A new report claims up to 65 million people are bypassing location blockers in order to watch the BBC iPlayer catch-up TV service abroad.
Millions of people – including 38.5m in China – are using VPNs or proxy servers to make it appear like they’re watching from the United Kingdom.
The iPlayer is free to access in the UK, under the proviso viewers have also purchased a TV license.
The BBC had offered a Global iPlayer in Europe, Australia and Canada, which had charged subscribers a monthly fee for a selection of shows. However, that service was shut-down last month, with the Beeb announcing it would seek different ways of offering its content abroad.
As such, the only way for some international fans to view shows like Eastenders and Doctor Who is to access the service via the copyright infringing VPN and proxy services.
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The authors of the report said the figures represent an opportunity for the BBC to make money. 75 per cent of the 65 million people using iPlayer abroad illegally are also paying for subscription services like Netflix and Hulu.
“Rather than seeing this as a threat,” said Jason Mander. “There’s much good news here for the BBC.”
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“If even a relatively small proportion users could be converted into paid users, the additional revenue it could create for the BBC would be significant.”