Accessing BBC iPlayer with DNS

Now on this site, we talk a lot about using VPNs, proxies to hide your IP address in order to access the BBC from outside the United Kingdom. The concept is simple, the BBC checks your IP address when you logon and if it sees a non-UK registered address you get redirected to the rather dull International version of the BBC. It’s actually not a bad site but unfortunately it lacks all the best stuff like live TV and the wonderful BBC iPlayer archive. To access the full site you need to hide your true location and pretend to be in the UK to access any British TV sites.

Proxies no longer work and indeed many VPNs have been blocked too but many still work and as long as the server you connect to has a UK IP address, then everything should be fine. However for a variety of reasons, perhaps you can’t use a VPN to access the BBC, perhaps it’s an old computer, a media device or perhaps a games console which won’t support a VPN connection. Also on very slow connections VPNs can slow down your internet speed significantly making it difficult to stream video successfully.

BBC iPlayer with DNS

So what can you do? Are there any other options for people who can’t use a VPN for whatever reason?   The basic solution is after all the same, hide your real IP address and make it look like you’re in the UK.

Using BBC iPlayer with DNS

However, there is a another method if you want to use a Smart TV, games console or are just stuck with a super slow internet connection which grinds to a halt when you attempt video over a VPN!   It’s called Smart DNS and you’ve probably seen it mentioned in expat forums or the many sites which help you access the BBC from anywhere.

The basic premise is exactly  the same, hide your IP address from the BBC web servers and pretend to be in the UK.  However there are two fundamental differences between a VPN and Smart DNS which make it a viable option for many.  Firstly to set it up you need no client software or operating system support for native VPN functionality.  Basically you need just one thing, the ability to change the DNS servers specified on the device you need.

Secondly, unlike a VPN your whole connection doesn’t need to be routed through the third server.  When you try and access a geo-restricted site like the BBC, only part of the connection is routed through a UK server – basically enough to fool the web site that you’re in the UK.   It also doesn’t encrypt the connection which can also impact the speed, although obviously if you’re concerned about privacy this may not be a good thing.

Here’s how it works –

In the example above it’s running on a computer but the beauty of Smart DNS is that you can set it up on most devices that are internet enabled. If you can get access to the network connections and manually update the DNS server addresses on a device there’s a good chance that it will work. There is one major caveat though, some devices use something called ‘transparent DNS proxy‘ which force them to use specific DNS servers. There aren’t loads of devices which use this, but the Roku and Xbox One console are two high profile examples.

You can still get Smart DNS to work on these devices but it’s much more difficult. Basically you have to map static routes on your internet router to force the devices to use the Smart DNS servers instead of the set ones (usually Google DNS servers). However it can be quite tricky and not all routers will support this functionality.

Not Recommended for Smart DNS

If you haven’t got your hardware yet, it’s worth checking you can change the DNS settings if you want to use BBC iPlayer with DNS on it. There aren’t many devices which enforce their DNS settings, but the number seems to be increasing presumably due to pressure from these media companies.

Obviously you haven’t much choice if you want to enable something like a Smart TV directly, as a VPN will be impossible to enable directly. Again though it’s worth checking the manufacturer as it could save you some anguish.  Generally if you can get access to the DNS server configuration under some network settings area then you should be ok. On the Roku for example there’s actually no proper network configuration settings accessible.   Although on these devices you may be able to assign the DNS servers using DHCP from your wireless/cable or ADSL router.

Normally though it’s pretty straight forward and most devices you can enable BBC iPlayer DNS settings very quickly in a matter of minutes.   Here’s the steps you would take on most devices –

  • Sign up for a Smart DNS Service – (free trial )
  • Check IP addresses of Smart DNS servers
  • Change Devices DNS server to the Smart DNS ones
  • Enable IP Address on Smart DNS Service

All of the steps can be completed very easily and after that Smart DNS should be enabled on that device and you should be able to access a myriad of previously blocked sites including of course BBC media iplayer and it’s associated sites. Many of the best Smart DNS app services will even allow you to configure your device to use different versions of sites – such as specifying US Netflix. This is also easier than using a VPN which will lock you into a specific country whilst it’s enabled – e.g if you use a US server you’ll be locked out of UK sites like the BBC.

This sounds trivial but it’s actually a huge time saver meaning you can set up a single device to watch US Television and UK Televisions stations without changing anything.  Before you even need to access the BBC iPlayer sign in screen – the DNS server directs you to the appropriate proxy server whenever you try and access the site, so a BBC iPlayer proxy would be in the UK and for Hulu, HBO etc you’d be redirected via a US one and so on.

After you set up your Smart DNS account it petty much all goes on in the background.  However if you change your main IP address then you’ll have to re-enable it in your account.  This can be a bit inconvenient if your address changes often and makes Smart DNS not really ideal for mobile devices if you move around a lot.   For home connections though it’s certainly the easiest BBC iPlayer proxy option that works anywhere in the world.

So if you want to learn how to watch BBC iPlayer in Canada, the USA or anywhere in the world then try it out.

Here’s the Smart DNS Free Trial Below. 

Smart DNS

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