If you’re jetting off on holiday and fancy catching up on your favourite shows while you’re away, there are a couple of ways to get the job done if you have a valid TV licence.
EU regulation means that anyone can use their bundled texts, minutes and mobile data anywhere in the EU for no extra charge. But beware – many TV apps are region-locked, which means you won’t be able to stream them outside the UK. And even if you have unlimited data, many mobile phone providers still place caps on your usage.
Fortunately, there’s still a good way to enjoy content overseas that won’t risk landing you with unexpected bills. Most services, including BBC iPlayer, All 4 and Sky Go Extra, allow you to download content before you leave the UK, and you can then watch it through the app any time – even without a signal. Read on for our tips on watching UK TV abroad.
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How to download TV to watch offline
Downloading TV to a smartphone, tablet or laptop for offline viewing doesn’t have to be a hassle. Free up some space on your device (or buy a microSD card), pick your favourites and take your shows with you.
Watch TV abroad: BBC iPlayer
iPlayer is one of the most popular choices when it comes to downloading TV to watch without wi-fi, serving up a selection of programmes broadcast in the last 30 days.
You’ll need a valid TV licence, a free BBC account and an internet connection to download files from iPlayer in the first place but, after that, you’re free to watch at home or abroad. Not everything that appears on iPlayer is available to download – certain sports broadcasts and films can only be streamed online. Our BBC iPlayer page has more details.
You’re out of luck if you want to watch live TV through iPlayer while you’re abroad – due to rights agreements, you need to be in the UK to do this. A message on the iPlayer website reads:
If you’re downloading to a laptop, you’ll need to download the BBC iPlayer Downloads application for Windows and Mac. Subtitles are available for downloaded shows, and you can choose between SD or HD quality.
Watch TV abroad: ITV Hub+
Originally, ITV didn’t support offline viewing, which meant you had to stick to other catch-up services to get your TV fix. But that’s changed now, and you can stream ITV shows abroad as long as you subscribe to ITV Hub+, which is £3.99 a month.
New roaming regulations mean Hub+ subscribers can enjoy the benefits of the service when they go abroad within the EU. You get live streaming and download support for iPhones and iPads running iOS 10 or later. At the time of writing, Android users can’t download content from ITV Hub+. The Windows Phone platform isn’t supported, and neither are Samsung smart TVs released before 2012.
It’s worth noting that you’ll need to download content while you’re in the UK – you can’t use that Hub+ feature abroad.
To find out more on the ITV’s free streaming service, see our ITV Hub guide.
Watch TV abroad: All 4
Download a show from All 4 from within the UK and you’ll be able to watch it without a phone signal while you’re abroad. You can’t stream live TV through the service from overseas, but you can watch previously downloaded shows on iOS or Android through the mobile app.
Not every programme on All 4 is available to download, but those that are will be clearly marked. You need to create an account to access the download feature. All 4 lists content from the last 30 days, although some programmes are online for longer – the website has a varied selection of popular boxsets.
Take a look at our All 4 page for further details on the service.
Watch TV abroad: Netflix
An update to the Netflix mobile app in 2017 added offline support, which means you can download content to your iOS or Android mobile and watch offline.
Not everything on Netflix can be downloaded, though. You can view only a select number of Netflix Originals and movies offline, including Orange is the New Black and Narcos. The selection has improved over time.
When it comes to using Netflix while traveling, your choices for streaming will be the same as the location you’re traveling from. Netflix says:
All of your content downloaded from Netflix to view offline has an expiry date. Titles that are set to expire in less than 7 days will display the amount of time you have left clearly, so you’re not caught out. Downloads will have an impact on your data usage if you’re not connected to a wi-fi network, so keep that in mind.
For more on Netflix’s key features, see our full Netflix review.
Watch TV abroad: Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime members with Prime Video can download select movies and TV shows to iOS or Android. Amazon’s Fire tablets and the Amazon Fire phone also support offline viewing.
If you’re browsing the Amazon Video website abroad, you’ll notice a ‘Watch While Abroad’ banner appear above titles that you can stream right away. If you’re not on wi-fi, though, watch out for how much data you’re using.
Downloading content for offline viewing is also an option. How long you have to watch a downloaded show varies, and you’ll spot a notification on your device when the time is almost up. Once that time limit has passed, you’ll have to connect your gadget to a wi-fi network again to continue watching.
Watch TV abroad: Sky Go Extra
The regular Sky Go package doesn’t let you download TV, but upgrading to Sky Go Extra means you can. Your downloaded shows will be deleted from your smartphone or tablet 48 hours after viewing starts, or no later than 30 days after downloading.
As of April 2018, Sky customers can stream Sky content throughout the EU on any compatible portable device. There are no additional steps to watching shows in the EU. If you’re heading abroad for a couple of weeks and haven’t viewed content at home for 37 days, you’ll have to verify that you’re still a resident of the UK or Republic of Ireland.
If you’re already a Sky TV customer, you can try out Sky Go Extra free for two months. After that, you’ll pay £5 extra a month. Find out more about the regular Sky Go service here.
Best Buy tablets reviewed in our test lab
Big-screen tablets are great holiday companions. The best tablets we’ve tested in our lab will last you all day on a single charge, and speedy processors mean you can stream your favourite TV shows without having to worry about lag.
Tempted by a tablet? Head over to our tablet reviews page, where we’ve tested the latest releases from the likes of Apple, Samsung and Lenovo. If you’re a buyer on a budget, see our guide to the best cheap tablets under £200.