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The Best Way to Watch BBC iPlayer in USA for Free?

Since completing university, Paul has worked as a librarian, teacher, and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he currently lives in Florida.

I spend a lot of my time in the USA. I don't watch a lot of British TV, but sometimes it's nice to watch big occasions, television shows, or sporting events broadcast by the BBC.

I spend a lot of my time in the USA. I don't watch a lot of British TV, but sometimes it's nice to watch big occasions, television shows, or sporting events broadcast by the BBC.

Although this will work for anyone, this article is aimed at those British television license holders who find themselves outside of the UK and unable to get BBC TV or watch BBC iPlayer.

The BBC produces quality drama, news, comedies, and documentaries, much of which is available either streamed live over the internet or by watching BBC iPlayer, which allows you to watch BBC TV programs that were broadcast recently.

The problem is that if you travel outside of the country and try to access their online services, the BBC will not allow you to watch BBC iPlayer overseas. This is because it picks up your location and blocks you.

Even if you have a valid British television license, you still will not be able to watch BBC iPlayer in the USA or anywhere else overseas.

As a British holidaymaker in the USA for a month, who holds a valid television license but has a limited amount of money, I spent some time researching how to watch BBC iPlayer in USA for free, and below are my findings on the best way to do it.

Why Doesn't the BBC Allow People to Watch Its iPlayer Overseas?

The BBC is paid for by British license payers and the BBC don’t want people who live overseas, without a television license, to be able to get BBC iPlayer or watch BBC tv overseas for free. The problem is that the blanket approach of blocking all people abroad stops everyone overseas from watching the BBC iPlayer, even if they have actually paid for and own a television license and are only abroad temporarily—for instance, they are on holiday.

How to Watch BBC iPlayer in USA for Free

Basically, your computer has an ID called an IP address, and the BBC can detect where your IP is situated. If you are in the USA or overseas, they will automatically block you, even if you have a valid British television license.

The only way that you can watch BBC iPlayer overseas is to trick the BBC computer detectors into thinking that your IP address is situated somewhere within the UK. To do this, you normally have to use a computer situated in the UK as an intermediary between your computer and the BBC. This is known as a proxy. There are lots of companies that offer proxy services, but the free ones are often unreliable, and as I really didn’t want to pay, I spent a long time looking at and trying different proxy sites. I didn’t discover anything that I was happy with, however.

Then I came across a website called Expat Shield. They promised me the opportunity to get BBC iPlayer from abroad for free. I was obviously skeptical, suspecting that once I arrived at the site they would try to make me pay for their service, but that wasn’t the case. I downloaded the small Expat Shield program and installed it and that was it. I was away.

They make their money back by using a small banner ad that appears near the top of your screen. It’s actually a very minor irritation and you can click to close it, if you want, anyway. It’s certainly worth putting up with when you consider that you get to watch BBC iPlayer for free.

www.myiplayer.com and www.filmon.com are okay for streaming live British TV channels.  The quality isn't great and there are a lot of pop-ups to deal with, but the sites are free to use.

www.myiplayer.com and www.filmon.com are okay for streaming live British TV channels. The quality isn't great and there are a lot of pop-ups to deal with, but the sites are free to use.

So that’s my recommendation: Expat Shield. And by the way, I have no connection with the company, nor do I get any sort of cut from them.

I did run some anti-virus software on the program and I did some research too, as I hate installing programs unless I know a bit about them. I haven’t discovered anything harmful or detrimental on my computer. In fact, I have Expat Shield installed on both my laptop and netbook now and have really enjoyed watching BBC iPlayer without experiencing any ill effects or problems.

From what I have read elsewhere, Expat Shield has a good reputation as far as proxy services go. I certainly feel I have done well by them.

You can download Expat Shield from CNET Download.com

Web-Based Alternatives

If you just want to watch BBC live in real time, rather than use iPlayer, there are several websites you could try. The time difference can make things awkward sometimes, however. The quality can sometimes be poor too, and there are often a lot of ads to contend with.

  • www.myiplayer.com and www.filmon.com both stream foreign TV channels.
  • Justin.tv streams many individual events, such as sports matches, if say, you want to watch a football match. Update: Justin.tv is now offline, for good, I believe.

2016 Update!

It is always a fluid situation and since this article was written it has become increasingly difficult to access the BBC from abroad. Loopholes that once existed have been closed off

Although Expat Shield is still enabling access to live TV for free, they now want you to pay for access to BBC iPlayer, and the overall experience of the software is not what it was in my experience.

The most reliable method is still using a proxy server, but I understand that most people perhaps don't want to go through the trouble or expense of setting something up.

If I can find any good alternatives I will update the article, or post them up here.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Why does BBC not allow non-Brits outside the UK to subscribe?

Answer: I don't understand why the BBC channels aren't available on subscription either, you would think it would make sense in terms of income generation? There is now Britbox, however, which enables access to a wealth of BBC and ITV shows, which is maybe worth trying.

Question: What is Britbox?

Answer: It's a subscription video on-demand service run by the BBC and ITV. It's currently available in the USA and Canada. They have lots of British TV series that you can watch, both current and older.

© 2011 Paul Goodman


MaryAnn Pickering on August 09, 2020:

I have Brit Box but there is so much that they don't offer. It is very limited. Would it not make sense for BBC to offer a service you pay for? I would be willing to pay for BBC iplayer if there were such an option. I really enjoy British shows and miss them.

Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on March 06, 2020:

I've not tried that one. Let me know how it works out?

Thom on March 06, 2020:

I am planning on going to Turkey for a family vacation and was looking for the best VPN to use while there. I stumbled upon AtlasVPN, it looks very trust-worthy and lucky for me it's free, but I couldn't find any info if it works in Turkey. Do you know if it will work?

Joode Weinhold on March 04, 2019:

Thanks for this advice. We visit the US about twice a year for a couple of months each time and I just saw that a new series of Line of Duty was going to be on iPlayer!!! We have a TV licence so will download Expat Shield. Absolutely thrilled about this!!

David Jones on August 08, 2018:

Is Penguin Proxy reliable enough or should i say, does it get the kob done?

john on July 27, 2018:

I just use Penguin Proxy

Lani on September 25, 2017:

Thank you for looking into this. I wold love to watch iplayer in the US, but for now it looks like I need to find a proxy. I miss my BBC :(

wodgums on November 13, 2016:

I'm using VPN one click on Linux along with Firefox: super!

Maxine on October 02, 2016:

I've been trying for approx 8 years. I keep being given some site or another and nothing ever works on any device!

harry krishna on September 20, 2016:

not working on ubuntu linux with chromium browser.

JiminAZ on September 06, 2016:

Expat Shield is a VPN that no longer works as BBC is actively blocking VPNs. MyiPlayer is loaded with Trojans. My Virus Scan went off every time i clicked on something. Bad bad mojo.

Manfred on August 03, 2014:

I don't know what iplayer is but I normally can't access bbc.com at all. I use a proxy website that works great. Just enter bbc.com into the address bar and you can surf the whole site. The proxy site is:


I have been using it for years with no problems. There might be ads but I don't know as I use adblock so I don't see them.


Maria loves you and thanks you on November 23, 2013:


You and myiplayer.com saved my life. I didn't have where to watch the 50th anniversary (DW) and now I can watch it! =D



And thanks a lot!!

Mark Ackley on October 31, 2012:

I am using Hotspot Shield Free VPN to Access all blocked websites. Its Free. Hotspot Shield VPN conceals your IP address and protects your personal data from hackers, including credit card information, online shopping data, passwords, downloads and instant messages from hackers.

Check it out here: http://www.hotspotshield.com

Mauricio on October 23, 2012:

Thank you so much! It worked so well !

Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on August 27, 2012:

I don't know. Check the BBC website for schedules.

Rob on August 27, 2012:

Does the BBC televise all of the F1 and MotoGP races? Or just the ones at Silverstone?

Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on August 05, 2012:

Yes, you can disconnect and exit Expat Shield easily. I stop it from starting by default in the settings, as I only use it occasionally. Then if I want to switch it on or off I do it manually. (You can disconnect/exit/alter settings by right-clicking on the expat shield in the bottom right of tray near clock).

Alex on August 05, 2012:

Can you easily turn off Expat Shield? For instance when I want to watch netflix or the only way to do this is to uninstall expat shield.

Jim on July 20, 2012:

I`m using http://www.sunvpn.com to watch some BBC shows from the US. The UK server is the fastest I tried, streaming video on BBC iPlayer works great with it.

Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on July 07, 2012:

I did experiment with free proxy sites but struggled to find a reliable one. Expat Shield is just connecting you to free proxy site too. So either works at the end of the day.

Moe on July 07, 2012:

I just change my proxy to a British one from any number of free proxy sites, then stream it from the iplayer. Easy Peasy. No need for expat shield.

Yeon Jun on March 19, 2012:

It just works. I'm really grateful to you.

Thank You Paul!!!

colin green on January 31, 2012:

When I was living in New York I used www.anglovpn.com to watch the BBC, ITV etc, got abit sick of stateside telly lol. Lots of them around, few quid a month etc.

Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on December 11, 2011:

@Manny - As far as I know, it only works with Windows XP/Vista/7.

You can use a free website like myiplayer.com instead?

Manny on December 11, 2011:

Is it possible to use this expatshield on safari, ie apple?

Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on November 06, 2011:

@peter c brooks - Could that be an issue with a slow internet connection? All that the Expat Shield does is give your computer a British IP address?

peter c brooks on November 06, 2011:

Program continually kept starting and stopping

Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on October 16, 2011:

No idea what the problem is Bobbie. "Never worked" doesn't tell me much.

You could try www.myiplayer.com instead, if you don't mind the time difference, as it doesn't let you use the bbc iplayer like expat shield does.

Bobbie on October 16, 2011:

Never worked. Desperate to get hold of any British drama.

Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on October 05, 2011:

@expat - I tried myiplayer.com, and yes, you are right that you can watch live tv with it easily - but having access to bbc iplayer is useful because of the time difference and being able to see shows that you missed, in my experience.

expat on October 05, 2011:

So why not just try www.myiplayer.com or www.filmon.com ? Simple.

dhoni on September 30, 2011:


Victor Mavedzenge from Oakland, California on September 13, 2011:

Pretty solid.Will come in handy when I move to the US end of this month.Thanks Paul

Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on September 12, 2011:

I just used it now as a try out, but it worked fine. Neville, the thing to look for is the green shield in the bottom right near the clock. If the green shield is showing, you can search for whatever you like with google and whatever website you go to will assume that you are viewing from the UK. It doesn't really matter what website is showing at the start or what links are showing, by default it always launches the Expat Shield website in my experience after you've set it going.

nevillesinger on September 12, 2011:

it doesn't always work. sometimes it takes you to a page of technical news and there is no link to the Iplayer or just to a search page.

Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on September 10, 2011:

@Ex pat Sid - Oh? I haven't used it recently. I have known it to play up at times, though, so hopefully it will work again for you and the problem is just temporary. Generally I have found it reliable and the ad banner is of minimal annoyance. I will try getting the BBC again using Expat Shield when I have a bit more time to spare.

Ex pat Sid on September 10, 2011:

Its stopped working on BBc 1 for me from today.....get a non config message PITB

Hina on September 01, 2011:

Thanks for this!! Invaluable stuff!!

Judi Brown from UK on August 30, 2011:

Very handy - my Dad lives abroad but wants to watch BBC so I shall pass your Hub on to him. Thanks very much!