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If you enjoy British television, you'll realize very quickly that only a tiny fraction of the shows made in the UK are available for easy viewing with things like Netflix and Acorn and BritBox. Many British shows are only available on DVD – and a lot of those are only available on PAL-format/Region 2 DVDs, which means you can't watch them on a standard North American DVD player.
If you're serious about watching some of the less-common British shows, you'll need to get yourself a region-free DVD player. You will not find these DVD players in normal electronics stores, but once you have one you'll never have to worry about DVD format again.
For those who aren't very comfortable with technology, I'll break this down and describe the options.
- Regular DVD Player – This is the standard DVD player most people in the United States have. It will NOT work for watching DVDs from the UK. There are a handful of regular DVD players that can be modified to accept other formats, but they're the exception to the rule and you might need your instruction manual to figure out how to do it.
- Region-Free Standard DVD Player – This device will play DVDs from both the US and the UK, but it will not play any kind of Blu-Ray DVDs. However, because most of the British television DVDs you find are printed on regular PAL format DVDs, that doesn't matter. There is really no need to buy a Blu-Ray player unless you already watch a lot of Blu-Ray movies. This Panasonic DVD Player is a great middle of the road option – not wildly expensive, but not an unknown cheap brand, either. If you're on a really tight budget, you might prefer this LONPOO model (though personally, having the word “poo” in the name makes me a bit wary of it).
- Regular Blu-Ray Player – This is a standard Blu-Ray device that will play regular DVDs and Blu-Ray discs in the United States. It will NOT work on UK DVDs.
- Region-Free Blu-Ray Player – If you have the budget to spare and you want to be able to watch all DVDs and all Blu-Ray discs from any part of the world, this is the device you want. I don't personally bother with Blu-Ray, but this Sony model is quite highly rated.
If you don't need anything fancy and you don't want to spend a fortune, I'd recommend the Panasonic DVD player in number two above. I have a very similar model, and I've been using it happily for years. If you need some ideas for rarer British TV shows you might want to watch, check out the British TV Field Guide. This post highlights some of our favourite British TV shows not currently available on streaming services (at time of writing).
One of the best things about owning a region-free (also known as multi-region) DVD player is that it frees you up to order whichever version of a DVD is cheaper, even if there IS a US-compatible version. For many shows, the price difference is significant.
You can also order from Amazon UK and take advantage of the DVD sales they often have. If you're serious about your British TV, you'll save quite a bit of money in the long-run. You don't have to be from the UK to create and order on an Amazon UK account. They give you the option to convert currency at checkout or have it processed in GBP by your credit card company (be aware that some cards will charge extra for foreign currency transactions).
After founding I Heart British TV in 2016 as a resource for her granny, Stefanie has grown I Heart British TV into a resource that serves millions of British TV fans every year. When not writing posts or editing contributions to the site, you can probably find her working on the latest print edition of the British TV Streaming Guide.