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Over 60 million people watching BBC iPlayer for free outside the UK

As the UK government starts to look into cutbacks in the BBC, news released earlier this week points to millions in potential lost revenue from viewers outside of the UK watching BBC iPlayer.

Over 60 million people outside of the UK watch BBC iPlayer through VPN and geo-location software, allowing them to pretend they live in the UK. Since the only authorisation iPlayer provides is a yes or no “do you have a TV license?”, it is not hard for people in China, India and America to break through the walled garden.

The video streaming service, which is offered for free, shows all of the BBC’s current programming with quite a few archived shows. The service, like the BBC, is paid for by taxpayers who own a TV license.

In China alone, over 35 million people watch BBC iPlayer through VPNs and proxies. It is reportedly a similar story for Netflix in China, with shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Marco Polo all big hits in the country, despite Netflix not being available.

Even though content from the BBC is available internationally, it is normally through a licensing deal or BBC International. This type of breach is something the BBC is trying to fix, with more security on iPlayer to avoid location pirates.

“BBC iPlayer, and the content on it, is paid for by UK licence fee payers to watch and download in the UK and the terms of use reflect that,” said a BBC spokesperson. “We do not comment on individual cases regarding breaches of BBC iPlayer’s terms of use, but we take steps where appropriate to protect the intellectual property belonging to rights holders.”

It is a shame that the BBC does not intend to push its shows out to the world, even launching a subscription model for customers outside of the UK. This would allow them to recoup a lot of the lost revenue from China and other countries, where between one and eight per cent of all people surveyed claim they watch iPlayer through VPNs.

David has been a technology journalist for over six years, covering a wide range of sectors. He currently researches apps, app sectors and app markets for Business of Apps, and has written for ITProPortal, RTInsights, ReadWrite, and Digital Trends.