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

Updated on July 15, 2018
PaulGoodman67 profile image

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

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.

I don't watch a lot of British TV, but occasionally it is nice to be able to see big occasions, television, or sporting events from my home country.  The opportunities for this are constantly evolving and changing, however.
I don't watch a lot of British TV, but occasionally it is nice to be able to see big occasions, television, or sporting events from my home country. The opportunities for this are constantly evolving and changing, however. | Source

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. | Source

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.

Questions & Answers

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

    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.

© 2011 Paul Goodman

Comments

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    • profile image

      David Jones 

      6 weeks ago

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

    • profile image

      john 

      8 weeks ago

      I just use Penguin Proxy

    • profile image

      Lani 

      12 months ago

      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 :(

    • profile image

      wodgums 

      22 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Maxine 

      24 months ago

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

    • profile image

      harry krishna 

      2 years ago

      not working on ubuntu linux with chromium browser.

    • profile image

      JiminAZ 

      2 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Manfred 

      4 years ago

      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:

      http://anonymouse.org/anonwww.html

      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.

      Manfred

    • profile image

      Maria loves you and thanks you 

      4 years ago

      OMG THANK YOU

      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

      ITS TODAY. TODAY. TODAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY

      Sorry

      And thanks a lot!!

    • profile image

      Mark Ackley 

      5 years ago

      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

    • profile image

      Mauricio 

      5 years ago

      Thank you so much! It worked so well !

    • PaulGoodman67 profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Goodman 

      6 years ago from Florida USA

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

    • profile image

      Rob 

      6 years ago

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

    • PaulGoodman67 profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Goodman 

      6 years ago from Florida USA

      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).

    • profile image

      Alex 

      6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Jim 

      6 years ago

      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.

    • PaulGoodman67 profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Goodman 

      6 years ago from Florida USA

      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.

    • profile image

      Moe 

      6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Yeon Jun 

      6 years ago

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

      Thank You Paul!!!

    • profile image

      colin green 

      6 years ago

      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.

    • PaulGoodman67 profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Goodman 

      6 years ago from Florida USA

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

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

    • profile image

      Manny 

      6 years ago

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

    • PaulGoodman67 profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Goodman 

      6 years ago from Florida USA

      @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?

    • profile image

      peter c brooks 

      6 years ago

      Program continually kept starting and stopping

    • PaulGoodman67 profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Goodman 

      6 years ago from Florida USA

      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.

    • profile image

      Bobbie 

      6 years ago

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

    • PaulGoodman67 profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Goodman 

      6 years ago from Florida USA

      @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.

    • profile image

      expat 

      6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      dhoni 

      6 years ago

      waste

    • Alladream74 profile image

      Victor Mavedzenge 

      7 years ago from Oakland, California

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

    • PaulGoodman67 profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Goodman 

      7 years ago from Florida USA

      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.

    • profile image

      nevillesinger 

      7 years ago

      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.

    • PaulGoodman67 profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Goodman 

      7 years ago from Florida USA

      @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.

    • profile image

      Ex pat Sid 

      7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Hina 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for this!! Invaluable stuff!!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      7 years ago from UK

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

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