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How to watch BBC iPlayer in China

Official stats claim that around 38 million people regularly watch BBC iPlayer in China. So, how does such a massive number of people unblock the platform? The answer is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

With a VPN, any Chinese citizen can ‘spoof’ their IP address and pretend to be in the UK, allowing them to log in to iPlayer and stream or download. In this guide we show you how.



Using a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer in China

The most important thing to remember when unblocking BBC iPlayer in China is that only a handful of VPN services can both unblock iPlayer and bypass China's VPN ban. Fortunately, we have a list of VPNs that work with iPlayer that are up to the job.

How to watch BBC iPlayer in China

Lets get started! To stream iPlayer in China, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Choose a VPN that works with BBC iPlayer.

    We recommend NordVPN because it offers obfuscated servers in the UK that work well with iPlayer and go undetected in China.

    NordVPN plans

  2. Download the VPN software and install it on your devices.

    Did you know? NordVPN lets you install the VPN on up to six devices simultaneously.

    NordVPN download

  3. Turn on obfuscated servers.

    To do this in the NordVPN app, simply: Click on settings (the gear in the top right corner) > Advanced > Turn on "Obfuscated Servers".

    nord obfuscated servers

    Please note: This step is particularly important if you are connecting in China, as it enables you to bypass the Great Firewall of China successfully.

  4. Connect to an obfuscated VPN server in the UK.

    This should appear in your server list once they have been enabled in settings.

    NordVPN server list

  5. Navigate to the BBC iPlayer website and subscribe.

    You will need an email address, your date of birth, and a valid UK postcode to subscribe (you can find a valid UK postcode on Google).

    Register an account with iPlayer

    Remember that you will also need to agree that you have a TV License (all UK residents must agree that they have a TV license to stream iPlayer).

  6. Once you have logged in successfully, you can start streaming iPlayer!

    BBC iPlayer Homepage

Having issues?

If you are still can't access iPlayer after following the steps above, there are a number of steps you can take to troubleshoot any issues:

Try picking a new server

The BBC works hard to block IP addresses that belong to VPNs which means that the server you have picked may have already been blocked by the BBC. If this is the case, all you have to do is simply choose another obfuscated server based in the UK and try accessing iPlayer again.

Contact your VPN provider

If you are still having issues after trying all the available servers, we recommend contacting your VPN provider. All of the VPNs for iPlayer that we recommend all offer 24-hour support via live chat on their website, and they can often offer you advice on getting connected. 

Still having issues? We cover more in-depth troubleshooting advice in our iPlayer VPN not working? guide.

Why is BBC iPlayer blocked in China?

The BBC uses geo-restrictions to block its channels outside of the UK. This is because it has entered into international licensing agreements for the content it shows and is not permitted to broadcast that content elsewhere.

Despite being officially blocked outside of Britain, it is believed that over 60 million people watch iPlayer from outside of the UK. If you have an interest in British TV, you will need to join that army of viewers and get yourself a VPN.

Do I need any specialist VPN features?

Yes. The Chinese government implements what is generally referred to as the Great Firewall of China (GFC). The GFC is designed to block VPN traffic so that Chinese citizens cannot bypass the website restrictions it imposes. 

To successfully get around the GFC you need a VPN that provides obfuscated servers (also known as VPN cloaking or stealth mode). To avoid disappointment, please check with your preferred VPN before subscribing to ensure that it has obfuscated servers in the UK that work with iPlayer. 

Top Tip: ExpressVPN  implements XOR obfuscation on all servers by default, so you don’t actually have to do anything in settings to get it going.

Can I use Smart DNS and Proxy services to watch iPlayer in China?

No. The BBC actively blocks proxies and smart DNS services that try to access iPlayer. This means that both website proxies and browser-based proxies no longer work.

Some VPNs do provide a smart DNS service as an addon, and these services are sometimes optimized to access BBC iPlayer abroad or using a VPN for Netflix to access the US catalog. However, it is unlikely that these will work in China due to the government's firewall.

This is why we recommend a VPN with obfuscation as the best way to access iPlayer from in China. It is by far the most reliable way to bypass the Great Firewall of China and access iPlayer. 

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. 


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