BBC Recognizes VPN Services. Oh No it Doesn’t!

You tend to see these sort of comments all over the internet now. Someone will find that their crappy VPN service which costs them $2 every year has suddenly started to be blocked by the BBC – ergo the BBC has developed deep packet inspection systems which can sniff out all virtual private network connections and block them automatically.    The reality is somewhat different and can be easily verified by using a decent, secure VPN which works perfectly well with BBC and all the other UK stations.

Detecting VPN traffic is not easy, the Chinese government have systems which can – already implemented as part of the Great Firewall of China.  Yet even these are not perfect and many people and visitors use VPNs in China all the time to access blocked and filtered sites which are normally inaccessible.   It’s been some years since the Chinese implemented their active probing system which  can detect and block Tor nodes and connections. Their technology has almost certainly developed since then to pick up lots more circumvention systems, but this comes at a huge cost both monetary and resources.  Indeed the battle develops on both sides and there are now many defenses against Chinese active probing too.

BBC Recognizes VPN

Despite what many think of them the BBC are not an authoritarian state seeking to control billions of people’s actions.   Indeed until a few years ago the BBC were very relaxed about the whole geo-restricting situation.  Sure they’ve always made the BBC iPlayer inaccessible from outside the UK, but only a few years ago you could use any sort of free proxy based in the UK to bypass these blocks.  They made virtually no attempt to block or filter any of these connections despite quite obviously having millions of active inbound connections watching from all over the world.  People were watching from all over from France, across the border in Ireland, thousands in Spain and from as far away as Australia.   There was little evidence that the BBC actually were that concerned about these foreign visitors at all.

Can the BBC Recognize VPN Services?

A  few years ago thought this changed, for whatever reason the BBC started to take measures to enforce their UK only restrictions.  First the proxies were finally blocked, the BBC followed the example of most online media sites which were able to detect and block incoming proxy connections automatically.  This was not difficult as a standard proxy connection is not encrypted and easy to detect so it had little administrative cost too.  There were some issues with legitimate UK users having some problems,  as they were using proxy servers in educational and corporate networks within the UK but these issues have mostly been eradicated now.

However by this time, VPNs have become increasingly common and mainstream.  Many of use routinely use VPNs when we travel because of the security aspects, but also to connect to the myriad of domestic websites which we lose access to when travelling.  It’s perfectly common now for people to have little VPN apps on their tablets, phones and laptops which can be activated with a click. For anyone who travels or lives abroad, using VPNs is perfectly common whereas previously it was only the real technical geeks who had an interest in these sorts of systems.

Perhaps it was this increasing prevalence or the fact that the BBC was facing huge pressures on it’s budgets but about two years ago they started on the VPNs too.  With little warning, suddenly thousands of people found their access to the BBC restricted even when using a UK based VPN service.  Suddenly people had real difficulties in watching the BBC News or enjoying Eastenders while sunning themselves on the Cost Del Sol.   Many very popular VPN services used primarily to access UK television where suddenly blocked and became useless.

Now despite the hysterics that you could see online, the BBC have not developed some super advanced deep packet inspection systems that block all the VPNs.  There is no way they have the resources or expertise to implement such a system.  Yet there are very simple and practical alternatives which can be used to detect and block VPNs almost as effectively.

  1. Many VPN services make themselves very easy to detect by offering ‘TV watching Services’, lots even used the copyright protected BBC logos on their sales pages!  These are extremely easy to deal with through normal legal channels.  The most reliable method is to threaten legal action to the hosting providers, who would almost always simply cut off their connections rather than risk a legal battle.  Remember these servers have to be based in the UK in order to defeat the country IP detection.   Many VPN services were ‘taken out’ using this method and you’ll notice that most survivors make no direct mention of the BBC or UK TV watching on their sites.
  2. Concurrent connections – it doesn’t take any advanced detection systems to notice when there are ten thousand users all watching from the same IP address.  Many VPN services to cut down costs and lower their prices have overloaded servers and IP addresses with users.  Not only does this make using such a VPN very slow it also makes it very simple to detect.  A quick update to the Beeb’s firewall will block all those connections instantly.
  3. A very effective and simple method to block these companies is to simply buy an account and make a note of all their IP addresses.  Anyone can subscribe and copy down all the service’s UK IP addresses and hand them over to the BBC’s internet security section who could block them in minutes.  These IP addresses can be changed of course, but don’t underestimate the costs and effort needed to constantly swap out IP address ranges.

Now none of these methods are perfect and all have some drawbacks, blocking loads of UK IP address ranges can only really be done in the sort term.  Yet they are very easy to implement and require little investment and effort in order to block loads of spoofed connections.    It’s certainly nowhere near the effort it would require to instigate any sort of automatic VPN detection system to deny access to the BBC iplayer app.   These are what the BBC did and although they took out thousands of VPN services, the clever and discrete ones were actually barely impacted at all.  For example none of the genuine long term security VPN services were really affected at all – i.e.  those who didn’t advertise BBC circumvention techniques for instance.  Indeed it’s a useful tip to check that there’s no obvious TV watching advertising on a VPN site before you subscribe.

It’s also become more and more evident that a lot of this ‘crackdown’ effort was actually short lived. Although the BBC did take action and closed lots of VPN services, they don’t seem to have maintained this aggressive stance.  Just type in ‘ watch BBC iPlayer abroad’ or something similar into Google and you’ll now see lots of companies starting to place advertisements again.   A year or so ago there were no adverts of this type as the advertisers would have made themselves instant targets.  I’d still steer well clear of companies who do this though as it’s so easy to block access to their VPN services.

Basically if you pick a sensible company who keeps a relatively low profile there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to access the BBC from anywhere in the world using a VPN or Smart DNS system.  If you thought these services were dead, don’t worry there’s still loads that work.  IT does take some investment to stay hidden so you’ll  not find a free vpn for BBC iplayer anymore.  However be assured that there are still millions of people watching the BBC online from all over the world today.

Below we have a couple of our favorites which we can recommend, either of which will work perfectly with BBC iPlayer from anywhere.

Try these Out, ones a DNS based system the other a BBC iplayer VPN – but  both work perfectly for accessing all major UK TV Channels from abroad in 2018.

Identity Cloaker
Smart DNS Proxy

How Can I Watch BBC News Abroad ?

Those of us of a certain age can probably remember dashing around on holiday searching for a three day old British newspaper so we could catch up with the news. There were usually a few about but normally at hugely inflated prices and worse still it was often just the Daily Mirror available.

Of course, this has now changed completely in the digital age. Anyone with a phone, tablet or laptop can keep up to date with all the local news easily while travelling. Even in the most remote locations, there’s likely to be an internet or wireless connection available somewhere. This is all you need to access most of the UK’s News media which is available online.

How Can I Watch BBC News Abroad

However it’s not all plain sailing, you can access most of the online newspapers it’s true although some do require subscriptions. This is not the case for all the online radio and TV news broadcasts though. Most broadcast online through portals like the BBC iPlayer and the ITV Hub, yet they are all restricted from access outside the UK.

Each time any connection is made to the BBC website for example, then the IP address is recorded and checked. If the address is registered to a country other than the UK (and that includes the Republic of Ireland) then you’ll get redirected to the International version of the site which has no BBC TV and radio streams. If you try and bypass by going directly to the BBC iPlayer site, then you’ll find that none of the video streams including all the BBC live TV and News ones will work.

It’s kind of annoying, if you’re on holiday and want to keep in touch. It’s even worse for ex-pats most of whom probably expected to be able to watch UK television online without restrictions before they moved abroad. Fortunately there is a solution and you can watch BBC News abroad as we can see in the following video –

How Can I Watch BBC News Abroad

It’s a relatively simple solution and one used by literally millions of people across the world to access things like the BBC iPlayer from outside the United Kingdom.    Indeed it was estimated that there were over three million connections from outside the UK watching England’s first World Cup game!  This of course, should have been technically impossible.

The BBC is well aware that many people use these VPN services to bypass the country restrictions and to some extent accept this.   However they do actively try and block these connections in specific ways;

  • Target services which openly advertise and market themselves as TV watching services, then get them closed down.
  • Monitor number of concurrent connections from individual IP addresses and block those with the most.

The problem that most of the media companies face, including the BBC is that it takes a huge amount of resources to keep tracking and blocking these connections.  Which is why they only go after the obvious targets, for example by threatening legal action against hosting services they can bring down thousands of outside users instantly.   If you search online you’ll come across lots of stories about a BBC iPlayer VPN not working.

It is also why you should be wary of the cheapest VPN services and those with free trials.  They will always be the ones with overloaded servers which at best will make streaming video painful and slow, at worst will be the first blocked because of the number of concurrent connections.  You won’t enjoy the BBC news headlines with constant pauses and buffering.

Our suggestion is the one demonstrated in the video, it’s called Identity Cloaker. It’s very simple to use, and you can test the short trial first to see how it works.  You’re sure to be impressed and remember it enables all the other BirtishUK 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 – Identity Cloaker Trial

UK TV Channels Abroad

So is it possible? Can you watch UK TV Channels abroad? The good news is yes, all the major UK TV stations broadcast online and can be accessed over the internet from anywhere in the world.

UK TV Channels Abroad

In fact, at this moment literally millions of connections are made to the UK online TV stations.  They’re watching the BBC in Marbella, Channel 4 in Istanbul, expats from anywhere and you can watch ITV player abroad too.

Of course, it’s not quite that straight forward as you may have discovered if you’ve tried to watch British TV online. Let’s firstly list the major online TV stations:

  • BBC iPlayer – the best online TV channels possibly in the world, with about ten online streaming channels live and thousands of hours content archived. For many of us – it’s all we watch!
  • ITV Hub – UK’s premiere commercial TV station. Live streaming from all their channels and huge archive content although all of them have advertisements. New Box set section.
  • All 4 – the innovative UK TV channel. Live streaming and archive section, with some brilliant box sets.
  • My 5 – Channel 5’s online channel with live streaming and box sets from their own content and bought in from other channels. Some great dramas, crime and sci-fi programmes that you won’t find anywhere else.
  • Sky Go – Sky is the biggest satellite broadcaster in the UK and has millions of subscribers. Loads of movies, films, TV series and documentaries. Plus usually has coverage of most major sporting events. You will need a paid subscription to watch Sky Go abroad and access these channels.

There are other stations of course, including the BBC and Virgins commercial channels but these are easily the most popular.  The free options are usually enough for anyone with some of the world’s best English language content (although there’s many foreign language films and documentaries especially on Channel 4 too).

However here’s the catch, every single one of the above sites does a location check when you visit their sit. If you’re connecting from outside the United Kingdom, then you’ll be redirected to an apology and none of the streaming content will work.

How to Watch UK TV Channels Abroad

But please don’t give up, those few channels are worth fighting for with literally thousands of hours of fantastic TV – documentaries, drama, current affairs, comedies and movies just between the free to air channels.

All you need to do is hide your location and make it look like you’re in the UK. There is a simple way to do this by routing your connection through a server based in Britain. There used to be several options for this connection including using something called a proxy server however all these options are now blocked by the websites. The only method that cannot be detected is by using a VPN which is what we can see in the following video:

The video focuses on the ITV hub but in reality the same methods work for all the UK online channels including the BBC.  The only difference is the Sky GO which you will need a valid Sky Subscription to work (or someone in the UK who will let you use their account).

That’s all there is to it, every time you want to watch any of the UK TV channels on your computer or laptop then just connect to one of the UK servers.  Any decent VPN service should allow you to watch UK TV channels abroad.  If you want to watch a TV channel from another country, I’m afraid they all do this country blocking stuff, then choose a server from that country.

If  you want to watch on another device, then you can set up the VPN directly on your phone, tablet or Chromebook – it’s not hard.  Most of the decent providers will send you a guide and it should only take a couple of minutes to set up manually.

There are quite a lot of these VPN services available but only a few that work reliably each time.  The very cheap ones are mostly terrible because they get blocked all the time and overload their servers so that you’ll find the stream buffering all the time.  Although if you can download some of the BBC programmes to watch later if that’s preferable.

Our choice is the wonderfully, fast, reliable and discrete .. They’ve been tweaking their video streaming for over a decade now and you won’t find a faster way to watch the BBC iPlayer anywhere in the world. However much depends on your physical location so it’s probably worth testing the trial account first.

Try it here IDC

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.

It’s very simple to use, and can be used on a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. However it’s always best to try out the short trial first to see how it works for you.  Try it out and remember it enables all the other UK channels too like ITV, Channel 4 and 5 plus media channels all over the world.

Try it here – Identity Cloaker

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.