Updated May 2021
Despite all the complications in the world at the moment, or perhaps because of them! Many people are looking forward to swapping the cold, grey climate of the UK for the warmer climes of Spain. Makes sense really, especially for people looking for a place to retire who are are financially secure. After all we all feel the cold when we get older and the Mediterranean climate is much easier on aging bones! Yet moving to a different country is difficult at any age but can be especially difficult in later years.
However the internet can be a huge help for those who have moved abroad, for keeping in touch with relatives, following the news, ordering those UK only essentials and keeping up with your local football team. One of the disappointments people encounter though when moving to Spain is that they cannot easily access UK television channels online like the BBC iPlayer. Of course, it’s less of a problem if you watch TV in Spanish! That website that you presume will work anywhere to watch UK channels become inaccessible as soon you try from the Costa Del Sol – so here’s a solution.
How to Watch UK TV in Spain with a VPN (2021)
Firstly a little background, in the ‘good old days’ pretty much nothing was restricted when you’re online. Web pages were designed for ‘open access’ and were accessible to anyone who could get online. This has changed dramatically in the last few years for a variety of reasons. Now it very much matters where you are physically when you go online, in many cases you’ll even be blocked access to many sites.
Your Location Determines What You Can See Online
The internet is supposed to encourage globalization but in certain aspects this is slowly being restricted. Where you are certainly determines your internet experience. In some cases this makes sense after all if you search Google for an electrician then you want it to find one nearby not on the other side of the world. This process is called geolocation – here’s the definition
Geolocation is the process or technique of identifying the geographical location of a person or device by means of digital information processed via the Internet.
It works primarily by looking up where your IP is registered to, it’s why that you’ll see localised web results based on your current location. Unfortunately it’s also why you’ll find lots of restrictions enforced too and why if you try and watch UK TV in Spain in 2019 you’ll find yourself blocked. It’s a global issue, hundreds of thousands of websites restrict access based on where you happen to login from. Many are entertainment sites though, virtually every TV station restricts access to it’s domestic market – for example Telecinco won’t work if you’re outside Spain.
Why Do You Need A VPN?
It’s especially difficult for ex-pats wherever they are, trying to maintain access to their home countries whilst being blocked all the time. Most UK expats find quickly that they’ll have problems trying to access a BBC one live stream outside UK boundaries. However they’ll probably experience other issues too like accessing things like their online bank accounts, local radio stations and even trying to use their betting accounts in places like Betfair!
If you travel a lot or frequently live in different countries then it can be very inconvenient. Fortunately there is a way to take back control and bypass all of these blocks and access whatever site you want irrespective of your location. It’s not complicated you just need the ability to hide your real IP address and thereby your physical location. The simplest method is to use something called a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which sounds technical but usually involves just clicking on a button in your task bar. Although the decent ones do cost a small amount, they will allow you to watch UK TV online free of charge plus any other sites irrespective of where you are.
How to Watch UK TV in Spain Using the Internet
This example is going to use a PC but you can use the same software to do the same on a Mac, tablet, smartphone or even one of those media streaming devices. The method changes slightly but the principle is exactly the same. The reason you can’t access any of the UK TV online channels in Spain is because they all block access from outside the UK for copyright issues.
Here’s a demonstration:
As you can see, the British TV sites – the BBC in this example but they all essentially do the same thing, block access to all their content by looking up your IP when you connect. So by default, you won’t be able to access BBC from Spain or indeed any UK TV stations. However if you have a UK address then everything works fine, but if it originates in any other country then you’ll get blocked or redirected. You can use this to watch British TV like the BBC, ITV channel plus Channel 5 and 4 all of which broadcast online. You can even access Sky TV and other subscription channels, although you’ll need valid subscription like Sky Go as well.
How to choose the right VPN to access British TV in Spain
The way around this is to ‘bounce’ your internet connection through a third party computer called a VPN server. As long as this server is based in the UK and has a British registered IP then everything will work perfectly. Obviously the server must be fast and well configured in order to stream video and bypass any detection but there are lots of options.
The BBC iPlayer site will only detect the address of the VPN server and therefore will not enforce any filters. The exact same procedure works with the ITV Hub and all the other UK commercial channels like Channel 4 and 5 for instance. It won’t matter where you are, you can enjoy British Tv from Spain, France, USA or where ever!
You used to be able to perform this workaround using servers called proxies which were available for free online but all the media companies now block these. The problem is that a proxy server, even a well configured one is relatively easy to detect and they’re now all but useless for bypassing these blocks.
Indeed now even a lot of the VPNs are blocked, although it’s almost impossible to detect the VPN connection itself. What they can do is to monitor the number of individual connections originating from each IP address. If a thousand people are streaming Match of the Day from the same IP address then it’s highly likely that it is a VPN server address. It’s a simple way to detect and block VPNs.
Therefore it’s important to switch addresses periodically and ensure that too many people don’t use the same address. It’s why many VPN services don’t try and maintain access to sites like the BBC as it’s quite costly. A few do take precautions to ensure they don’t get blocked and even have created specific servers to use for the BBC and to watch online TV.
The VPN service illustrated in the video is called NordVPN and is used by thousands of people across the world to bypass these blocks and keep their internet connections secure.