DowntonHack: How to Watch with the British.

9/22/13 Update: Season Four of Downton Abbey has started and the following directions still work. Episode One will be available on iTV for the next thirty days. If iTV asks you for a zip code, N70AA works.
There are some free ways to do it noted in the comments, but I did hear of some streaming issues with those methods.


How to Watch Downton Abbey Season Three with the UK in September


It’s true.

If you can’t wait any longer to see if Mary and Matthew have a wedding…

If your Dowager Countess Quote Tank is on empty…

You do not have to wait until January for Downton Abbey to make it’s long voyage across the pond.

With the right tools and proper determination, you should be able to begin watching it when it airs in the UK next month.

Some facts:

  • Downton Abbey Season three premiers in England on an as yet unknown date in September on Sunday, September 16.  It won’t begin airing in the US until January.  If you’re willing to wait until January, you have my permission to skip the rest of this post.
  • iTV, Downton Abbey’s home station, allows live streaming of their stations for some shows (not yet sure if Downton is one of them), and posts full episodes after airing, leaving them available for 30 days.
  • However, iTV will not let you watch episodes or clips unless your computer is located in the UK.
  • The UK is an expensive place to move just to watch a show three months earlier.
  • But there is a way to have your internet connection in the UK, something I’ve been testing and experimenting with for the past week (after a tip off from my Twitter friend Michael.)

The Discovery:

  •  Tunnelbear is a service that allows you to “experience the internet as if you were living in a different country.”  Basically, it hooks you up to a network which spits your internet connection out in another country, thereby allowing you to access UK content.
  • Tunnelbear also allows you to gain access to US internet content, so this would be a great tool for Americans (or others) abroad.
  • If it sounds sketchy or untrustworthy, I did research it, and it has good reviews from many people geekier than I, including LifeHacker and MacWorld.
  • Tunnelbear works on a computer or as an app on an iPhone or iPad, but there are some further complications* with the latter two options, so at least from my experience, using it on your computer is the only way to access UK episodes of Downton Abbey.

How to:

  • Download Tunnelbear.
  • Tunnelbear is a free service up to 500 MB per month, or $4.99 a month for unlimited data usage.  I went with unlimited since the average size of one television episode is 500 MB.  (My romance with Downton Abbey is totally worth $4.99 a month.)
  • After installing, open up your Tunnelbear dashboard and switch the dials to “On” and “UK”.
  • It’s a quirky little program, so watch until it says it’s connected.
  • Open up your normal web browser, go to iTV, and watch an episode of whatever you like.(No Downton Abbey episodes are currently available because it’s been more than 30 days since the last one aired, but you can test your Tunnelbear out by watching one of the episode clips, or watching another show on the iTV player.)(Also – enjoy the British commercials – they’re pretty awesome.)
  • When you finish watching, turn off your Tunnelbear and exit the program.  It’s a relatively new service, and as mentioned, rather quirky.  It will slow down your connection and possibly cause interference with other computer functions – only use it when needed.


  • * Complications with the Tunnelbear app:  iTV’s player is in Flash, which of course you can’t watch on Apple devices.  But iTV has a solution – it also has an app.  Unfortunately, that app can only be downloaded in the UK, and even though Tunnelbear can fool iTV, it doesn’t fool your iPad, so you can’t download an app that is restricted to the UK.
  • iTV is fairly secretive with their scheduling and internet availability.  All that I could find out is that Downton Abbey starts in September – I don’t have dates yet (but I will update this post when they are publicized) on Sunday, September 16.  Also, I’m not positive when they post full episodes – all of this will have to be seen as the season starts. // The first episode is up fully!
  • Double check your virus protection software after installing Tunnelbear.  Bears and McAfee don’t seem to get along on my computer, but with a bit of tweaking, I believe I’ve gotten them to have an amicable “not speaking to each other” relationship.
  • This is all somewhat theoretical – it works with current shows, but obviously, I haven’t tried it on a “real” Downton Abbey episode.  All of the research points to the conclusion that it will work, but no representation is made that the accuracy of this post will be perfect.  // Update: It worked perfectly!!
  • Tunnelbear and I have no affiliation whatsoever.

For the next month, we’ll be watching Season One and Two in preparation – you should too.  And just in case you need another copy of my Simple Downton Abbey Explanation, here it is:

(click to enlarge)

Downton Abbey

And to make sure that you’re not at risk of  being dying unexpectedly on Downton Abbey, check this one:

How to tell if you're at risk of dying unexpectedly in Downton Abbey.