If you’re travelling overseas and want to keep up with your favourite shows from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 or other UK-based TV broadcasters, you’ll quickly realise it isn’t straightforward. Regional restrictions make it very difficult to stream content from these stations unless you’re actually in the United Kingdom.
But if you really can’t miss out on the latest episodes during your sojourn, there are ways around these limitations. In this article we show how to watch free-to-air UK TV on your iPhone from abroad. (Here’s how to watch free TV on an iPhone when you’re at home, we also have an article about How to watch BBC iPlayer when you aren’t in the UK.)
Is it legal?
Before we begin, it must be pointed out that watching content from UK companies while abroad breaks the Terms & Conditions of their services. Now, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever be prosecuted or anything like that, but you may have your account suspended, and of course there is the moral dilemma of whether you should go down this route at all.
Another serious point is that to watch content from BBC iPlayer you’ll need a TV licence, as that is how the channels are funded. So, with those conditions in mind, you’ll need to decide for yourself on whether you want to proceed with gaining access to the programmes while overseas.
We don’t condone the idea of circumventing these restrictions, and merely provide this information to show how it’s technically possible.
Downloading before you leave
One way to avoid any legal dubiousness is to download shows before you leave the country. Most services offer the facility to do this, and it’s perfectly fine to then consume the episodes when you’re travelling.
To do so, be sure to have the relevant app downloaded from the App Store: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and so on.
ITV Hub only offers downloads on iOS via a paid upgrade called ITV Hub+ (currently £3.99 per month), but this also allows users to stream content while in the EU and without the interruption of ads. Sadly, this excludes live TV, so you’ll be restricted to catch-up.
Be aware that you won’t be able to download shows on the normal services once you’re abroad, so stock up before you depart.
Using a VPN
Those looking to sidestep the regional restrictions can do so via a Virtual Private Network (or VPN) service. These create a secure connection between your device and servers on the web.
As well as protecting your online connections from prying eyes, a VPN also has the ability to fool servers into thinking you’re in another country. This, of course, makes it the easiest way to watch UK content whether you’re in Minnesota or Mumbai.
Most of the best VPNs are subscription-based, with NordVPN and ExpressVPN both excellent options, but you can check out our Best VPN for iPhone chart to see all of the current champions, some of which have free tiers.
With one selected you can then follow the instructions in our How to use a VPN on iPhone guide and set it up.
Finally, direct the VPN to use a UK server, then open the TV app and it should think that you’re still in the country, meaning the shows will be available no matter where you roam.