It’s normally impossible to watch BBC iPlayer content outside of the UK, let alone in China–but with a VPN it’s not only possible, it’s easy. We’ll show you the best VPN providers that can successfully break through the Great Firewall and unblock streaming sites banned by the Chinese government.
BBC content is popular outside of the UK, thanks to the combination of beautiful nature documentaries, cute cooking shows, and fun scifi that the channel offers. Some shows, like Doctor Who, Sherlock, or Great British Bake Off, have become such smash hits that people from all around the globe regularly tune in to watch. Meanwhile, people in Britain can benefit from the BBC iPlayer website, which offers the ability to stream any of the content that is shown on the BBC TV channels, on demand, and for free.
Break through China’s Great Firewall to stream BBC iPlayer with these confirmed-working VPNs:
- NordVPN – Best for China – NordVPN has had years to develop countermeasures to the Great Firewall, and is now the most capable VPN on the market for doing so. Recently rolled out NordLynx encryption for greater privacy and performance while streaming BBC iPlayer.
- Surfshark – Powerful new provider with outstanding anti-censorship methods that break Chinese site blocks.
- ExpressVPN – Time-tested solution for overcoming the Great Wall, and an exceptional choice for fast, buffer-free streams.
- PrivateVPN – Not to be underestimated by the size of its network, which is highly configurable for defeating website blocks.
However, the BBC iPlayer website only works to show videos when you access it from within the UK. If you try to use the iPlayer website from another country, such as China, then you’ll get an error message: “BBC iPlayer only works in the UK. Sorry, it’s due to rights issues”. As such, you can’t usually watch any of the videos from China. However, there is a way to get around this problem and to use the site freely, by using a VPN. Read on for more information and to learn how to watch BBC iPlayer in China.
Why iPlayer Doesn’t Work In China
There are a couple of reasons that iPlayer doesn’t work in China. The first reason is that the site is region locked, meaning that the content is only accessible to users from within the UK. The site determines your location by examining your IP address, which is a string of numbers that is assigned to you whenever you connect your device to a network. This IP address contains information about your location, as certain ranges of numbers are assigned to be IP addresses for particular countries. Therefore, a website can look at your IP address and know which country you are browsing from.
With the BBC iPlayer site, if you are visiting from the UK then the site will show you any of the video content and let you stream it. But if you access the site with a non-UK IP address, then you will only be able to listen to radio content and not to watch any of the videos.
The second problem with accessing BBC iPlayer from China is the general censorship of the internet, dubbed the “Great Firewall of China“, which severely restricts what sites can be visited and what content can be viewed from within the country. Bypassing these restrictions can prove to be an unsurmountable challenge without the right tools.
Use A VPN To Watch BBC iPlayer In China
Fortunately, there is a solution for both of these problems which allows users in China to watch videos on BBC iPlayer, and that is to use a VPN. A VPN works by installing a small piece of software onto your device which encrypts all of the data that your device sends over the internet. The encrypted data is sent on to a server owned by your VPN provider, where it is then decrypted and sent onward to its final destination. The advantage of this is that you can get around both region locks and censorship by routing your internet traffic via another country.
In the example of the BBC iPlayer, you would choose to connect to a VPN server that is located in the UK. Then, when your data is sent to the UK server, it will be assigned a UK IP address which masks your real IP address from China. Therefore, when you visit the iPlayer site then it appears as if you are browsing from the UK instead of from China, and the site lets you access any video content that you want. Not all VPNs will work with the iPlayer site, as recently the BBC has cracked down on VPN use and has started using VPN blocking methods to discourage people from accessing the site from abroad. But there are still some VPNs that work with iPlayer, like the ones that we have listed below.
Secondly, using a VPN will also enable you to bypass censorship. Because the data you send out gets wrapped in a layer of encryption, it can get past any blocks that exist on the ISP level. What’s more, when that encryption occurs in a proxy server located in another country, your data stream gets labeled with the respective IP address of that country, fooling websites into serving you content that would normally be blocked in your country. Once again, not all VPNs can accomplish this as well in China as in other countries, but the best of the few services that do work there have been recommended below.
Further Security-Related Reasons To Use A VPN
Not only does a VPN allow you to get around regional restrictions and censorship, there are also further security advantages to the technology. One such advantage is the improved privacy, as the encryption makes it impossible for your ISP or the government to track your internet use. Normally, the time that you spend online and the sites that you visit are clearly visible to your ISP, and this information can be obtained by the government if they force the ISP to hand over the data. But with a VPN, the encryption prevents anyone from being able to see what you do online.
This privacy benefit is particularly important if you like to participate in file sharing like the use of torrents, as this activity is very obvious to ISPs, who are usually glad to give your usage data over to copyright holders. You could then face fines or even prosecution for sharing files. Using a VPN keeps you safe when you download as the encryption hides your activities from others.
A VPN can also help to beef up your security and to keep you safe from threats like honeypot free wifi networks which steal your passwords and data, phishing and vishing attacks which can be based on your location, or identity theft from people intercepting your data.
How To Choose The Right VPN
You can see all of the benefits of using a VPN, including the ability to watch BBC iPlayer in China. Now you just need to select a VPN provider and you can start watching unblocked content. But how should you select a VPN provider? You might at first be tempted to use a free VPN to save money, but this is not recommended as free VPN companies have a history of behaving unethically, for example by selling their user data to other companies or by selling off access to users’ devices. Instead of these dubious free VPN services, you should choose a reputable paid VPN that meets the following criteria:
- Servers available in the UK so that you can access UK-only content like BBC iPlayer. The VPN also needs to work with iPlayer, which not all VPNs do. Further, it is handy to have lots of servers available in different countries so that you can get around other region locks too.
- Excellent security to keep your data safe and private and out of the hands of third parties. You should look for security features like the use of strong 256-bit encryption and a no logging policy.
- Fast connection speeds so that you can stream video content in high definition without having to put up with buffering or lag caused by slow VPN connections.
- Easy to use software that is available for all of the different devices that you use, so that you can protect all of your devices using just one VPN subscription.
Top VPN Providers To Unblock BBC iPlayer In China
The Great Firewall is tough, but with any of our recommended VPNs, you can easily break through this harsh censorship and watch BBC iPlayer content in China:
NordVPN is a VPN with tons of advanced options like speciality servers and extra security software. The basic network of servers covers an impressive 5,500 servers in 59 countries, which does indeed include a multitude of servers in the UK. The service works well with iPlayer so you can watch your BBC shows with no problem. And there’s a feature which is particularly useful for users in China: the option to use obfuscated servers. This means that the fact you are using a VPN is hidden from the network that you connect to, so you can use your VPN even on networks with the VPN blocking that you often find in China. This makes NordVPN one of the uncontested best VPNs for watching BBC iPlayer from China.
NordVPN also offers unique speciality servers, which are optimised for tasks like torrent use, or which can assign dedicated IP address. There is even an option to use double VPN servers in which your data is encrypted twice over to make it essentially uncrackable. And rounding out the package are servers dedicated to DDoS protection or onion over VPN.
The connections are plenty fast enough for streaming HD video, and the software has an attractive map interface which makes it easy to find and connect to the server that you need. The software is available for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Chrome OS, Android, or Windows Phone.
Read our full NordVPN review.
- Very fast speeds make this a strong choice for 4K streaming
- Fast and stable connections
- Up to 6 simultaneous connections
- Extra-secure Double VPN for data encryption
- 24/7 Chat Support.
- They can take 30 days to process refunds.
New VPNs have several high bars to clear, and unblocking content within China is one of them. Still, few rise to the task, and fewer still with such panache and competence as Surfshark. This scrappy young provider launched in 2019, and has largely built its reputation on accessing geoblocked streaming sites like BBC iPlayer from any country–including China.
Surfshark offers the most advanced encryption protocols: OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec, or WireGuard (plus Shadowsocks on Windows and Android) secured by the 256-AES-GCM cipher. These alone work for most website blocks, though additional firepower is needed to break the Great Firewall. Every one of Surfshark’s 3200+ servers in 65 countries comes equipped with the ability to activate Camouflage obfuscation, smart DNS, and NoBorders anti-censorship countermeasures–a potent combination that works exceedingly well in China.
Connection speeds are top-notch, and Surfshark’s RAM-only network boasts superior uptime. It also can’t store records of your metadata, dovetailing nicely with Surfshark’s solid no-logging policy.
- Every server optimized for unblocking Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and more
- Every server is a speciality server
- No questions asked money back guarantee
- Based in the British Virgin Islands, where there are no data retention laws
- Responsive customer support available 24/7.
- Growing network doesn’t have same coverage as more mature VPNs
- New-kid-on-the-block status may not instill same trust as larger providers.
Read our full Surfshark review.
ExpressVPN is effective in China, where its powerful encryption methods can bypass censorship with ease. What’s more, it works beautifully with iPlayer owing to its super-fast speeds, so you can use it to watch BBC content to your heart’s content. You might think that such a service would be difficult to use, but you’d be wrong. With just a single click of a button, your internet connection will be completely shielded from prying eyes, restrictive network algorithms, or any other third party.
ExpressVPN maintains a massive network of proxy servers numbering more than 3,000 nodes across 94 countries, many of which are in the UK. You can always rest easy knowing that your data stream is masked behind 256-bit AES encryption, while ExpressVPN itself will never rat you out thanks to their no-logging guarantee. In addition, there are further security options you can choose to enable, like DNS leak protection, an IP address checker, and a kill switch.
Plus, the software can be installed on a massive range of devices: Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Android, plus some games consoles and smart TVs, and there are also browser extensions available for the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari browsers.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- SPECIAL OFFER: 3 months free (49% off - link below)
- 3,000+ super fast servers
- No DNS/IP leaks found
- Strict no-logs policy
- 24/7 Customer Service.
- Slightly more expensive than some other options.
PrivateVPN is a VPN that you can use not only for BBC iPlayer, but also for other streaming services like Netflix or Hulu. Most providers don’t work with these streaming services due to the VPN blocking methods in place, but PrivateVPN does with ease. What’s more, it also works in China to unblock sites and get around censorship, netting you all of the ingredients that you need to watch iPlayer from China.
The total number of servers available is smaller than other providers, with around 150 servers in total, but these servers cover some 60 countries, so you will still have plenty of options. These servers are all optimised to offer blazing fast connection speeds across the entire network–some of the fastest we’ve seen in fact. This makes it an ideal VPN if you want to stream lots of high definition video or to download large files.
The software is very simple to use and can be installed on devices running Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire Stick, or it can be installed as a browser extension for Chrome.
Accessing videos on the BBC iPlayer website from China is a challenge due to two issues: firstly, the region locking on the BBC website which ensures that the content is only available to watch from within the UK, and the censorship and blocks that are applied to the internet in China. But you can use a VPN to overcome both of these problems by encrypting your data and sending it via a server in the UK.
You need to be careful when selecting a VPN though, as not all VPNs work with iPlayer and work in China. We’ve recommended several VPNs that meet both of these requirements and which you can use to watch iPlayer from China.
Do you watch iPlayer in China? Which VPN do you use, and what has your experience with it been like? Let us know in the comments below.
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. NordVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.