BBC iPlayer Subscription to be Mandatory from 2018

Ray Walsh

Ray Walsh

September 28, 2016

The BBC has decided that from 2018 a BBC iPlayer subscription will be necessary to access the player. The decision is a double-edged sword aimed firstly at enforcing new British TV license rules. Furthermore, the BBC hopes that postcode subscriptions will help to crack down on the amount of people that overcome geo restrictions to watch iPlayer with a VPN from abroad.

At the moment, users can opt into the BBC’s online subscription service if they want to. For now, iPlayer remains available on demand without a subscription. From next year, however, Auntie Beeb has decided to make its BBC ID subscription mandatory to access the player.

In addition, all the people that currently have a BBC ID subscription are required to submit their British postcodes by next Tuesday. The postcode, of course, will also be a necessary part of the process when a BBC iPlayer subscription is made mandatory next year.

This is the BBC’s description of it’s BBC ID subscription service. Impressively, the service already has seven million registered users,

‘A BBC ID – which allows users to personalize BBC content such as online news – currently requires only an email address and password, though anyone wishing to comment on stories must also provide a date of birth.’
BBC iPlayer subscription

BBC iPlayer Subscription for improved services?

The BBC claims it wants people’s postcodes to help improve services by tailoring their service to their local area. Critics, however, feel it has much more to do with enforcing the new British TV license laws. These are new rules that came into action this month that stipulate that a license fee must be paid by UK residents that watch BBC programming online.

That is why critics are coughing loudly and making funny faces at the BBC’s claims that this is all happening for the good of the consumer. It certainly does feel like the ability to personalize content and tailor news to localities is a neatly executed excuse for snooping in and gathering every iPlayer user’s postcode for cross-referencing against TV licenses.

At the moment, people from all over the world use proxies and VPNs to gain access to the geo-restricted BBC iPlayer website. While BBC iPlayer remains a freely accessible video streaming on demand service, a VPN can be used to spoof from any location on earth to within the UK. VPN servers within the UK, and encrypted data combine to give VPN users the appearance of being within the UK. With that accomplished, VPN users worldwide can enjoy iPlayer like any other regular British Lady or Lord from the Cotswolds.

Overcoming the iPlayer lock down

As soon as the BBC locks-up its service to subscribers only, however, all those thousands of VPN users living outside the UK are suddenly going to need to subscribe. In theory, this shouldn’t be too hard. By using a VPN to tunnel into the UK, people can still gain access to the subscription page. When subscribing, they can then simply enter a pre-researched British postcode of their choosing – preferably one that ties into the location of the UK VPN server that they are using.

With the fake postcode entered, access to the BBC iPlayer will be granted once again. You may be thinking that it sounds risky? What if they realize I don’t live there, you ask? That is a valid concern. The BBC could well use the postcodes from subscriptions to send out TV license bills to registered BBC ID subscribers. When they try to find you (to ask you for your license payments) you won’t exist. This could well ring the BBC’s alarm bells and perhaps even lead to illegitimate iPlayer accounts being shut down.

In addition, because you have been discovered watching the BBC’s programming in a copyright restricted location, you are technically a criminal and could be prosecuted for copyright theft. Thankfully, a VPN encrypts all user data so that visited websites have no idea who the VPN user is, or where they really are.

Encryption and Anonymity

What is true is that the BBC’s Postcode plunder will increase the risks related to watching iPlayer from restricted regions. With that in mind, anybody that does decide to take the risk by signing up for iPlayer using a fake UK Postcode would be wise to do so using a false identity also. Inventing a British sounding name to go with a true-Brit postcode will keep a VPN user’s real identity concealed. It will also make their account blend in more easily with those of bonafide British residents.

Of course, that account may eventually be discovered and shut down. At that point, however, the VPN user could simply subscribe again with another fake name and postcode.

Naturally, I can’t specifically advise you to break the law with a fake subscription. Anybody that does forge a UK Postcode from overseas does so at their own risk, you have been warned! While it is impossible for me to endorse the use of a VPN to watch iPlayer from abroad, it is also true that many thousands of people already do it. The steps described above, however, are only for descriptive purposes. They are provided only to inform readers about what an iPlayer-addicted VPN user might decide to do if they want to continue watching iPlayer from overseas in 2017.


TV license explosion in the UK

The BBC has revealed that changing the law to make UK TV license fees apply even to its online iPlayer has already led to a noticeable increase in license payments. The big brother tactic is working, and once iPlayer is put behind lock and key in 2018, the Beeb will have every British iPlayer viewer’s postcode. This fact will no doubt lead to another explosion of TV license fees being paid within the UK.

With the invasive data grab to be a part of the contract to watch iPlayer, UK residents have been digitally kettled. They have been unjustly manipulated into handing over their personal details. The only real surprise, however, is that it’s taken until now for the BBC to decide to enact this policy.

One thing is for certain. In 2018 things are going to get a little bit tougher for people who spoof their IP to the UK to watch the BBC iPlayer. A little bit harder, but not even close to impossible.

Ray Walsh

I am a freelance journalist and blogger from England. I am highly interested in politics and in particular the subject of IR. I am an advocate for freedom of speech, equality, and personal privacy. On a more personal level I like to stay active, love snowboarding, swimming and cycling, enjoy seafood, and love to listen to trap music.

22 responses to “BBC iPlayer Subscription to be Mandatory from 2018

  1. Why o why can I not simply purchase a subscription to all BBC programming? I’ve been ready and willing to pay for years, and years, and years, and I reckon there’d be hundreds of thousands others like me. So why does the BBC not choose to accept our money?

    1. Hi Sarah,

      So… the BBC makes a lot of money selling its programmes to TV networks around the world. These TV networks require exclusivity with their region when purchasing BBC programmes. If the BBC were to offer an open subscription, it would not be able to make nearly as much money from its TV partners around the world.

    1. Hi Danny,

      So in theory:

      – You must be in the UK to watch catchup TV on BBC iPlayer, and…
      – Whoever owns the device you are watching iPlayer on must possess a TV licence.
      – You are now required to register in order to sign-in and watch iPlayer, but the BBC has stated that registration details will not be used to used to identify people watching without a licence (which makes sense anyway, because you only need one license per household, but a household typically has many members, each of which is required to register to watch iPlayer). This means users of VPN services that have not been blocked can register without issue and continue to watch iPlayer.
      – The BBC is containing to block IP addresses known to belong to VPN providers, but many VPN services have yet to be blocked (or have found ways around the block).
      – The BBC may in future require valid TV licence details in order to register, but this is pure speculation at the current time.

    2. Ok., interesting. At the moment I watch tv from abroad for particular programs only. I use a vpn and can pick up catch up tv with no problems.
      Is this legal or a mute point?

      1. Hi Danny,

        Well, its not permitted by the BBC’s ToS, but UK law has no force outside the UK so it is something of a moot point.

    1. hi mazz,

      I agree, but the BBC makes a great deal of money selling its programs abroad, so this is unlikely to happen.

  2. All good stuff but:

    ” … to crack down on the amount of people that …”

    You cannot have an amount of people. ‘…the number of people who …’
    Always ‘who’ when referring to people, never ‘that’.


    Pendantic of Rockwell Green

  3. I tried to use iplayer through one of your top-rated vpn services and was informed that I could not have access because the BBC servers thought I might be trying to access via a VPN. On top of a general sluggishness induced by using the VPN, this inability to access a service I wanted to use led me to let the contract with the VPN provider elapse. I have since tried a free VPN, but that also seems to induce general sluggishness, so I rarely actually activate it. I wish there were a way to pay for an iplayer subscription from abroad.

    1. Hi ward,

      The situation is highly fluid at the moment, but we are introducing iPlayer and US Netflix into all new full reviews. Many VPN services do still work with iPlayer (I use AirVPN, for example. which works just fine).

    1. Hi Salman,

      Um… what bs? Many VPN services still work with iPlayer.Fewer do with Netflix, but some still do.

  4. I still can’t believe that we are having this conversation, that you need a TV Licence to watch TV in the UK. And applying these rules and fee to an internet connected device. I now understand why George Orwell used his 1984 book to describe the kind of insidious state control over people that he envisioned, which coincidently started in earnest about 1948 when he wrote 1984. What is next…the TV is going to have to watch you watching TV and report everything you do and think?

    I didn’t really believe this story you reported a few weeks back, so I googled it and read some wiki pages on the tactics that your TV Police go to catch people. What about all the TV cord cutters who don’t want your lousy BBC anyway? They have to prove that they don’t have an enabled connected TV to the private contractors who police this absurd rule. Who incessantly hassle all of the people in their homes from time to time. You put up with this nonsense? In Texas, the dam enforcement contractor would be shot on the lawn for trespassing before they even got to the door. USA still has some spine, if no brains.

    I feel sorry for all you Brits suffering under the jackboot of your fascist leaders and ideology. Hitler would be proud. Now I know why my ancestors got out of dodge before things really went to the dogs and more so in the years to come in lousy Britain. So much for the Magna Carta and democracy and everything else I thought Britain stood for. Canada is going to the dogs too, but at least the CBC here promotes itself as free for everyone and they don’t care if you use a VPN to watch online. Come on Britain, you can do better than this. This is embarrassing to read about TV licensing. Now if the licence fee covers the cable bill too, then my sincere apologies.

    Ron W.
    British Columbia

  5. I suggest looking on one of the “aerial view” mapping sites from Bing or Google and seek out a block of flats (apartments)… then use a proprty search site like zoopla to find the numbers of homes in such blocks and choose a random number or 13 (13 often not allocated in recent years because of wide held belief it is unlucky).

    Now you have a valid address and postcode and dozens of households where there’s a chance of someone with a licence.

    You can change e-mail address annually (and shield your real e-mail address) using so only via several hurdles would your real mail address be identifiable.

    New postal address and fresh email annually will make this BBC ID check pretty useless, until they ask for the actual licence number (and do remember, a licence bought for address A can cover use in address B so long as A and B not both in use at same time… so no reason for your address (A) at block of flats, to match you geollcated VPN ip address (B) which is where your second home is located!

  6. I have a bbc licence and live in the UK.

    When I travel, I use a VPN to access the BBC i-player.

    Will this be blocked in 2017?

    I am sure that I am not alone with this question

    1. Hi Richard,

      Full detauils of how the new subscription service will work have yet to be released. I would very much imagine, however, that if you have a paid for a license and have a UK address then you will be able to sign into iPlayer without any problem.

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