Want to watch F1 on BBC iPlayer from outside the UK? It’s not going to be easy

Live F1 is coming to BBC iPlayer in 2009

Live F1 is coming to BBC iPlayer in 2009

With F1 moving to the BBC in 2009, fans in the UK should be able to use the iPlayer to watch live F1 action next year.

But anyone trying to watch F1 on iPlayer from outside Britain may find it more difficult than when ITV first broadcast F1 online this year.

The BBC’s contract to show F1 only gives them the right to show it within Britain. That includes online broadcasts, and the iPlayer has restrictions built in to stop people overseas watching F1 and other programming on it.

Inevitably since iPlayer was launched (one year ago this week) it has been subject to repeated attempts to hack it. As F1 is not broadcast live in many other countries, and most have to watch it with frequent advertising interruptions, there is likely to be a great demand for iPlayer hacks among F1 fans next year.

Last year it was not difficult to find sites re-broadcasting ITV’s F1 coverage online for foreign viewers. But iPlayer seems to be a tougher proposition from a technical point of view – and that’s before one considers the legal and copyright implications which may make

How can I watch BBC F1 outside the UK?

British F1 fans heading abroad who want to be able to watch live F1 on the BBC have a couple of options.

The most dependable would be to purchase a Slingbox. This allows you to broadcast your home television directly to another computer across the internet.

Providing your home internet connection upload speed is fast enough (at least 256kbps) this is probably the most reliable solution available. It’s not free, of course, a basic Slingbox will set you back around ??70.

There are dedicated services such as Thetelly which claim to offer subscription-based access to British television programmes from abroad. But I’ve no experience of using them so I can’t vouch for their quality or reliability.

How can I watch iPlayer outside the UK?

BBC’s iPlayer seems to be a much more sophisticated solution to whatever ITV were using to limit online F1 coverage to the UK only. But there are some ways around it.

Using remote access

If you’re a British fan heading abroad you could leave your home machine on and connect to it from abroad using a remote connection service such as LogMeIn or GoToMyPC.

Using a UK proxy

You can use a UK proxy to view iPlayer. Sites listing UK proxies can be found easily on Google, and you will then have to configure your internet connection to use the proxy – here’s how to configure a proxy using Internet Explorer. Here are some more details on how to achieve this using Firefox.

Dan D, who’s helped out on the Grand Prix Live Blogs this year, offered these thoughts on using UK proxies to watch iPlayer abroad:

UK proxy server sites (like this one) can be used but they appear to be pretty sketchy, in terms of the security risk you take on if you use them. Not only do most require membership and thus some degree of personally identifiable information, but potentially they will harvest more of your info once you are connected. Some are undoubtedly more trustworthy than others, but it’s hard to know which are which.

Free, smaller-scale sites (like this one) could also work in theory, but this one explicitly excludes the BBC iPlayer. It seems users used to be able to view iPlayer material but it consumed too much bandwidth so they cut it out. Likewise, this one is free and seems reputable but does not handle streaming content.

Any more?

Got any more tips for using iPlayer while abroad? Share them in the comments below.

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Read more: How can I watch, listen to and follow F1 live online?

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90 comments on Want to watch F1 on BBC iPlayer from outside the UK? It’s not going to be easy

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  1. Alex Cooper said on 11th December 2008, 11:44

    For people who have access to one, you can use a VPN connection if you have a UK VPN server (work ones usually). This fools iPlayer into thinking that you’re in the UK.

    There’s a big argument at the moment about people not paying their license fee because iPlayer indiscriminately shows content whether you’ve paid or not. The obvious solution would be for you to enter your license fee number when you use iPlayer (though I know it’s open to corruption) but this would also mean that you could in theory use iPlayer abroad.

  2. Sgt. Basecamper said on 11th December 2008, 11:48

    I don’t think the ITV player were available from outside the UK. When I tried from a non “co.uk” address, I got a disclaimer saying it wasn’t available. So the situation hasn’t changed apart from that it may be more technically difficult to “re-stream” from the iPlayer… But I don’t know if that what was happened this year. Maybe people streamed the content by watching the original broadcasting on their computer through a TV card…

  3. Er, my hefty license fee has in some small way paid for the BBC to show F1 next season and to be fair, why should anyone outside of the UK be allowed to watch what I’ve forked out for?

    This sugar-coated article appears to me to be about how can anyone (not just UK folks crossing the border) watch the BBC feed online?

  4. BBC 1 and 2, plus often BBC World, are in most cable packages in the Netherlands. I’ll definitely compare my regular RTL 7 (with knowledgeable Olav Mol) with the Beeb.

  5. cyanide said on 11th December 2008, 12:46

    I think what people could do is rent a dedicated server at a datacenter in the UK, then use that as a proxy to stream the race.

    Renting one for a month costs around 60-80GBP, depending on what options you go for. Since this will be a high-bandwidth but less resource-intensive job, you can skimp on the server specs, but go for one with huge bandwidth.

    While streaming this to all your visitors might cause hassles (both legal and infrastructural), you could have it for your really regular visitors who I’m sure would be open to paying for something like this.

    Alex Cooper has pretty much the same idea as mine, but mine’s for people who don’t work in the UK.

  6. How does that affect your viewing experience Dank?

    I live in New Zealand, and would gladly pay for the access you so dearly wish to keep to yourself. Sadly, no such option exists.

    While we’re being fair, I pay considerably more than your license fee to see Formula 1 here, and that’s with ads and Hamilton-centric commentary.

    Out of interest, have you always payed the BBC license fee, or just now that it’ll be showing F1?

  7. I doesn’t affect my viewing experience at all Trig. But without funding from the likes of me, you wouldn’t be able to watch it (if it is at all possible) next year. So why should I have to fork out for someone else’s pleasure?

    And if it’s anything like ITV’s feed this year, it’ll go down the plug-hole rather rapidly due to their servers not being able to cope with the masses from abroad.

    And yes, the UK has always paid a license fee is £139.50 (or 334 NZD).

  8. Cameron said on 11th December 2008, 13:29

    I use HotSpot Shield to watch streaming content from america through sites like Hulu. I wonder if their is a similar application that would allow to do something like that on UK servers? Or perhaps Hot Spot can be set up to work?

  9. Im at college in the states. And I don’t get F1 on SPEED where I go to school. So I can either have all of you spoil it for me when I simply log on to facebook or any big news website and see results streaming all over the screen by not seeing races live orrrrr I can steal it and watch it live through a stream. It wouldnt be the first time I’ve ripped something off BBC. I have every episode of every top gear ever aired since its “new” show was made.

    The fact that American fans get shanked so badly on F1 is ridiculous. You dont know how good you have it. So in my opinion, you should pay your d**m fees and shut up. If I was in your place, I would gladly pay them. But I cant. Not all of us even have access to F1 much less a race to go see within 20 hours travel. Until F1, The FIA and FOM give me those things back, Im going to keep stealing from the BBC, ITV and anyone else that airs F1.

  10. ajokay said on 11th December 2008, 13:30


    I don’t know it it’s exactly the same RTL as RTL7 in Dutch, but I’ve watched German RTL’s coverage of the F1 before (it’s what I switched over to when ITV were on advert breaks). I would say I couldn’t understand what the commentators were saying (My German being basic, at best), but I found that most of the time, they wern’t saying anything at all.

    Best of all, when they were silent, you could often faintly hear Martin Brundle and James Allen in the next room along shouting their faces off.

    On the oft chance that the commentators were commentating, my favourite phrase would always be ‘in der boxenstop’.

  11. @ ajokay
    No, German RTL is different from Dutch RTL 7. Whenever there’s ad breaks on RTL 7, though, I switch to Belgian VRT, which is ad-less, like the BBC.

  12. Antifia said on 11th December 2008, 14:02

    If you are travelling to Holland or Brazil, perhaps no proxy trick is needed. BBC1 and BBC2 are part of most standard cable TV packages in these countries. Do you guys know in what BBC channel the F1 races will be broadcast?

    • It’s not been confirmed yet, but I suspect the races and qualifying, as an absolute minimum, will be on either BBC1 or BBC2 depending on what else the BBC is required to broadcast at the relevant times.

  13. Chalky said on 11th December 2008, 14:07

    Please remember that the license fee is not the only source of revenue for the BBC. It is one of the core revenues, but with it the BBC makes many programmes and sells them on. Teletubbies & Eastenders are prime examples of these.

    The BBC is fully aware that those in neighbouring countries can quite easily view the BBC channels. For years viewers in Belgium \ Netherlands have watched BBC snooker etc… (Well the commentators always seem to mention it). So you can expect plenty to tune in and watch F1 when it starts next year.

    The thing is, just watching a broadcast via analogue signal in Belgium isn’t a problem. The difference and main problem with the iPlayer is the increase in data transfer across the ISPs. This is already a major headache for many ISPs in the UK on how to deal with the iPlayer demand. Many have switched over to bring in fair usage policies.
    Now, if others outside the UK manage to hack in and watch the iPlayer for F1 free advert racing, will this not grind the BBC servers to a halt? Surely the BBC have only the capacity to show to the UK audience.
    If the iPlayer is hacked then all those who have paid for the service can’t use the service if it gets overloaded. Then I would be annoyed.
    See this link for what happened when the Olympics was on:

    Freeloading analogue \ digital TV signals to your TV does not effect your neighbours transmission. Freeloading streaming content can.

  14. Alex Cooper said on 11th December 2008, 14:16

    iPlayer doesn’t show live coverage from what I’m aware, which would no doubt cause a surge in interest and therefore usage. Assuming that most fans will watch F1 live on their telly (the old fashioned way) I don’t see an issue with overloaded servers.

  15. I agree with the comments about bandwidth issues: the BBC iPlayer infrastructure is made for the UK, and since it’s available for those who do not pay a TV license fee (or indeed don’t have a TV) the potential numbers of people using the service is the number of households with broadband internet – I can’t be bothered to look up numbers, but it’s alot.

    Live events, especially that attract worldwide attention, shouldn’t be accessed by non-UK requests – and rightly so. Think of it as people stealing your wireless connection…you don’t like it do you.

    However, that is my official line. In reality, I sympathise with those who want a better F1 feed – the number of times I’ve been in another country watching F1 on TV I thank myself I only have to put it up with a race or two. Some places don’t even have F1, so that’s even worse.

    I’ve applied for a position in Japan next year – and if I go, you can bet I’ll be doing whatever I can to watch BBC coverage :P

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