Abroad on holiday or business, but don't want to miss out on watching your favorite TV show as it goes out? Or does the country where you live have rubbish sport coverage, leaving you to trawl Reddit to watch rubbish illegal streams? Either way, there's a very easy – and crucially, legal – way to live stream television no matter where you are in the world.
You may well have heard of VPNs – or Virtual Private Networks – but wondered what they are and how they can help you. As well as adding an extra layer of safety to your online life and giving you a way to get around website restrictions imposed by certain employers, institutions and countries, downloading and installing a VPN can help you tap into overseas TV and sport coverage, too.
In this guide, we'll tell you more about what a VPN is, why it could be the tool for you and which are the best VPN services (we've tested and reviewed more than 100!). We'll also let you know what upcoming live sports and catch-up television VPNs can allow you to access.
What is a VPN?
You can think of a Virtual Private Network as a tunnel that connects your computer, smartphone, tablet, TV streamer, games console or any other internet connected device to an alternative server. The effect is to give you a different IP address to your usual one, and that IP address can be in any country that alternative server is in.
So at the press of a button your laptop can appear like it's in the US, UK, Australia, India – anywhere – even though physically it's sitting right in front of you.
What are VPNs good for?
You know the 'how', so here's the 'why'. Firstly, much is made by VPN providers about just how secure their software is. Because the tunnel your VPN forms will be encrypted, it means that the data you share or download should be invisible to the eyes of hackers, cyber-criminals, ISPs…even governments. So as an extra layer of online security, getting a VPN makes sense. And the best providers keep absolutely no logs of your use, either.
But the advantage of a VPN over standalone virus protection is their extra versatility. Because your device appears to be in a different country or city, it can help you overcome certain region restrictions and geo blocking. So that means using a VPN in China, for example, can help get around strict state website censorship. And it opens up sites like YouTube and Facebook on which some places enforce restrictions.
Plus, crucially for this guide, VPNs can give you a whole new menu of TV and sport that you just can't access where you are.
How to live stream sport with a VPN
So the big annual event in your favorite sport is happening now, but there's no coverage where you live. Bummer. Well you can pretty much guarantee that somewhere in the world, somebody is showing it
Or maybe the coverage is only on cable or a subscription service, but you're doing everything you legally can not to have to cough up for a pricey service to watch this one solitary event. And you just know that there's a free live stream being shown somewhere else.
As described above, downloading a VPN service allows you to virtually relocate your laptop, mobile or TV streamer to another location where the sporting event is being shown. The Russia 2018 World Cup was a great example, with thousands of people wanting to watch the international football tournament, even when their country hadn't bought any rights to show it.
Below is a list of a few of the most popular ongoing and future sports action that VPNs can be used to live stream. On each page we let you know the localised viewing options in some English-speaking countries so that you know which VPN server to choose to get watching as soon as possible:
– NFL football – how to watch, even in a blackout
– Premier League soccer – every single game is being shown somewhere
– ODI cricket – Sri Lanka vs England
How to watch TV online with a VPN
And they said that water cooler TV moments were dead! If there's one thing that shows like Game of Thrones, Bodyguard and, yes, Love Island have proved, it's that some scheduled TV is still essential viewing as it goes out for the first time.
Catch up TV services have changed the way we watch TV for the most part, but for some shows you want to be able to watch – and react to – in real time. Even if you're out of the country for business or on holiday, a VPN let's you tune into that can't-miss TV regardless of where you are.
Plus, if you've ever heard about a film or show that you really want to see turning up on a streaming service, just not in the country where you are, then a VPN can unlock the door…that is if you don't mind breaching their terms and conditions of usageand entirely at your own risk.
– Netflix – unlock shows that are only being broadcast abroad
– Doctor Who – free on the BBC every Sunday
– The Walking Dead – watch Season 9 as it goes out in the US
– Great British Bake Off – don't miss your cake fix
– Strictly Come Dancing – watch even if you're on holiday
– X Factor – singing and Simon Cowell
– UK Big Brother – the last ever series
– Friends – just in case you haven't seen them all already
The best three VPNs to watch sport and TV:
We've tested and reviewed in excess of 100 VPN providers to see which are the best (and worst!). We're happy to confidently recommend the following VPN services: