British TV for Expats

Of course, people leave their home countries for all sorts of reasons – work, families, quality of life or even just the weather.  However there is always something that the expat will miss about their home country and for the British expat it almost always includes UK Television.  You see we can sit and moan about adverts and repeats but in both cases the television stations in the UK are way better that in most other countries.  Sometimes you have to go without the BBC to appreciate just how incredible it is, both in quality and diversity of content (and of course no advertising whatsoever).

So do people have to just do without, or is there an option to get British TV for Expats so are there ways to watch the UK channels abroad?   Well there are a few options, which we will explain here.

British TV for Expats

These are probably the most popular although there a couple of alternatives which depend on you specific location, generally these are what most people do.

  • Option 1: Using the Internet to view Online via a Proxy or VPN
  • Option 2: Using a hardware device like a Slingbox
  • Option 3: Installing Kodi on a media streamer or computer.

Now not all these options are feasible for everyone. For example the Slingbox is a clever little device which you can buy for about £100 – here’s one on Amazon.

British TV for Expats

However it works by being connected directly to a Sky Satellite box in the UK. So basically it worked well for people who were simply travelling or away from home. The device also needed an internet connection as well to transmit the Sky broadcast across the internet. Don’t get me wrong, if you had a working Sky box to use and a fast internet connection (upload speed) then it works brilliantly and gave you full access to whatever your Sky subscription included. The only other drawback is that it actually controls the physical box therefore you change the channel for anyone watching the same box.

Unfortunately most people don’t have access to this sort of setup especially ex-pats who’ve moved abroad permanently, and even if they did it’s quite an expensive solution.  The truth is that there is no simple expat tv box that you can just stick in your suitcase and use.

Kodi is another option to try an utilize all the free streaming sites and pirate broadcasters across the internet. Again it’s a decent option especially if you install on one of the new generation android media streamers. The drawbacks are that you have to be careful as these streams can be traced back although if you’re abroad you should be pretty safe from legal implications. The second and major one in my eyes is that the streams are often slow and unreliable, they’re guaranteed to be at their worse when you really want to watch something.

The safer way to use Kodi is to try it over a VPN solution which will hide your true location. However if you invest in a decent VPN solution this extra layer is not really necessary for much of the UK television programmes as it’s all available online. Every single UK broadcaster has an online presence which allows access to 95% of their content. Indeed some of the BBC’s programmes are only available online through the BBC iPlayer.  Kodi is useful, but be prepared to spend a lot of your time tweaking, updating and fiddling with various settings to get it to work properly.

Personally, I just want to be able to watch the BBC News every night, catch the latest documentaries, enjoy a thriller or so and of course Match of the Day on a Saturday – without hassle and messing around with technology every evening.

Using a VPN you can either download to watch offline or stream directly from the various websites. The VPN server must be based in the UK for this method to work properly though, just watch this video for a brief introduction:

The video demonstrates using a UK based VPN to watch the ITV hub. By hiding your real IP address you can watch any of the UK based TV stations and use all their features. For many having access to the BBC is more than enough but the all the other channels work too although you will need a subscription to access things like Sky Go and Netflix from abroad.

You may have heard that many of the VPN services and proxies no longer work especially with the BBC.  It is true that the BBC blocked hundreds of these services over the course of 2016 and early 2017.  The main casualties were the services that marketed themselves as tools for expat TV uk watching – the survivors were the genuine security programs which could be used in exactly the same way.

Out of these security programs that still actually work for British TV for Expats, then can we suggest trying out – IDC, it’s been working with the BBC iPlayer for nearly ten years now and still works perfectly well.

 

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BBC iPlayer Abroad Blocked

There seems to be a permanent battle between the big media companies and the many VPN/proxy companies who allow people to bypass the region locking they operate.  For example, although technically you’ll find that the BBC iPlayer abroad is blocked – in reality a huge proportion of their viewers watch from outside the UK.  The BBC has been half heartedly restricting access to their online services for many years.  In fact they estimated themselves that over 60 million people were watching the BBC from outside the UK in 2015.  However there was never any real attempt to reduce the millions of people who had access from across the world.    For instance, the technology has been available to detect and block simple proxies for many years but the BBC has never implemented this on their servers previously.

This changed last year when the BBC upped their game in restricting access to non-UK based individuals.  First went the proxies, instantly the cheapest method of accessing the BBC iPlayer abroad by using a simple proxy server disappeared.  They introduced the technology to detect and block access from proxies automatically, something that the likes of Hulu and Netflix had been doing for several years.    The next stage was tackling the more advanced VPN/SSH services which are much more difficult to detect.   Blocking these is more difficult, usually involving identifying IP address ranges which are supporting multiple connections and then restricting access individually.

The final method was to target the companies directly, so any VPN service which advertised accessing the BBC from abroad would be contacted by the BBC legal department.   Most would close down their services rather than risk legal action, plus many were given notice by the datacenter companies who hosted these servers for similar reasons.   A huge number of the overt VPN companies ended up being blocked by one of these methods – some have estimated that up to 90% of VPN providers no longer have access to the BBC UK servers.  Check out expat forums and you’ll see loads of posts about my BBC iplayer VPN not working any more.

BBC iPlayer Abroad

Fortunately there is hope, a large section of the VPN companies were able to avoid these blocks.   Here’s what you need to look out for to identify a VPN service which does work for accessing the BBC iPlayer abroad.

  • Low Key – make sure the service you use doesn’t mention the BBC directly or use any of it’s logos in advertising.
  • VPN/Security Service – all the surviving companies are primarily security services selling their VPN as privacy and security programs.
  • Multiple Countries and Servers – the ability to swap through ranges of IP addresses is crucial, this ensures the BBC cannot blacklist their servers individually.

It’s unclear whether the BBC will continue to escalate these restrictions, certainly it made a huge effort during 2016.   However there are signs that this is not going to be maintained completely. Certainly it looks like the game is up for proxies, the BBC was the last major media company to allow these and that looks unlikely to be rolled back.  However most of the remaining VPN providers have the ability to switch out their IP address ranges very easily so it’s difficult to maintain a complete block on these.  Certainly companies like Hulu have tried for years and failed to restrict them completely.

So here’s my favorite service in operation to watch British tv :

There are other options which the BBC could do to enforce their UK only viewing strategy. For instance, implementing some sort of login system based on purchasing a TV license could be a possibility.    There was also a BBC iplayer USA subscription at one point which may perhaps be recreated.  Lots of companies in Canada and the US require a cable reference number before you can watch online for example.  This would be a huge undertaking for the BBC however one it was likely to implement before Brexit.  The European Union is trying to establish a single digital market where digital goods can be sold equally across the EU.  This would technically would also incorporate services like watching the BBC online outside the UK.   It’s unclear how the UK’s leaving the European Union will affect this situation though.

So we should be ok with a decent quality VPN for the time being, there are always some reports including recently that Sky Go blocking VPN programs.  However the best quality ones have been working for many years, I’ve been using Identity Cloaker for nearly a decade now to access the BBC iPlayer app from all over the world.   It also works for all the other UK TV stations aswell, although I just watch ITV player abroad and the BBC mainly.

At the time of writing, . is still working perfectly with the BBC iPlayer abroad and in fact all the major media sites.

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BBC Live VPN – Watch UK TV from Abroad

Over the years, the BBC website has developed to an incredible extent. In fact it’s one of the most popular sites on the internet and receives millions of visit every single day. As far as TV broadcasters sites go, it’s without doubt a world leader with an incredible depth of content and services – all completely unsullied by internet advertising too.

In fact the only drawback, is that the real BBC website is normally inaccessible from outside the United Kingdom even if you are a license fee payer. Yet fear not, there is an answer a way of having full access to the BBC wherever you are – it’s called a BBC Live VPN.

Now there are in fact two BBC websites, an international version and a domestic version. The international site is a decent enough news site with a world focus, but it’s nowhere near as good as the domestic site. The UK BBC website has live TV of all it’s channels, all the radio stations (national plus regional variations) plus one of the biggest media archives on the planet – the BBC iPlayer.

BBC live vpn

Live TV on the BBC Site

It’s no exaggeration to say that the BBC website is capable of supplying all the news, entertainment and information that anyone would need. The array of news, drama, documentaries, comedies and current affairs programmes is incredible – all available for nothing and free of advertising breaks. Which is why there’s a whole industry sprung up to allow people to access the domestic site from anywhere in the world using something called a VPN.

Using a BBC Live VPN

Although it sounds difficult, using a VPN to access the BBC is quite simple – my eighty year old mother uses one all the time! It’s simply a method of connecting through an intermediate server in order to hide your real location. If the VPN server is based in the UK then you will appear to be in the UK too. So when you visit the BBC through a VPN then you will have full access instead of being redirected or blocked.

Here’s a very simple demonstration of a VPN service being used to access the BBC from abroad.

When your computer is connected to the VPN it’s real location is invisible, all the BBC website can see is the VPN server.   In fact you can use the BBC iPlayer VPN workaround on sites in other countries too, try the US or Canadian TV stations. There are some hidden gems like the RTE TV from Ireland which has some great documentaries and dramas. Often you can find sporting coverage from different countries too, although watching the Premiership on US TV and hearing the word ‘soccer’ all the time can be slightly distracting!

Beware though, the BBC has recently conducted a crackdown on these methods and some of the simplest VPN services have been blocked.    The good news is that although the BBC iplayer blocking VPN services quite extensively completely blocking them is quite difficult and the best VPN systems still work.  If you’re having problems with iPlayer not working it’s best to simply switch VPN providers.

Don’t be put off by all these reports that state that BBC iplayer VPN not working anymore, it’s not completely true.   There’s plenty that still work but stay away from those that use the BBC logo or copyrighted material on their website, they won’t last long.

The software demonstrated is a BBC Live VPN called Identity Cloaker and just sits in your taskbar until you need it. You can also use your account on other devices like tablets, smartphones and iPads by connecting manually (instructions in the members area). No restrictions on downloads and you can use on a number of different devices at the same time.

To give you an example of how I personally use it –

  • Installed on my Laptop for browsing and Using all UK only sites but mainly BBC, ITV Hub and Channel 4
  • Installed on my iPad for UK websites especially Amazon and BBC.
  • Installed on my iPhone primarily to access BBC radio, mainly Test Match Special abroad and the Local news broadcasts.

It’s very simple to use, but it’s always best to try out the short trial first to see how it works.  You’ll be impressed and remember it enables all the other UK channels too like ITV, Channel 4 and 5. Even use it to watch Sky Go abroad and UK Netflix, although you’ll need subscriptions to those.

Try it here – IDC

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BBC News Streaming Abroad

For many people there is only one definitive online source of news and that’s the BBC.  Although it’s often criticised for media  bias, in reality the BBC is one of the few genuine news channels which doesn’t have a political agenda.   After the latest updates to the BBC News online section, the available news coverage on the internet has improved greatly.

You can still watch the BBC News broadcasts live through the ‘TV’ tab including the BBC1 broadcast and the dedicated news channel.  However if you miss this, the various broadcasts stay up for 24 hours before they are deleted.  This means that you have until 1pm the next day to watch a specific lunchtime news broadcast.   The main BBC News channel is available here – BBC News Channel and from here you get links to the TV pages where you can stream live and the iPlayer where old news broadcasts are archived.

BBC News Streaming Abroad

In addition to the main BBC News channels, there are over 50 regional stations which cover local news issues from different regions of the United Kingdom.  You can customize this option by specifying a region in the bottom left corner of the BBC Live TV page – like this:

If you change your location here, then you’ll get the corresponding local News station.  This is also useful for people who get the wrong local version of the news broadcast through the position of their aerial.   Many media boxes now have the facility to watch BBC iPlayer too so this is a further option for people who wish to change their preferred local news.

The BBC is introducing mandatory login on the site in the next few months so your regional preferences will be stored in this account too.

How to Watch BBC News Streaming Abroad

Of course, all these options are not available if you connect from outside the UK.  You’ll be redirected to the ‘International version’ of the site which contains none of the live streaming or archived programmes simply static content.  there are a few snippets on the BBC news live video section on Youtube, but no regular news.  The BBC site determines your location based on your IP address which it checks when you visit the site, your options are then restricted if this address is based outside the United Kingdom.

The solution is quite straight forward in order to get full access to all the BBC channels and to allow BBC News streaming abroad then you need to hide your true location.  There used to be a few different options for doing this but over the years many of these have disappeared.   For example you used to be able to find a free UK proxy online and use that to hide your location.

Nowadays you’ll need to get a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service which has a UK based server in order to watch the BBC live stream and archived programmes.   If you enable this connection before you visit the BBC site then you’ll be treated as a UK based surfer with full access to the site including iPlayer.  This is because the BBC will see the IP address of the server and not your real one, as long as the VPN server is based in the UK then it will work perfectly.

It will also enable all the other British TV stations so you can watch Sky News live as well as the BBC News world service.   There is also of course, a really good news services on ITV which has actually won some awards which you’ll find broadcast over the ITV hub pages.

Be careful when selecting a UK VPN service to access the BBC, many of them have now been blocked and no longer work.  This is our recommendation for an inexpensive, reliable and fast VPN service which will allow you to watch BBC News streaming abroad.

Try the trial first to ensure it’s the right option for you, the software installs on a PC or laptop or you can set up the VPN connections manually on smartphones and tablets – it’s very simple and takes a minute or two.  Don’t forget there are servers in lots of other countries included too, try the US one for CNN World News or you can get the Al Jazeera news station broadcast through several countries IP addresses.

Click here to try the cheap trial of Identity Cloaker and watch BBC news streaming abroad, there’s no automatic contract or sneaky recurring subscription and it’s perfect for expats or simply for a short holiday or business trip.

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BBC iPlayer France – How’s it Done?

For many UK citizens, particularly those with a love of fine food, wine and with a little disposable income to spare France is a great place. For years lower property prices have meant you can pick up some wonderful bargains especially for those brave enough to use the auction market. A decent exchange rate, slightly better climate and loads of simple, cheap ways to get there provide an obvious attraction. All across France many people have transitioned from holidays, to moving and living there.

It’s usually good advice when you move abroad to try and adapt to the local way of life and not create some sort of expat community isolated from the locals. However there is one exception to this, and it leads to the subject of this post – How do I get BBC iPlayer in France? Of course it’s best to try to adapt into your new home’s culture, but all this cultural assimilation can be quite hard work initially, so maintaining this connection to your home certainly helps.

BBC iPlayer France

Many of us have experienced the disappointment of trying to access the wonderful BBC site online from France and discovering it’s all blocked. The corporation don’t single out the French though, try and watch BBC iPlayer from anywhere outside the UK you’ll get redirected to a rather rubbish International version of the site. It unfortunately includes no BBC iPlayer, no Live TV streams or access to all the local and national radio stations. If you try and force your computer to visit the UK TV version and try and watch anything you’ll just get a screen similar to this:

bbc iplayer watched

All very polite and friendly but the implications are huge, no News at 10, no Match of the Day, no wonderful documentaries. The same happens with other UK based TV channels and if you try and watch ITV player abroad too. Not having BBC iPlayer abroad means losing a host of other TV programmes that you won’t realise you’re going to miss until you can’t watch them! It seems counterintuitive to restrict a site which is most useful for travelling when you leave the country. There were moves afoot to force BBC to allow UK license fee payers access from anywhere in Europe as part of creating a digital single market. However much to the disappointment of more than a million people or so that’s probably not going to happen now thanks to Brexit. So forget legitamate methods internet users it’s back to the vpns or proxy servers I’m afraid.

So I’m afraid some sneakiness is required – here’s the solution.

How Do I get BBC iPlayer in France?

You have to convince the BBC website that you’re actually in the UK which you can do by bouncing your internet connection through an intermediate server called a VPN or Proxy server. Nothing complicated you simply hide behind a UK based server and then everything web based will work as if you were in the UK including the BBC website, iPlayer etc.  You should be able to watch British TV that is online and also any subscription channels that you are a member of – it’s useful to watch Sky Go abroad for example too.

Here’s a quick demo video that demonstrates some of the options, unfortunately now all the free ones illustrated here don’t work anymore.  However fast forward to about 4:30 and you’ll see a VPN program in  action, it’s certainly the fastest and easiest option that still works in 2017 for watching the BBC iPlayer outside the UK:

As you can see it’s quite simple, you merely make the VPN connection to a British based server before logging on to the BBC website and you’ll have access to all the functionality of the site including live TV and the iPlayer archive. Interestingly enough it used to be possible to use a free proxy server to watch the BBC from France or Germany but unfortunately those no longer work. The BBC started blocking proxies late in 2015 and subsequently have increased their detection of these programs.

It’s not a popular move, as for years the BBC have been fairly relaxed about programs that allow you to watch from outside the United Kingdom. Especially in places like France where many people actually pay the UK licence fee anyway using these services to access UK TV from their holiday homes or holidays. They have actually been a little more aggressive than some of the stations although ITV player ask you to register using a UK postcode as well, although you just need to use a legitimate one from anywhere.  It’s hardly surprising though as many Brits are now living in France and enjoying the advantages of French family life whilst accessing iPlayer on any device they own.

Update on BBC iPlayer VPN 2017 Issue

In the Summer of 2016, the BBC actually started actively targeting VPNs too and hundreds of services were blocked.   It’s wasn’t that the BBC iPlayer detecting VPN  programs, nobody has figured out how to do that, but they can investigate IP addresses with multiple connections and track through advertising. They realised just how much BBC was watched in these areas and how it perhaps affected their commercial revenue from people watching the BBC like this.  There are a lot fewer of these services now, but the majority that remain still work – always get a short trial account though before paying for a longer subscription to make sure.

Here’s our recommendation working now in the Summer of 2017 – .

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Using a UK Proxy Server to Watch the BBC Abroad

The definition of a proxy server from Wikipedia is as follows;

In computer networks, a proxy server is a server that acts as an intermediary for requests from clients seeking resources from other servers.

Not that exciting, I’m sure you’d agree so why do literally millions of people use UK proxies every single day. Well the clue is the intermediary part, because a proxy site actually sits between you and the website you visit. It effectively hides your location from the website you are visiting which only sees the location of the proxy server not you.

It does give you a higher level of privacy, however this is not the main reason people use proxies which is to evade region blocks and filters. As you may have discovered many of the best media web sites are only available in the country of their origin. So online you can only use the BBC iPlayer in the UK, NBC is only accessible in the US and so on.  However there is a way around this, you can proxy BBC programs from any country,  using a server based in the UK you can stream the broadcasts irrespective of your location.

Using a UK Proxy Server to Watch BBC iPlayer Abroad

Just watch this video for information on how to use a proxy server:

Simply explained it’s a proxy server which is physically located in the UK, and when you use it then you will appear to be in the UK too. Which is why for example, hundreds of thousands of Expats are able to watch the BBC News live from anywhere in the world from the Costa del Sol to Australia. They’re not in the UK but as long as the proxy server they use is then everything works perfectly.

It’s not just the BBC, all the UK Television stations are the same – from Channel 4 to the ITV Hub.  Whenever you try and access any of these stations from outside the UK you’ll receive a little warning message.

BBC Proxy

Connect to a UK proxy server first however and the BBC and all the other stations will work perfectly.    This is because the systems work by looking at where your IP address is registered to, which of course for a UK based proxy will be the United Kingdom. Your own IP address doesn’t actually change, however when using the virtual private network that address is invisible. All the video sites will only see the location of the VPN proxy and it will appear you live in the UK as far as the web site is concerned.

However in 2016 things changed a bit, particularly regarding the BBC.  For some reason they decided to start restricting access to these servers and blocking them.   Many servers became useless particularly the free proxy server list which all stopped working.  However the best proxy server programs also operated as VPN services too and most of them still work fine.

There are no real issues about using them, the BBC does try and block many of them.  However if you use a slightly more advanced system called a VPN there should be no issue. Many people use VPN servers routinely to keep their internet connection secure, they have taken over from the premium proxy programs which previously offered some protection.

Most of the commercially available services are very easy to use and you’ll find the best of them have servers in other countries included too which means you can watch TV and movies from those countries too. These proxy switchers allow you to change your IP address to match lots of different countries with a simple click enabling you to access blocked content in other countries.

Literally millions of people across the world use proxies and VPNs nowadays, hiding your real IP address just makes sense. More web sites across the words are limiting access based on your location for a variety of reasons. Many of the ones which broadcast tv online are concerned about copyright restrictions which are still assigned on a country by country basis. Whilst of course in other countries, the filters and blocks are assigned as a means of political and religious control such as Turkey and Iran for example.

Most of us though just don’t like to get blocked online, and these simple web proxies with unlimited data accounts basically bypass them all. Just like the BBC in the UK, there are media sites all over the world which restrict access based on your IP address. My favorite ones are generally the UK TV stations which I access using the UK proxy servers when travelling. However it’s worth checking out Canadian or US TV channels for some great documentaries and movies not available elsewhere for example.

At the time of writing, . is still working perfectly with the BBC iPlayer abroad and in fact all the major media sites.

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How to Stream UK TV from Abroad

All the UK major TV stations broadcast online, however none of these are accessible when you’re outside the UK. Instead you’ll either get blocked or like the BBC you’ll get redirected to an ‘International’ version which has no video or live streams available.

Here’s the screen of the BBC International version:

You’ll notice several differences from the domestic BBC screen:

  • Redirected to BBC.COM
  • Different Design
  • No TV Link
  • No BBC iPlayer Link

It’s designed for a different audience, that is anyone connecting from outside the UK.  It’s still a great news site but unfortunately it’s missing the core of the BBC content i.e. all the Live TV, Radio and archived shows.   You can’t watch the  BBC stations live and also the stuff that has already been broadcast is missing too.

The BBC site determines your location based on a single piece of information – your IP address.  Every address is registered to a specific country and effectively determines where you are connecting from.  So a UK based IP address would get the full BBC site with access to all the programmes whilst any other address is redirected to the international version.

Fortunately there is a workaround and it involves using a piece of software which can effectively hide your real location from anyone.  It’s called a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and it gives you complete control over what you can access online – you can even watch the BBC from Australia without an issue.

This video shows how you can use one of these. Using a simple secure method for hiding your real location and keeping your connection details private. It’s a trick used by millions and you can see the VPN in action here controlling the location each web site sees when connecting. Using the program demonstrated effectively opens up all the UK Television stations online irrespective of your location.

So yes you can stream UK TV stations abroad directly to your computer whilst on holiday, travelling or simply because you prefer British TV stations to the local versions wherever you happen to be.

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