The Best Way to Watch BBC iPlayer in USA for Free?
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.
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
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.
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.
© 2011 Paul Goodman