Now the wonder of the BBC IPlayer is transforming how we watch TV, when I'm abroad I no longer have to watch awful cable channels or try to decipher the news in a foreign language. Unfortunately there are a few hurdles in your way if you are outside the UK, when you try to access the BBC Iplayer page you'll receive this message.
BBC Iplayer Blocked
So how does it know you're not in the UK? Well it's basically to do with your IP address. It's called Geolocation and it's a way of targeting or restricting your content based on your IP address. It's actually nothing very clever, all it does is look up your IP address in a big database and find out where your address range is registered to. Now this isn't perfect and it's sometimes incorrect, for instance there are a few blocks of French IP addresses that are incorrectly registered as UK. SO if you're in France, give it a go you might be lucky, there's almost certainly other inconsistencies in the IP database the BBC IPlayer is using so give it a try.
SO if you're not lucky, you're going to have to change your IP address to a UK one to bypass the restriction. There's a few ways of doing this but they are all based on a similar concept.
Surfing BBC IPlayer by Proxy
A proxy server is simply a machine which acts as a middleman for your surfing, it sits between you and the web sites you visit - receiving and forwarding your web requests. Proxy servers are used for many reasons such as remaining anonymous, bypassing firewalls, protecting your web surfing and many others. But in this instance a UK proxy server has a very beneficial affect - it allows you to surf as if you are in the UK.
SO let's see what happens when we surf via a BBC IPlayer proxy server - can it actually help us watch BBC Iplayer abroad ?
It sure can, the Iplayer looks up your IP address and if configured correctly receives the proxy server address. As long as this is in the UK you will have full access to all the BBC Iplayer output.
So how do I get a proxy server to use ?
Well you have a few options, and it really depends on time and budget. Please remember though that a proxy server costs someone money to run so there's always some sort of cost to someone!
The most popular type will be the free proxies I suspect, there are lots of proxies that exist on the internet. They are there for a variety of reasons, a good proportion of them are mis-configured proxies, that is a mistake or accidentally left open on the internet. Some are sponsored by adverts or pop-ups, some are hacked servers set up to steal passwords and account names.
All of these will work to some extent as long as they are based in the UK. Be careful if you choose a free proxy that you do no other browsing at all using it, there is a very good chance your data will be logged and even stolen. But if you stick to just streaming media through them you'll be fine. I won't list sites here as I don't want to be responsible for anyone getting their details stolen but if you search for free proxies, HTTP proxies - most of the proxy list sites will list the locations (so remember for BBC Iplayer you need a UK Proxy !)
The main drawbacks are
a) it can take a long time to find a decent UK proxy that isn't incredibly slow.
b) you have to repeat the search every day as free proxies never last long.
But they do work ! If you've got the patience to search to find a decent speed proxy every time, but be warned it can take quite a while though and sometimes you won't find one.
So what if you don't want to spend your life searching for freebie proxies, testing speeds and modifying your proxy settings. Well the answer then is to pay for a private proxy.
Now there are quite a few options for this and various price ranges - but most people just want a simple, fast proxy service at a reasonable price.
The one I chose is called Identity Cloaker - this is because of the following.
a) It's by far the cheapest paid service I found (from EUR6.60 a month)
b) It has multiple very fast proxies in UK
c) No Recurring subscriptions - I hate the services that automatically rebill.
d) It is Security Software that Encrypts you connection.
e) There is a software front end - just select your proxy and surf away.
f) Excellent Support and a Money back guarantee.
g) It allows you access to many proxies including USA which I use to view the top US media sites - try Hulu.com and Pandora.com.
h) I can run it from a USB stick as I travel.
j) Included is a VPN client to connect to different services (ITV needs this)
Anyway whichever route you take the free or paid options, try the BBC Iplayer it really is good ! The private servers make using a BBC Iplayer Proxy a pleasure.
Here it is in action in this video from Youtube - Watch Iplayer Abroad.
If you want to try viewing BBC Iplayer using Identity Cloaker try this 10 Day Trial here - for the price of a coffee and sandwich you'll be impressed I'm certain! The ability to access media sites across the planet wherever you are - is at your fingertips.