Would you like to watch BBC originals in Canada?
It seems like a bit of a tall order. You can’t just go to the BBC iPlayer and start streaming. All that great British-only content is geographically restricted and out of reach to Canadians… Or is it?
As it turns out, no, it’s not. And today, I’ll show you exactly how you can access it.
I’ll give you a step-by-step guide on how to watch BBC iPlayer in Canada the quick and easy way. Let’s jump right in!
Can You Use the BBC iPlayer in Canada?
Under normal circumstances, no, you can’t watch the iPlayer in Canada.
The BBC is a public service broadcaster and is not financed by advertising or subscriptions. Instead, anyone living in Britain pays for a TV license to watch live, record, or stream its programming online (i.e., use the iPlayer).
The license fee keeps the BBC independent from the government and advertisers alike. That model comes with some nice perks:
- The BBC is advert-free. They don’t interrupt your favorite show to try and sell frozen pizza or over-the-counter drugs.
- They provide high-quality, impartial information. No political organization funds the broadcasts, so the BBC can provide unbiased information and remain distant from their agendas.
- Great content gets made. The BBC can make experimental pieces without worrying about ratings. That’s how some of your favorite shows and movies came to be.
The thing is, when you’re in Canada, you can’t exactly pay for a UK television license. That’s why the BBC iPlayer is geo-blocked to Great Britain only.
Fortunately for us all, there is a way around that – read on to find out how.
How To Access the BBC iPlayer From Canada
To watch the BBC iPlayer, you have to look like a British user. And, by far, the easiest and most reliable way to do that is by using a virtual private network (VPN).
Here is the simple step-by-step of how you can unlock your favorite BBC TV shows from Canada:
- Choose a VPN and sign up – for the BBC, NordVPN is my weapon of choice.
- Install the VPN app on your device or computer.
- Connect to one of the VPN’s UK-based servers.
- Open the iPlayer, start streaming, and enjoy.
It almost sounds too simple to work. Well, here’s why it does.
Why Does a VPN Unblock the iPlayer
The BBC’s online streaming service, the iPlayer, has a ton of the broadcaster’s original programming. As mentioned above, all that programming is financed by people who pay the British TV license fee. From the BBC’s point of view, it seems fair that only those people should be allowed to access it.
To make sure no one outside the United Kingdom can use the iPlayer, the BBC geo-blocks its content.
That means you must have a UK-based IP address to access it. If you don’t, you’ll be greeted by a message similar to this:
The BBC blanket geo-blocks access from outside the United Kingdom because it’s too complicated to figure out who has a license and who doesn’t. That means even Brits traveling have to rely on a VPN to access British TV channels abroad.
To understand how using a VPN is a solution, let’s first talk a bit more about IP addresses.
What Does Your IP Address Do?
Anytime you go online at home, your device is assigned an IP address by your internet service provider (ISP).
The IP is the digital equivalent of your home’s mailing address. It’s a way for websites or online services to know where to send back data after you request it.
Much like your mailing address, an IP also hints at your geographical location. It’s not as precise as your house street number but can reveal your position within a few kilometers and reveal the country you’re in.
That’s the information the BBC uses to block you from watching iPlayer content. It can figure out you’re in Canada based on your IP, and when you try to stream a show, it shuts the door.
How VPNs Trick the System
As the name implies, a VPN is a network of private servers. Those servers can be located anywhere in the world.
When you connect to one, something neat happens to your ISP assigned IP address. It’s replaced by that of the VPN server – geographical location and all.
That means if you choose a British server, your device now has a British IP, and as far as the BBC iPlayer is concerned, your streaming requests are coming from inside the country.
In other words, the geo-block no longer applies, and now you can binge on Doctor Who all you want.
Is It Illegal To Watch BBC iPlayer Outside the UK?
Technically, you should have a paid-up British TV license to watch the BBC online. That said if you don’t but are not in the country, streaming the iPlayer isn’t illegal.
Your BBC account license check works on the honor system – it doesn’t cross-reference your profile against any kind of registry.
That works because in the UK, being dishonest about having a TV license is against the law.
But it’s a different ballgame when you’re in Canada. The UK TV license requirement does not apply abroad, and we can’t get into trouble for saying we have one when we do not. That’s why, ultimately, the BBC has to resort to geo-blocking.
What To Look for in a BBC iPlayer VPN
Ready for your British TV binge? Here’s how to pick the best VPN services to use BBC iPlayer:
VPN Servers in the UK
VPNs get around the BBC’s content geo-blocks by making you look like a British user. To do that, they need servers based in the UK – no ifs, ands, or buts.
And, yes, I said servers, plural: the more UK servers, the better. We’re talking numbers like 607, which is how many NordVPN’s server list includes.
Why so many?
At any given time, not all servers may work with the iPlayer – the BBC knows all about VPNs and does its best to block them. The bigger the VPN provider’s presence in the UK, the proportionally fewer servers will have issues.
The other reason for having as much hardware as possible is to ensure good connection speed.
If a provider only has a few UK servers, everyone who wants to connect through the country must go through them. They could quickly get overcrowded and slow your connection down to a crawl (not ideal for streaming video by any means).
Does the VPN Unblock iPlayer?
All Streaming services know about the VPNs and how they can be used to sidestep geo-blocking. So, they try to prevent their use.
Since VPNs are perfectly legal, the only thing the BBC can do is to attempt detecting traffic from known private networks – doable, but not an easy feat. Once identified, they blacklist the server and its IP address, so it stops working.
The VPN then assigned the server a new IP, and round and round we go.
The thing is, not all VPNs can afford to keep up with this little game. As a result, plenty of VPN services don’t work with BBC iPlayer – or other streaming services, for that matter.
If you want to watch iPlayer, make sure your VPN provider can unblock it.
Streaming is a bandwidth-heavy task. If you don’t fancy endless buffering, make sure your VPN can deliver a high-speed connection.
Two factors go into your Internet speed – latency and bandwidth.
Latency is the time it takes for data to get to the server and back. Since the UK is across the pond, latency won’t be significant. You want a VPN provider that actively invests in improving it.
As for bandwidth, make sure the VPN doesn’t set any limits or throttle your connection. Unlimited bandwidth, along with best-of-class server technology, gives fast speeds and buffer-free binging.
The bottom line, only the fastest VPNs will do.
Finally, check what the customer support is like.
Does the VPN have 24/7 service? What about chat support? Get in touch once or twice to see if they’re responsive and knowledgeable.
If you ever run into problems, you want a provider that will actually resolve them, not hide behind endless wait times and undertrained staff.
Best VPNs To Unblock BBC iPlayer in Canada
So, for the best experience watching the BBC iPlayer from Canada, you need a VPN with lots of UK servers, fast speeds, iPlayer unblocking powers, and friendly customer service… Hopefully, they don’t break the bank either.
That may seem like it’s a lot to ask. But luckily, several excellent providers check all the boxes.
NordVPN is my favorite VPN for watching iPlayer – and, by a long shot!
Their vast server network includes over 607 UK servers (and 5490 around the world). They also boast excellent speeds thanks to their innovative NordLynx protocol and a well-optimized network.
NordVPN unblocks BBC iPlayer with ease, and if any server stops working, they recover quickly (not that it matters much since you have a ton to choose from). Should you hit trouble, message their 24/7 chat support, and they’ll steer you towards one that works.
You can also just come back to this page. NordVPN is my BBC iPlayer go-to, so I’ll always keep you posted on which server last worked for me. Most recently, I’ve been using UK server #2007.
- Excellent download and upload speeds
- Large ever-expanding server network
- Great privacy with independently verified no logging policy
- Specialty servers (including double VPN, obfuscated, and Tor over VPN)
- Clean, easy to use client
- Works with Netflix and other streaming services
- Allows torrenting and P2P
- Offers dedicated IP addresses
- No split tunneling feature
- A bit pricey on shorter-term plans
Surfshark is another excellent provider worth considering for streaming the BBC in Canada.
They have a reliable network with plenty of servers in the UK. Performance is top-notch, as is Surfshark’s ability to unblock the iPlayer. And their 24/7 friendly customer support is always there to help.
Surfshark is the only provider on this list that lets you connect with unlimited devices. That means the entire family can watch Peaky Blinders on their own screens – not that Peaky Blinders is particularly kid-friendly.
But, perhaps best of all, Surfshark is also the least expensive top-tier VPN provider in the market. Access to the BBC iPlayer from outside of the UK does not get much cheaper.
- Excellent privacy and security with no logging
- Great server performance
- Unblocks Netflix, BBC, and many others
- Easy to use client
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Torrenting support network-wide
- Very inexpensive
- Inconsistent speeds at a few locations
- Fairly slow customer support
PureVPN markets itself as a streamer’s VPN, and with the iPlayer, they deliver flawlessly.
Being streamer centric, PureVPN runs dozens of servers optimized to unlock the world’s top video-on-demand services. BBC iPlayer makes that list, as do several other UK channels like ITV and Channel 5.
Beyond their 1047 UK-based servers that are spread across London, Maidenhead, Gosport, and Manchester, PureVPN has servers in a very respectable 74 countries. Speed is, of course, not an issue either.
With affordable plans and a generous 31-day refund window, you can’t go wrong in picking PureVPN to access BBC iPlayer in Canada.
- Fast speeds
- Big server network (74 countries)
- Unblocks Netflix, iPlayer, and over 70 other streaming services
- Compatible with over 50 devices and platforms
- Independently verified zero log VPN provider
- Dedicated IP option
- Great value
- Apps could use a bit more polish
- Some intermittent connection problems
Next on the list is CyberGhost, another excellent choice for streaming the iPlayer.
CyberGhost runs a massive network of over 9000 servers, with 751 in the UK. Like PureVPN, they also run hardware configured specifically for the BBC – and it works very well indeed.
Their speeds are up there with the best of them, so you’ll never have to worry about annoying buffering or pixelation.
And, to top it off, CyberGhost offers the longest money-back guarantee of any provider. You get a full 45 days to decide if the service is right for you – now that’s believing in your product.
- Zero logging for maximum privacy
- Excellent server distribution with over 9000 servers in 91 countries
- Very fast connection speeds
- Works with US Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- Allows P2P torrenting
- Long 45-day money-back guarantee
- Parent company with a questionable reputation
- Convoluted manual OpenVPN setup
- Doesn't work from China
Mostly known for their excellent privacy and security, ExpressVPN also does an impressive job of unblocking iPlayer.
If you run into issues, customer support is widely regarded as the best in the business, too – one of the many reasons I give ExpressVPN such high marks.
Yes, ExpressVPN is on the pricier side, so definitely keep an eye out for any discounts they may currently be offering. But, honestly, even at full price, this VPN is well worth it.
- A feature-rich and intuitive client
- Strong back-end technology
- Plenty of servers and server locations
- Fast and consistent connection speeds
- Works with US Netflix
- Top-notch customer support
- Some aggregated logging
- Not the cheapest
Do Free VPNs Unblock BBC iPlayer?
Unfortunately, no, free VPNs don’t work for the BBC player and, in my opinion, you should think twice about using them at all.
As the saying goes: when you’re not paying for a product, you are the product.
Running a VPN service costs money, and free VPNs rely on advertisers to pay their bills. Annoying ads aren’t the only consequence of using a free service, though.
When you connect to a VPN, you give them access to all your online traffic. Your browsing habits are worth a lot of money to the right buyer.
Free VPNs are notoriously unsafe – 38% have some sort of malware; up to 84% don’t live up to their privacy and security promises. Some companies have even been caught redirecting traffic to secret servers, all in the name of advertising.
Considering how inexpensive pay providers are, free is just not worth the risk.
Besides, as I mentioned earlier, streaming services like the BBC iPlayer actively block traffic from known VPNs. A free VPN company doesn’t have the resources to keep coming up with new IP addresses. So, any time you try to open the iPlayer app using one, expect access denied.
VPNs are a fast, reliable, and easy way to access geo-blocked content like the iPlayer. As a bonus, they also keep your browsing private, you anonymous on the internet, and can protect your data from hackers.
I currently lean on NordVPN for all my British televisions needs and can easily recommend them for watching BBC iPlayer in Canada. Plenty of servers, blazing fast connection speeds, excellent customer support, and affordability – what else can you ask for.
With that said, let the binging begin!