular content.

 
Have a look at the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer *:
  1. ExpressVPN: The most efficient VPN service for watching geo-restricted content in 2020. Has ultrahigh speed and supports all devices. Differs in increased connection stability and software understandability.
  2. NordVPN: # 1 VPN to access BBC iPlayer from internet censored countries. Has special technologies to mask VPN usage. In other countries, it’s also 100% effective.
  3. Surfshark: Ideal for long-term use, as it is much cheaper than other services with a 2-year subscription.
  4. CyberGhost: The service specializes in streaming and torrenting. Has a special UK location for BBC iPlayer. There are nuances when working on Windows.
  5. PIA: Weaker streaming support. Only one of the three locations worked. The service is interesting for its support for Shadowsocks and WireGuard.

* all services presented have a long-term money-back guarantee in case of failure.

 
Free VPN Services for BBC iPlayer **: 
  1. Windscribe: Allows access to the bbc.co.uk user panel. The content was unblocked only once. Has a monthly traffic limit and low speed.
  2. TunnelBear: Similar to the previous service, but with a higher speed. The connection speed is high.

** Free VPNs are barely suitable for the UK content as only two of them have servers in that country. Besides, it has several significant disadvantages, which are listed below.


Unblock BBC iPlayer with VPN - step by step guide

The information from this section will be useful to those who are already signed up on the BBC website and want to access its content from any country in the world.

Read the next section on how to sign up for BBC iPlayer properly.

  1. Sign up on the VPN service website.
    Few VPNs can bypass the BBC's restriction of access from locations outside of the United Kingdom. It is impossible to determine whether a particular service supports iPlayer unlocking based only on its characteristics. Only practical access testing can show efficiency with 100% certainty.
    I have a real BBC.co.uk account with which I have identified and selected the best VPN services for BBC iPlayer.
    You can safely sign up with the services listed by me and proceed to the second step.
  2. Install the VPN app.
    Download and install the app for your platform. All VPNs I suggest support Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Chrome OS, and Linux. You can also install a VPN add-on
  3. Connect to the UK location.
    Choose a server or just a location in the United Kingdom and connect to the Virtual Private Network. From now on, all traffic of your device will pass through the virtual channel and get to the Internet through the selected server. All sites will identify its IP address as if it were your own.

    In some cases, it is undesirable to change the IP for all sites and apps. In this case, you can tune Split Tunneling. To do this, go to the app settings, find this function there (sometimes it may be termed variously) and configure it so that the VPN is inactive for those programs or apps for which you don’t need to mask the IP.

    Setting up Split Tunneling in ExpressVPN

  4. Log in to the BBC website and make sure everything works.
    In some cases, even though you are connected to a VPN, www.bbc.co.uk may display a warning that you cannot view restricted content. This can happen if the IP address of the selected server has already been included in its blacklist.
    In this case, you need to go to your browser settings, delete all BBC-related cookies, change the VPN server, and try again.

Deleting cookies.bbc.co.uk

Even with the best VPNs, sometimes you have to do it 1-2 times.


Secure sign up at bbc.co.uk

For most people outside the UK, the registration process on the BBC website can be challenging. The fact is that the site restricts, on a geo-basis, not only access to its content, but also to the registration function itself.

Therefore, already at the registration stage, you must have a VPN. Moreover, practice shows that even to sign up on bbc.co.uk, you need a service with an effective function to bypass geo-restrictions.

That is why you might have failed with a common VPN app since only a few support the BBC.

Four easy steps to sign up for BBC iPlayer:

  1. Subscribe to a good VPN service with streaming support (the best are - ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark).
  2. Download and install an app for your OS on the service website (installation on several devices is possible at once).
  3. Select a UK location and connect to the virtual network. This step may require changing servers, as the best providers have some servers that don’t support BBC.
  4. How do you know that your new IP address is suitable for registration?
    Take a look at the screenshot:

    A message indicating that your IP address is invalid

    You can proceed to the next step only if this message isn’t presented.
    It is also advisable to delete cookies when changing the IP address. How to do this is described in point 4 of the previous section.

  5. Sign up at bbc.co.uk. Make sure your region is the United Kingdom:

Region check during registration


Bonus: purchase a TV license

For citizens of the United Kingdom abroad, it won’t be superfluous to purchase a TV license after registration. A reminder about this will appear when playing any video:

Invitation to get a TV license

This must also be done under a VPN.

If you click on “I don’t have a TV License”, then you will go to a special site where you can get a real license tied to a specific person or organization.

Menu section for buying a TV license for BBC iPlayer

 If you don’t have a trusted person who agrees to issue a license to your address or isn’t signed up in the UK yourself, then I don’t recommend buying a license for a random address. Correspondence will come there and this person or organization can write a statement to the police.


Best reliable VPNs for BBC iPlayer

Let's take a look at five of the best VPNs to unblock BBC iPlayer that really bypass geo-restrictions. I will describe each of these providers and, in support of my words, I will provide screenshots which show that the described provider does its job.

Comparison of the main characteristics of VPN services for BBC iPlayer

Service Ranking
(out of 10)
Speed, Mbps Support of BBC iPlayer
(out of 10)
Price
(monthly)
ExpressVPN 10 >100 10 $6.67-12.95
NordVPN 10 >60 10 $3.49-11.95
Surfshark 10 >60 10 $1.99-11.95
CyberGhost 9 >50 9 $2.75-12.99
PIA 4 >80 7 $2.69-9.95

ExpressVPNExpressVPN logo

Pros:
  • Premium VPN service
  • Superfast connection speed and stability
  • The very first UK location unblocked the BBC
  • Up to 5 devices simultaneously
  • 94 countries for other apps
  • Split Tunneling 
Cons:
  • No long-term cheap tariff plans (more than one year)

Overview

One of the best results in BBC iPlayer content unblocking tests showed the best of the most advanced VPN services of 2020, ExpressVPN. It combines the three most important features for circumventing geo-restrictions:

  1. Optimization for popular streaming services, including BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and others.
  2. Really high speed.
  3. Professionally created apps for all platforms.

Moreover, it isn’t unfounded copying of words from the service website, but the results of multiple studies that I regularly conduct for all popular VPNs.

Price

The table lists the ExpressVPN * plans:  

  1 month 6 months 1 year
Monthly cost $12.95 $9.99 $6.67
Money-back guarantee, days 30 30 30

* Prices are indicated with discounts when using the links from vpn-review.com.

ExpressVPN is described by many as an expensive service. But it isn’t so. Yes, its minimum price is over $6 per month, but only because there are no long-term plans for which other providers offer significant discounts. If you compare the price for 1 year, ExpressVPN is an affordable VPN.

Summary

  • ExpressVPN is great for BBC iPlayer and any other purpose.
  • Easy installation on any modern platform.
  • Stable support of all popular streaming services.
  • Allows up to 5 connections simultaneously.
  • Doesn’t keep logs, which is emphasized by the use of diskless servers.
 
ExpressVPN Preview
Get an extra 20% discount
 

Also read:

ExpressVPN for BBC iPlayer


NordVPNNordVPN logo

Pros:
  • It is very convenient to select working servers
  • Interactive map of locations
  • High efficiency of bypassing geo-restrictions
  • Support of all OSs
  • Works even in countries with VPN blocking
  • Up to 6 devices simultaneously
  • WireGuard (high-performance protocol for maximum Apple TV app speed)
Cons:
  • Not founded

Overview

NordVPN is great for unblocking BBC iPlayer from anywhere in the world, including the UAE and China.

It's as effective as ExpressVPN bypasses the protection of the English streaming service. Moreover, it makes it possible to choose not only a country and a city but also a specific server. This is incredibly handy when looking for a working (effective to unblock) IP address.

Server speeds can sometimes be insufficient for 4K (Ultra HD) video, but NordVPN's connection stability and usability are some of the best in the market.

In fact, the service has no significant drawbacks, and its pricing policy is more flexible than that of many competitors.

Price

The table lists NordVPN* plans:

  1 month 1 year 2 years 3 years
Monthly cost $11.95 $6.99 $4.99 $3.49
Money-back guarantee, days 30 30 30 30

* As of this writing, NordVPN has a 70% discount on its 3-year plan.

NordVPN is especially interesting for a long-term use. But is it worth trusting him for so long? The choice is of course yours. I will just say that for more than 4 years of my research on VPN services, I don't remember a single case when NordVPN degraded the quality of its services.

Summary

  • NordVPN has stable streaming support.
  • Has a convenient choice of servers.
  • Has earned an excellent reputation with users and professionals.
  • Allows up to 6 connections simultaneously.
  • Supports NordLynx (WireGuard), which makes it almost invisible to the user, including on mobile gadgets. 
 
NordVPN Preview
Take advantage of the current promotion -70%
 

Also read:

NordVPN for BBC iPlayer


SurfsharkSurfshark VPN logo

Pros:
  • Perfect combination of price and quality
  • Support of bbc.co.uk
  • Improved obfuscation (NoBorders mode) for censored countries
  • Apps for all OSs
  • Unlimited number of devices used
Cons:
  • Slightly lower speed on the US servers

Overview

Surfshark unblocked BBC iPlayer for the first time. In general, according to my observations, this relatively young VPN (founded in 2018) copes with all streaming services no worse than the giants like ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

The functionality of the apps also allows you to bypass Internet censorship in countries where sites are blocked at the ISP level.  

I have been testing Surfshark for about two years now and confirm that this service takes its reputation seriously, constantly adds new servers, and successfully bypasses the geo-restrictions of all popular VPNs. Even Hulu works with Surfshark.

Price

The table lists Surfshark VPN plans:

  1 month 1 year 2 years
Monthly cost $11.95 $5.99 $1.99
Money-back guarantee, days 30 30 30

Surfshark is the most affordable VPN service (see review for cheap VPNs) that offers premium quality services. But only with a long-term subscription. When comparing 1-month and 1-year subscriptions with other services, Surfshark doesn't really stand out.  

Summary

  • Surfshark allows you to change the BBC iPlayer region effectively
  • Supports all popular streaming video services and internet radio (e.g., Pandora)
  • Unlimited devices
  • Super low price
  • Suitable for any purpose
 
Surfshark Preview
Install an efficient VPN for $1.99+ per month
 

Also read:

Surfshark for BBC iPlayer


CyberGhostCyberGhost VPN logo

Pros:
  • Special servers for BBC iPlayer (read more about its features)
  • Protection against tracking
  • 7 devices simultaneously
  • Indicator of consumption and traffic speed
  • Split Tunneling
Cons:
  • May significantly increase the load on Windows
  • Unstable streaming support
  • Low speed

Overview

The next VPN service is interesting because it has special locations for streaming. There is also a location for BBC iPlayer.

Choice in the settings menu for BBC content

At first glance, it may seem that this is the ideal option. But in practice, it turned out that this isn’t entirely true.

It took me over 10 minutes to launch the film. The first issued IP address was blocked:

Playback error when using CyberGhost

After 3-4 attempts, I’ve managed to find a working IP address. But at the same time, there was a strong slowdown on the Internet. It took about two minutes to open the video. At times the broadcast was interrupted.

CyberGhost made it to my Top 5 for two reasons:

1. It still supports BBC iPlayer unblocking.

2. Too few alternatives that really work.

Price

The table lists CyberGhost's tariff plans:

  1 month 1 year 2 year 3 year
Monthly cost $12.99 $5.99 $3.69 $2.75
Money-back guarantee, days - 45 45 45

The ISP also offers a Dedicated IP connection (additional $ 5 per month), however, it is worth making sure that this IP address isn’t on the same subnet as all other “public” addresses.

Summary

  • CyberGhost bypasses BBC geo-restrictions.
  • Focused on unblocking streaming services but does it mediocre.
  • Has low locating speed for iPlayer.
  • Not all advertised servers help bypass the block. One gets the impression that its functionality isn’t being monitored.
  • Allows up to 7 connections simultaneously.
    Can be very stressful on Windows computers. Especially with an unstable connection.

Also read:

CyberGhost for BBC iPlayer


Private Internet AccessPIA VPN logo

Pros:
  • High speed
  • Up to 10 devices simultaneously
  • Many advanced options (VPN connection settings)
  • WireGuard
  • Shadowsocks
Cons:
  • Intermittent support of BBC iPlayer
  • Limited selection of UK servers

Overview

Private Internet Access (PIA) is worse than the other VPNs reviewed for unblocking access to BBC content, but it got into this Top 5 due to its unique technical capabilities that other services don’t have and which can be the only way out in difficult situations.

In the PIA settings, you can manually specify the inbound and outbound port, select or sign up your DNS server, configure the encryption standard and Data Authentication, handshake, use Shadowsocks, and many more.

My testing has identified issues with the BBC's access protection bypass. PIA has three locations in the UK and they all have low efficiency. In fact, only 2 times out of 10 I was able to start watching a movie on BBC iPlayer.  

Price

The table lists PIA pricing plans:

  1 month 1 year 2 years
Monthly cost $9.95 $3.33 $2.69
Money-back guarantee, days 30 30 30

A great advantage of the service is also its low price when purchased for 1 year. It is approximately two times lower than that of the first four providers.

Summary

  • Private Internet Access has low efficiency but can help in extremely difficult cases of blocking
  • Has a high speed in most locations
  • Allows up to 10 connections simultaneously

Also read:

Private Internet Access for BBC iPlayer


Free VPN for BBC iPlayer - myth or reality?

Looking for an effective free VPN to access BBC content? I want to disappoint you. There are two serious problems at once that make its use almost impossible:

1. Few free VPNs (and VPNs with a free plan) have locations in the UK.

2. Its IP addresses are on the BBC blacklist.

I found only one free VPN that allows you to sign up at bbc.co.uk, but I was unable to start the broadcast with it. This is a free Windscribe.

I will also talk about another service that at least has servers in the UK. 

Windscribe

Free Windscribe to sign up on the BBC website

The fast-growing provider with a good free plan, Windscribe, has surpassed all the “competitors”. With its help, I was able to sign up on the BBC website without any problems. I must say that no other tested free VPNs could do this.

But for some reason, it wasn’t possible to gain access to view the video - a known error with access restriction began to appear.

TunnelBear

Trying TunnelBear with BBC iPlayer

Free TunnelBear is on this list because it has servers in the United Kingdom and could potentially unblock BBC. To date, I haven’t been able to do this, but it is possible that, as in the case of Private Internet Access, from time to time you may be able to access this popular streaming giant.

Unfortunately, this article won’t include such well-known VPNs with a free plan as Proton VPN, hide.me and Hotspot Shield, as they cannot select a UK IP address without a paid subscription.

VPN-Review - Chief Editor
Dean Chester
Cybersecurity and online privacy expert and researcher. He's been published on OpenVPN, EC-Council Blog, DevSecOps, AT-T Business, SAP Community, etc. Dean has been testing VPNs for 8 years.

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