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Up to 65 million people overseas are watching the BBC iPlayer catch-up service illegally, a new report claims.

iPlayer is only supposed to be available to viewers in the UK. However, people in other countries use VPNs (virtual private networks) and proxy servers to make it look like they're in the UK and bypass location-blockers.

new bbc iplayer

Overseas users account for 29 per cent of the iPlayer's monthly requests, according to the study from GlobalWebIndex. 38.5 million of these viewers are in China alone.

The BBC previously offered a Global iPlayer service in Europe, Australia and Canada. This charged viewers a monthly fee for a selection of shows. However, Auntie closed the service last month.

It said it would look for new ways to offer its content abroad. So far, it hasn't announced any.

Instead of seeing it as bad news, the BBC should see it as an opportunity, according to the report's authors.

After all, 75 per cent of the 65 million viewers also pay for subscription services like Netflix and Hulu.

So if the Beeb can give them a way to pay to watch, chances are most of them will take it.

"Rather than seeing this as a threat, there's much good news here for the BBC," said Jason Mander from GlobalWebIndex.

"If even a relatively small proportion of users could be converted into paid users, the additional revenue it could create for the BBC would be significant."

GlobalWebIndex also found that iPlayer was by far the most popular on-demand service in the UK.

It said 45 per cent of internet users aged 16-64 accessed the iPlayer in the last month. Just 4 per cent hadn't heard of the service.



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