How to Watch UK TV Online in Europe

For many years the UK media companies have been at the forefront of online broadcasting. Currently all the major terrestrial channels have large online presences and most of them broadcast the majority of their content through the web.    The first version of the BBC iPlayer was released in 2005 when it was originally known as the Integrated Media Player however it has had several other name changes over the last decade too. Now the majority of programmes are available to stream for several weeks, you can watch most content live and even download to your device to watch offline.

How to Watch UK TV Online in Europe

Unfortunately one of the main drawbacks of the BBC iPlayer (although this is by design) is that it cannot be accessed from anywhere outside the UK.  So if you want to watch UK TV online, then the only place is by logging in from the United Kingdom.  Fortunately there is a way around this and it’s a method used by millions of people across the world.

How to Watch UK TV Online in Europe or Anywhere

The block that is enforced by the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and all the other UK television channels is based on your IP address. Every time you connect to the internet, you are assigned a unique network address called an Internet protocol address. These addresses are assigned to the device you are connecting with from wherever you are connecting from. So if you connect from Paris you’ll get a French address, from Barcelona a Spanish address and so on. Only a UK address will allow you access to the online streaming of the UK Television channels, you can’t even access the BBC iPlayer in Ireland across the water.

Therefore the solution is to ensure that you have a UK IP address before you connect to the BBC iPlayer or any UK TV website. Which is much easier to do than you would think. Now it’s impossible to change your real IP address, but what you can do is relay your connection through a server which does have a UK IP address. You can do this by connecting through a VPN (Virtual Private Network) server and you can see a demonstration of this in the following video:

As you can see, as soon as you connect through a UK based server then all the functionality of the BBC website will be available. You can stream programmes live, download them and watch them from the iPlayer archive for a selected period.    You can even connect through to a VPN from mobile devices and watch UK TV abroad on iPad or your phone. The BBC site can only see the IP address of the VPN server and thus your own location is irrelevant – you could be anywhere in Europe, USA, Africa or the Far East and it will all work perfectly.

The BBC and the other UK television companies have obviously tried to stop this VPN workaround with some success. During the last year or so, they BBC in particular have attempted to block many of these inbound VPN connections in order to stop people streaming outside the UK. The problem they have is that a well configured VPN connection is almost impossible to detect and obviously popular as they allow you to watch UK TV free of charge. They have blocked many however by analyzing IP addresses with many concurrent connections and identifying companies who advertise this workaround on their websites.

The result is a partial block, most of the gimmicky TV watching VPN connections no longer work. However there are still quite a few security companies who run these VPN services more discretely. They also have the infrastructure with many IP addresses and the ability to switch load between them to avoid detection.

So that’s all you need to do to watch UK TV online in Europe or anywhere else in the world. You can enjoy British TV online anywhere by just using a VPN connection service to conceal your location. It’s not illegal, or breaching copyright as European rules state that streaming media is not the same as buying or downloading it. Needless to say the BBC don’t like the idea of a people being able to watch BBC iPlayer abroad free when they could be buying all these programs and downloading them. However it’s impossible to block the well configured services completely so if you choose a decent secure one like IDC then you’ll be fine and it will always be available to watch.

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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 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 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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Free Trial of BBC iPlayer VPN Service

For many years it has been relatively simple to bypass the Region locking operated by the BBC iPlayer application. Although technically the BBC has restricted access to people located in the United Kingdom, in practice it was quite simple to use a simply proxy or VPN program to change your location. So for example if you wanted to watch the BBC in Australia you’d simply find a free proxy and use that to hide your location. Early in 2016, the BBC stopped this practice and blocked all proxy access and many of the VPN services from accessing the site.

There are still a few VPN services which work and fortunately there are also some Smart DNS services you can use too. Here’s a free 14 day trial of one of the best – Smart DNS Proxy which you can use to watch BBC iPlayer outside the UK.

Now it’s not one I use all the time, but I’ve had a few subscriptions over the years and it’s always worked well especially with the BBC. The reason I mention this one is because it’s one of the few VPN services which offer a proper free trial and also it’s reputedly got very good speeds from Australia to their UK based servers unfortunately not something I can verify from Europe.

For anyone just needing a solution for a couple of weeks, perhaps travelling abroad or maybe just want to listen to the cricket on Test Match Special the free trial will be perfect for this and accessing BBC iPlayer outside UK  for a short time.

There are two services included in the free trial, the basic Smart DNS solution which works by intercepting requests for specific blocked sites like the BBC and Hulu then routing part of the connection through a proxy in the specified country.  This is basically the ‘lite’ solution it provides no security, encryption but should allow access to most region locked content, it only works with specified sites although the list is comprehensive and works with the majority of big media sites which aren’t available normally in Australia like US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ITV hub and so on.

The full service includes the VPN client too, which provides a secure, encrypted tunnel to access anything and should work with all blocked and region locked sites including things like gambling sites and individual videos.  If  you’re travelling or away from home, you should use the VPN as it provides a layer of security which is important if you need to access things like webmail or online banking through unknown wifi connections for example.

At the worst it gives you a decent chance to test the service properly without paying out. I must confess I found Identity Cloaker quicker so their ten day trial is also worth checking out too.

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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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