/ Technology, Travel & Leisure

Why can’t I watch BBC iPlayer abroad?

TV beach

Whether it’s catching up on programmes I’ve missed, or discovering content I’d never have spotted live, I’m an avid BBC iPlayer user. But when I go on holiday, why can’t I take the service with me?

As a member of the Tech team, I’ve been contacted on many occasions by people asking for ways to watch BBC programmes abroad.

Currently, all iPlayer TV programmes are only available to stream in the UK. You can download already broadcast iPlayer content to certain devices to watch while you’re away, but you’ll need enough space for all those EastEnders episodes you want.

There are a few workarounds available, but they’re either pricey (the Slingbox 350 media streamer costs £130) or a bit of hassle (IP masks).

Should licence fee payers be allowed holiday access through some kind of login system?

The digital wind of change

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale thinks so. He’s called on the BBC to make iPlayer available outside of the UK:

‘It is only right that for someone who has paid access to a subscription service – or even just a licence fee – to be able to access that content on holiday overseas.

‘That’s why I urge the broadcaster to make their content available, and to come forward with proposals for portability and how this can be made to work for the industry.’

The BBC’s currently looking more closely at how iPlayer is operating as a platform in a world where viewers are increasingly enjoying their TV wherever and whenever they want.

There are some nice developments on the table, such as the ability to do Netflix-style ‘binge’ watching of BBC dramas. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to stream that content while on holiday?

However, this surely extends beyond the BBC to streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon.  For example, you’ll be locked out of your UK Netflix subscription if you’re in another country – is that right? If we pay a subscription to use these services, why should we always have to be ‘at home’ to enjoy them?


I have a proxy server at home on my gigabit internet connection. I can access it from anywhere in the world and cause the BBC, Netflix, National Lottery and anyone else to see that I’m accessing their web site or service from the UK via my UK IP address. It works perfectly and costs me nothing. I’m strongly against geo-blocking, particularly within the EU. But I do believe that BBC iPlayer should be restricted to those who pay for it, either through a UK television licence or via other means.


Have used a VPN (and can cheaply access i-Player etc providing there is sufficient bandwidth) but the advice from the operator was NOT to use it to buy lottery tickets whilst outside UK as, in the unlikely event you win, they appear to check how the ticket was bought. This may well be an Urban Myth but do you want to take the risk, however unlikely?


I aim to buy lottery tickets when I’m physically in the UK, often 8 weeks in advance. But if they checked “how the ticket was bought”, they would always see that I was at home in the UK, using the same IP address as usual, even if I happened to buy the ticket outside the UK.


I used private tunnel (app from the Mac app store) when I was away on business for a month. Meant I could connect to a UK server address which allowed me to use iPlayer


Presumably John Whittingdale will provide funding not just “advice”


i could access BBC i- player radio In Italy this summer though my iPhone. Listened to the Today programme in Liguria and Tuscany with no bother


I never go out of the UK, or if i do it’s just over to France with work and back within the day, so this does not effect me.

But truth be told i think this is bit of a silly blog by Which?, of course the BBC IPlayer should be locked to the UK, as it’s people in the UK who pay the TV Licence Fee? And if you go on holiday why are you sat in front of a screen trying to watch the IPlayer and not enjoying your holiday?

***Disclaimer: I do not pay the TV Licence Fee as i do not watch “live” TV, i only watch my TV via BBC/ITVPlayer. So yes, I’m a total hypocrite here***


Soon it will be password protected so that only license-fee payers can use iPlayer.


When they do change the law so you need a TV license to watch BBC IPlayer that’s cool, I will get a special BBC IPLayer license they are talking about.

But if that dosn’t happen and they want me to to pay the full price, then I’ll just stop watching BBC IPlayer tbh, I only watch Doctors (the soap), and it’s not worth £145 per year to me.