How to Watch BBC Iplayer in USA

Not strictly a maths post, but more a need in order for me to watch a programme being rebroadcast and thus watch BBC Iplayer in USA.  It was released a year or so ago, but I have been tipped off that it is being shown again and so for US citizens possibly a chance to catch it on the IPlayer application.  The series is called The Story of Maths and is presented by Marcus du Sautoy, it chronicles the history of maths through the ages and I am expecting great things.

But first the problem – BBC Iplayer doesn’t work in the US as when you try and access it does some sort of lookup and blocks non-UK addresses.  So I did some reading on geotargeting, proxies, VPNs and IP addresses and finally found a way to bypass these blocks and watch whatever I like.

So here it is –

How to Watch BBC Iplayer in America

Now I don’t know if you’ve tried at all but when you visit the BBC Iplayer site, if you’re not in the United Kingdom, you get redirected to the Radio section (which you can use).  However if you persist and try and watch something on the main BBC site – you get the following message below.

This happens whatever you try to watch and it’s purely down to the location registered to your IP address.  At this point of course many people give up or try but it’s actually not that difficult to bypass these blocks.

Firstly you need to know what’s happening – when you connect to the BBC website your IP address is recorded.  This is the unique number that is assigned to you by your ISP when you connect to the internet, everyone has one.  Next this address is checked against a large database which contains all assigned IP address ranges and which country they’ve been allocated to.  So if you’re in the US or using a USA Proxy then you’ll have an American assigned address, explained here.

That’s pretty much it, if your IP address is registered anywhere other than the UK then you’ll get the above message. So in theory all you have to do is change your IP address so it’s a British one and not American registered.

Now you can’t change the initial address you’re allocated because a US ISP can only assign the addresses it has been allocated.  Occasionally you might get lucky and an address range is incorrectly listed in  the database – but that’s a bit of a long shot.

The trick is to use a proxy or VPN service to connect through.  This is a server that sits between you and the website you visit, it simply forwards all information acting like a middle man.  However if this server is based in the UK, the BBC application will think you are also based in the United Kingdom.

So here’s the application I used, there are lots of others available but I used this one because it’s one of the cheapest and I know someone who worked on some of the code so I know it’s a legitimate company.   Here’s the screenshot from the program I use called Identity Cloaker.


This is the screen where I select which server to connect to, they have lots of countries but I need a UK one. After clicking on a UK server I then can go back to the BBC Iplayer site and try again.  This time I connect the site sees a UK based IP address (from the proxy) and so allows me to watch whatever I want.

In fact you can even disconnect the proxy after the program has started and it will still work as the IP address is only checked at the beginning of the show. So that’s it really – how you can access BBC Iplayer in America! I’m really pleased with Identity Cloaker,  it’s super fast and very easy to use – you can get a 10 day trial here if you want to try it.  My only issue is that there’s no sign of The Story of Maths yet so I have to keep checking!


Additional Reading

Updated software to bypass Netflix blocking VPN although this is currently only for the US version.

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