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VPN vs. Proxy for Unblocking BBC iPlayer! iRiverAmerica

BBC iPlayer is chock-full of amazing British entertainment. Killing Eve, Torchwood, Doctor Who – you name it! But you can only enjoy it if you’re in the UK. If you’re in the US, tough luck.

Or at least that’s what BBC iPlayer would tell you. We, on the other hand, will show you how to watch the BBC when not in the UK. And we’ll also discuss which option works best – a VPN or a proxy.

First Things First – Why Can’t You Watch BBC iPlayer in the US?

It’s because of geo-blocks – restrictions that the BBC iPlayer website uses to block your access to certain content.

Basically, the platform sees your real IP address, so it knows what country you are from. If it’s not the UK, it will blacklist your address, and only grant you limited access to the platform.

Wait a minute, though – I have access to BBC iPlayer!

That’s true. You can actually connect to the BBC iPlayer even if you are in the US. But if you’ll try to watch an episode of Killing Eve, for example, you’ll just get this error:

You can only watch stuff on BBC Podcasts, BBC Sports, BBC News, BBC Sounds, and BBC Three YouTube Channel. But even if you do that, you’ll still deal with geo-restrictions sometimes.

Why Exactly Does the BBC Use Geo-Restrictions?

It actually has some pretty good reasons.

For starters, it needs to respect copyright agreements. The BBC only produces some of the content on BBC iPlayer, while other shows and movies are owned by different parties.

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If those copyright holders sold the distribution rights for a specific series to a different distributor (like Netflix or a local TV network in the US), BBC iPlayer doesn’t have the right to broadcast said series there.

But what about the content BBC does own? Well, there are two problems:

  1. The law forces the BBC to geo-block most of its iPlayer content. It’s all due to the TV license tax many British citizens need to pay, and which funds BBC content.
  2. It wouldn’t really be fair to them if the BBC would make iPlayer content available worldwide where people don’t need to pay that tax.
  3. Even if the UK law changes and the BBC was able to broadcast its content worldwide, it has already licensed a lot of its content out to third parties across the globe.
  4. It would need to either buy the rights back from other distributors, which can be enormously expensive; or wait the lengthy time it takes for those rights to expire, which means there would be different regional libraries (much like Netflix).

Of course, just because all those reasons make sense doesn’t mean it’s fair you can’t watch BBC iPlayer just because you’re in the US.

But You Can Download Shows and Watch Them Offline!

Yes, you can do that, but you obviously need to be in the UK for that to work. If you’re from the US, taking a trip there just to download some BBC iPlayer shows doesn’t sound like an appealing expense.

And even if you’re from the UK, and were to do that before you leave on a vacation abroad, it’s still not convenient.

Not only do you eat up a lot of your device’s storage, but there’s also a catch – the shows you download will only be available as long as they are on the BBC iPlayer platform.

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So if a series gets taken off the website while you’re out of the country, it’ll get deleted from your device too.

bbc iPlayer

Two Ways You Can Unblock BBC iPlayer in the US

Most people recommend either using a VPN or a proxy server. We’ll explain what each one of them is and how it works first, and discuss which option is best after.

So, let’s get started:

1. VPNs

A VPN is an online service that lets you watch the BBC when not in the UK by hiding your IP address.

All you need to do is connect to a British VPN server to get a UK IP address, and you’ll get instant access to iPlayer content.

VPNs also encrypt your traffic, which means your ISP can’t throttle your bandwidth anymore when you binge your favorite series.

2. Proxy Servers

Like VPNs, a proxy also hides your IP address. However, it has less powerful encryption, so your chances of preventing bandwidth throttling are lower.

On the plus side, proxies have a local caching ability. They can save visited web pages, and deliver them faster when you request them.

Because they’re saved on the local cache, they don’t need to forward your requests to BBC iPlayer to retrieve them.

VPN or Proxy – What’s Best for Unblocking BBC iPlayer in the US?

Ask this online, and most people will tell you that both services get the job one.

Well, that’s not what our experience says.

Based on our research and testing, a VPN outperforms a proxy when it comes to unblocking BBC iPlayer – or any other streaming website, really.

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We found that if you use a proxy, you’ll usually see an error message from BBC iPlayer – pretty much similar to the geo-blocking error. Basically, the website will detect you’re using a proxy.

That normally happens because proxy servers don’t update their IP addresses very often. If BBC iPlayer blacklists or flags them as “proxy IPs,” they won’t be able to unblock it.

The same error can show up if you use a VPN, but not as often. Also, it tends to show up when you use an unreliable VPN that doesn’t update its IP addresses or suffers IP leaks.

If you use a service like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, you should be fine. Here are other reasons why a proxy isn’t better than a VPN:

  • The local caching ability can often deliver outdated content.
  • Proxy servers get overcrowded fast, and usually have low speeds.
  • Most VPN servers can actually double as proxy servers. So, with a VPN, you get both services with one package.


BBC iPlayer is awesome but it sadly doesn’t work in the US. Luckily, you can unblock it with a VPN or a proxy.

Though, we recommend using a VPN since it’s much more efficient and convenient. If you know other ways people can watch BBC iPlayer in the US, let us know.

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