Updated in July 2019:
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.
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:
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:
It’s not been 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 just 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 just 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 France VPN 2019 Issue
In the Summer of 2017, 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 many people were using this BBC iPlayer VPN workaround in these areas and how it perhaps affected their commercial revenue from people watching the BBC like this.
So don’t believe it when you read that BBC iPlayer doesn’t work through VPN anymore, although there are many that do get blocked. Despite being lot fewer of these services now, there are still some that still work. In general they are all services which offer security type privacy through VPN connections rather than promoting their TV watching abilities. If you see anything that is too obvious then chances are it won’t work for long. The simplest way is to try out a short trial account though before paying for a longer subscription to make sure.
Here’s our recommendation working now for watching the BBC iPlayer abroad anywhere in the world. It’s not the fanciest web site and indeed there’s nothing to suggest that people watch the BBC using it but thousands do. It’s been working fine for over a decade now and still works well with all the UK TV stations in the Summer of 2019 –