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Do I need a TV licence for streaming services?

Lynn Wright / 05 February 2016

We explain when you need to buy a TV licence and when you don’t for watching live TV, catch-up TV and on-demand streaming TV services.

Couple watching TV
A good rule is if you ever watch or record live television shows you need a TV licence

With TV available on BBC iPlayer or streaming services, such as Netflix, you might think you don’t need a TV licence if you don’t own a TV. But not having a TV licence is a criminal offence with a fine of up to £1,000, so it pays to know if you really need a TV licence.

You need to be covered by a TV Licence to watch or record live TV programmes on any channel, or download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer.

What is catch-up TV and how does it work?

What counts as live TV?

Live TV covers any content that can be viewed at the same time as it’s being broadcast on a TV channel. This includes +1 channels such as ITV+1, as well as Freeview, Freesat or a service such as Virgin or Sky.

And if you think you can bypass this with BBC iPlayer, think again. 

Live TV includes any shows that are streamed on video-on-demand services at the same time as being broadcast on a TV channel. 

For example, you need a TV licence to watch the Antiques Roadshow on BBC iPlayer while it’s currently being shown live on BBC 1.

Confusingly, this applies to any programme that you record while it’s being broadcast on TV, which you then watch later.

The live TV rule applies regardless of whether you’re using a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder.

Do I need a licence to watch Netflix?

No, you don’t need a TV licence if you only watch on-demand movies or TV shows on internet services, such as Netflix or YouTube.

How many TV licences do I need?

Just one per property, regardless of the number of TVs you have and whether you own or rent the property. 

Different rules apply for shared student accommodation. 

Your licence also covers you when watching live TV on your laptop, tablet or smartphone when you’re away from home.

Freeview? Cable? What are the different types of television service?

What does a TV licence cost?

A TV licence costs £150.50 for colour or £50.50 for black & white.

There are some TV licence exceptions and reductions:

  • Age: If you’re aged 75 or over you’re entitled to a free TV licence.

  • Blind or severely sight impaired people can get a 50% reduction in the licence fee.

  • Care home residents need a TV licence for their own living area, but may qualify for a reduced licence costing just £7.50 per room, flat or bungalow.

  • Second home owners need a TV licence to watch and record live TV in their second homes. However, boats and touring caravans are already covered by your main home’s TV licence.

You can buy or renew your TV licence online on the TV licensing website.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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