There’s always something to watch on British TV. Between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, and many others, we’re never at a loss for great programming. And because each channel offers a streaming app (think the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, or Sky Go), keeping up with your favourite shows is oh so easy.
Easy as long as you’re in the located UK, that is.
Attempt to stream content from abroad, and odds are you’ll be greeted with a message along these lines:
BBC iPlayer only works in the UK. Sorry, it’s due to rights issues.
But, worry not. Despite appearances, watching UK TV abroad is easy. Whether you’re on business in the USA, on vacation in Cyprus or Malta, and anglophile in Australia or Canada, or spending your winter in Spain, Portugal, or France, you can still reliably watch British television at will.
And this, of course, applies to both live streams and previously shown on-demand programming.
So, what’s the trick? Read on and find out.
How to Watch UK TV Abroad: Quick Start
The simplest solution to getting around geoblocking and watching your favourite British TV shows from anywhere in the world is a good VPN.
By hiding your real IP address and replacing it with one from the UK, a VPN makes it look to the BBC, Channel 4, or any other service as if your device is located in the country even when it’s not.
In other words, a VPN can have you streaming any previously shown and live TV content in no time flat.
And it’s so easy to set up too. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide (your favourite TV shows wait for no one, after all).
- Choose a VPN. I currently use CyberGhost, but any provider listed on this page or my UK VPN list should work well.
- Subscribe to the service and install the app on your device or computer.
- Sign in to the VPN app.
- Pick a VPN server in the UK and connect to it.
- Go to the website of the TV channel you would like to watch. Using the channel’s TV apps will also work.
- Kick up your feet and enjoy the show!
The above steps work for any UK streaming service, including the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Channel Four All 4, Sky Go, and others. Easy, right?
Why Use a VPN to Watch British TV Abroad?
To put it bluntly, you need a VPN to watch UK TV from outside the country because without one, you can’t do it.
British broadcasters don’t always hold the international rights for every movie or series they show. So, to satisfy content owners, they block access to all devices with a foreign IP address.
That means for anyone physically located outside the United Kingdom, even TV license fee payers, it’s frustration and frequent run-ins with errors like the one below.
A VPN is the perfect tool for getting around these types of geographical restrictions. It can fool a streaming service into thinking your device is in the UK even when it’s abroad. It can also do so much more reliably than any of those shady live TV websites can – and the picture quality difference can be like night and day.
As a nice bonus, VPNs also increase your privacy and security anytime you use them too.
And, once you’re set up with a VPN, you can use it to stream programming from any number of services outside the UK. It is, for example, one of the best ways to watch Netflix from other countries.
How to Pick a VPN That Will Stream UK Shows
Here’s where things get a bit more – though not that much more – complicated. For several reasons, some VPN services don’t work nearly as well as others for unblocking geo-restricted content. The BBC iPlayer detecting VPN use is, for example, a well-known problem with many providers – though one with a surprisingly easy workaround.
So how do you know which VPN can let you reliably stream British TV from outside the UK? Here are four big things to be on the lookout for.
Multiple UK Servers
The more servers a VPN has in the UK, the better.
Content providers are well aware of how easily a VPN can be used to get around their blocks. So, they do their best to blacklist UK IP addresses used by VPNs and treat them as though they were foreign.
There’s no way around that.
But, the better VPN services are very good at swapping out blacklisted IPs with ones that work. The downside is this process may take some time – anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the provider.
By using a VPN that has hundreds of British based servers, you’ll have a large pool of IP addresses to choose from and no issues finding one that lets you watch UK TV abroad.
Excellent Server Speeds
What’s the point of being able to stream UK video content when all you see is a pixelated mess – or worse, you are interrupted by annoying spinning buffering indicators every 10 seconds.
For a frustration-free viewing experience – especially important if you like to watch TV live – your VPN needs to be fast and easily handle even the most high-bandwidth activities. All providers on my fastest VPN page fit that bill, as do all providers listed below.
The Right VPN Features
A feature called leak protection is a VPN must for problem-free watching. Without it, all TV streaming services can figure out you’re outside the UK – even if your IP address says otherwise.
Another handy feature that some providers like CyberGhost and PureVPN offer are servers dedicated to specific TV streams. Both, for example, have a special BBC iPlayer server, which, in my experience, is one of the most reliable ways to access the service from abroad.
Great Customer Support
This may be obvious, but great customer service is a must for any VPN provider. Software is software, and problems may come up anytime. Having a live chat option can be especially handy.
Beyond solving any technical issues, good support can also guide you towards a server that works with your favourite UK channels if you run into problems connecting.
Yes, finding a good VPN to watch UK TV abroad may take a bit of work. It is, however, a necessary evil to avoid disappointment later on. And honestly, it’s probably easier than it sounds – especially when you can use my top picks (listed below) as a starting point.
The Best VPNs for Watching UK TV Abroad
Below is a list of what are, in my experience, the best VPNs to watch British television outside the UK. From the BBC and ITV to Channel Four and even Netflix UK, these providers will let you stay up to date on your favourite TV shows no matter where in the world you are.
CyberGhost is my current pick as the best VPN to access UK TV abroad. With 480 British servers in three different locations, you’ll never be at a loss for choice. The VPN works well with every major channel and even offer servers explicitly dedicated to streaming the BBC iPlayer and Netflix UK.
Performance is not a concern with excellent speed test results in the United Kingdom and, indeed, just about anywhere else in the world.
And speaking of the rest of the world, CyberGhost’s server network spans a total of 90 countries. That means you’ll be able to connect pretty much anywhere if you ever want to stream content from countries other than the UK.
CyberGhost features the longest money-back guarantee of all VPN providers – you get a full 45 days to try the service completely risk-free. And with their current promotions, this is one very affordable service too.
- Zero logging for maximum privacy
- Excellent server distribution with over 7100 servers in 90 countries
- Very fast connection speeds
- Works with US Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- Allows P2P torrenting
- Long 45-day money-back guarantee
- Parent company with questionable reputation
- Convoluted manual OpenVPN setup
- Doesn't work from China
With 610 servers in the UK, and over 5600 at 80 locations worldwide, NordVPN is another excellent choice for all your TV streaming needs. They’re well-known for having an uncanny ability to unblock just about any geographically restricted content, both in the United Kingdom and beyond.
Server performance is top-notch, so watching online television at even the highest video quality settings is not an issue.
NordVPN’s client is clean and incredibly simple to use. It supports Windows PC and tablets, macOS, iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android (phone and tablet), Android TV, and Linux. Chrome and Firefox web browser extensions are also available.
Though the odds are overwhelming that you won’t need them, friendly chat support is available 24/7. And with NordVPN’s no questions asked 30-day money-back guarantee, you have plenty of time to test drive a service that consistently reviews as one of the best VPNs in the market.
- Excellent privacy with zero logging
- Large (and ever growing) server network
- Good connection performance
- Specialty servers (including double VPN, obfuscated, and Tor over VPN)
- Clean, easy to use client
- Works with Netflix and most other streaming services
- Allows Torrenting and P2P
- Offers dedicated IP addresses
- No split tunneling feature
- A bit pricey on shorter-term plans
Another VPN service well-worth considering to watch UK TV abroad is Surfshark. Simply put, they make streaming content from the BBC, ITV, Channel Four, and Netflix UK a breeze. Even the sometimes difficult to get going Sky Go works well.
From leak protection and a kill switch to a double VPN connection and camouflage mode, Surfshark comes packed with privacy and security features. They’re also a verified no-logs policy provider that’s based out of privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands.
Surfshark offers 24/7 chat support, and all plans come with a 30-day guarantee.
Where this provider really shines, though, is in value. The least expensive entry on this list, no other top-tier VPN offers as much as Surfshark does for so very little.
- 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
- Inconsistent speed at a few locations
- Fairly slow customer support
PureVPN’s claim to fame is their 2070 strong server list that spans a massive 131 countries. Of those servers, 168 are in the UK, spread across four locations.
Having always marketed themselves as a top choice for streaming, PureVPN indeed does not disappoint. Their server speeds are best in class, and dozens of servers configured to work specifically with select channels (including the BBC, ITV, and Channel Five) mean you can watch what you want, when you want, from anywhere.
The client supports over 50 different operating systems and devices and comes packed with plenty of advanced features. Streaming must-haves and nice-to-haves like leak protection, split tunneling, and an internet kill switch all make the list.
If you’re thinking of getting a subscription (which, by the way, comes with a 31-day refund guarantee), be sure to take advantage of any current PureVPN discounts – don’t pay full price.
- Excellent speeds
- Huge server network (131 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
ExpressVPN’s client is well thought through and mature. It’s very easy for VPN beginners to get started with. But, it still comes packed with plenty of advanced features for the power users among us.
Customer support is widely considered as the best in the industry. If you run into any issues getting your favourite content to play, they’ll get you sorted out in no time.
ExpressVPN is, unfortunately, one of the more expensive providers around. That said, what you get is pure quality. And there is usually a discount you can take advantage of plus a zero questions asked 31-day money-back guarantee to fall back on.
- 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
Which UK TV Services Can I Watch Abroad?
When you use a VPN, you should be able to unblock any of the following UK TV channels and stream live tv, watch on-demand programs, or download shows for later viewing (assuming that functionality exists).
- BBC iPlayer (including BBC One, BBC, Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, as well as all the specialty channels)
- ITV Hub (a.k.a. ITV Player)
- Channel 4 All 4 (a.k.a. 4oD)
- Channel 5 My5
- Sky Go and Sky Sports
- BT Sport
- Now TV
- Amazon Prime Video UK
- Netflix UK
Can I Watch UK TV With a Free VPN?
Theoretically, yes, a free VPN can unblock British TV abroad. In practice, however, you’ll almost always be met with disappointment.
As previously mentioned, UK streaming services know all about VPNs and do their best to stop you from using them. They do so by blacklisting server IP addresses, which the VPN then replaces, and round and round we go.
Replacing IPs is not cheap and costs resources that free providers often don’t have. With non-subscription VPNs, once an IP stops working, that’s usually it.
In other words, you may be hard-pressed to find a server that unblocks anything.
If you do find a working server – which admittedly is possible – free providers usually impose speed restrictions and data caps. The result is sub-par video quality, frequent buffering, and unfinished shows when you burn through your bandwidth limit halfway through watching one.
That’s not even mentioning the often sketchy ways in which free VPNs make money – anything from injecting ads to collecting and selling your data is fair game. And did you know that of the many free VPN apps on the Google Play store, a staggering 38% contained malware?
All that to say, if you want to watch UK television abroad with as little frustration as possible, free VPNs are not the answer.
Final Thoughts: Watch UK TV From Anywhere
It certainly makes sense why the likes of the BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub put geoblocks in place. That doesn’t, however, make it any less frustrating when you’re trying to watch UK TV abroad.
A good VPN is an easy and reliable solution to the problem, one which many of us have relied on for years and will continue to do so. And now that you’re also in on the secret, happy watching!