Live TV and how you watch it

The law has changed. Your TV Licence now also covers you to download or watch any BBC programmes on iPlayer. Find out more

A TV Licence covers you to

  • watch or record live TV programmes on any channel,
  • download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand.

This applies to any device and provider you use, including a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder.

Live TV means any programme you watch or record as it’s being shown on TV or live on an online TV service. It’s not just live events like sport, news and music. It also covers soaps, series, documentaries and even movies.

An online TV service is any streaming or smart TV service, website or app that lets you watch live TV over the internet. This includes services like All 4, Sky Go, Virgin Media, Now TV, BT TV, Apple TV, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video and ITV Hub.

Don't forget, a TV Licence also covers you to download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand.

A standard colour TV Licence costs £145.50. Find out about ways to pay.

Other TV Licence types and costs

You could still need a TV Licence if you don’t have a TV

A TV Licence covers you to watch or record live TV programmes on any channel, and to download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer. This applies to any device and provider you use, including:

  • TV sets (including smart TVs)
  • DVD, Blu-ray and VHS recorders
  • Laptops and desktop computers
  • Tablets, mobile phones and other portable devices
  • Digital boxes or PVRs (such as Sky, Virgin Media or BT TV)
  • Games consoles
  • Media streaming devices (such as Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and Now TV)
  • Freeview, Freesat or YouView

Some of these devices can be powered solely by their own internal batteries. Your home TV Licence will usually cover you to use these away from home.

However, if you’re away from home and plug one of these devices into the mains and use it to watch or record live TV programmes on any channel or device, or to download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer, you need to be covered by a separate TV Licence at that address (unless you’re in a vehicle or vessel like a train, car or boat). It’s the law.

Find out if you need a Licence video Watch our YouTube video to find out when you need a TV Licence.
 

Please tell us if you think you don't need a TV Licence.

Answers to your questions

Do I need a TV Licence to record a programme and watch it later?

Yes. If you record any programme on live TV, you need a TV Licence. It doesn’t matter when you watch it, how you record it or what device you use.

Pay for your TV Licence

Do I need a TV Licence if I only ever watch on demand services (like catch up TV), DVDs or downloaded programmes?

You don’t need a licence if you only ever watch on demand or catch up programmes on services other than BBC iPlayer (and you also never watch live TV programmes on any channel, including on iPlayer).

You also don’t need a licence to watch DVDs, Blu-rays or videos.

You need a TV Licence to download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand. This applies to any device and provider you use.

Pay for your TV Licence

Do I need a TV Licence if I don’t watch the BBC?
  • Yes – if you watch or record live TV on any channel, or through any provider.
  • No – if you don’t watch any live TV and you only ever watch on demand or catch up programmes on services other than BBC iPlayer.

Pay for your TV Licence

Do I need a TV Licence if I watch a programme on a delay?

Yes. If you record any programme on live TV, you need a TV Licence. Even if the device or technology you use creates a delay between when the programme is shown and when you watch it.

Pay for your TV Licence

Do I need a TV Licence to watch or record repeats?

Yes, you do. You need a TV Licence to watch or record any programme that’s being shown on live TV. This includes repeats of any programmes that have already been shown.

Pay for your TV Licence

Do I need a TV Licence to watch or record +1, +2 or +24 channels?

Yes you do – as you’re still watching a programme as it’s being shown on TV.

Pay for your TV Licence

Do I need a TV Licence to watch live programmes on Red Button services?

Yes, you need a TV Licence to watch live TV programmes being shown on Red Button services.

Pay for your TV Licence

I already pay for cable or satellite TV. Do I still need to buy a TV Licence?

It doesn’t matter if you receive TV programmes from a cable or satellite provider, through an aerial or over the internet. You still need a TV Licence to watch or record live TV programmes on any channel or device.

Pay for your TV Licence

Do I need a TV Licence to watch satellite programmes broadcast from outside the UK or Channel Islands?

You need a TV Licence to watch or record live TV programmes on any channel or device, no matter where they are broadcast or distributed from. This includes satellite or online streamed programmes from outside the UK or Channel Islands, such as sporting events and foreign shows.

Pay for your TV Licence

Do I need a TV Licence to watch live TV online?

Yes, you need a licence to watch or record any live TV programme, on any channel. It doesn’t matter if you receive it over the internet, from a cable or satellite provider or through an aerial.

This applies to any device and provider you use, including ITV Player, All 4, Sky Go, Virgin Media, BT TV, Apple TV, Now TV, YouTube, Roku and Amazon Instant Video.

You also need a TV Licence to download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand.

Pay for your TV Licence

Do I need a TV Licence to watch live TV programmes on an online-only TV channel?

Yes. Online-only TV channels still count as live TV, so you need a TV Licence if you’re watching or recording their programmes.

Pay for your TV Licence

Do I need a TV Licence if I only ever watch on demand or catch up TV online?

It depends what you watch.

You don’t need a licence if you only ever download or watch on demand or catch up programmes on services other than BBC iPlayer (and you also never watch live TV programmes on any channel, including on iPlayer). And you don’t need a licence to watch S4C TV on demand and listen to radio on iPlayer.

But you will need a licence if you watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV or live on an online TV service, or you download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand. This applies to any device and provider you use.

Pay for your TV Licence

Do I need a TV Licence to watch paid-for subscription channels?

Subscription channels like Netflix, Amazon Prime/Instant Video and Now TV are television services that are normally paid for on a monthly basis via cable, satellite or the internet.

You will need a TV Licence if you watch live TV on a subscription channel. But you don’t need a TV Licence to watch on demand programmes (other than those on BBC iPlayer) on paid-for subscription channels.

Pay for your TV Licence

Do I need a TV Licence to watch live TV programmes from outside the UK or Channel Islands?

You need a TV Licence to watch or record live TV programmes on any channel or device, no matter where they are broadcast or distributed from. This includes satellite or online streamed programmes from outside the UK or Channel Islands, such as sporting events and foreign shows.

Pay for your TV Licence

When don’t I need a TV Licence?

You don’t need a TV Licence if you:

  • never watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV or live on an online TV service, and
  • never download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand.

This could be on any device, including a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder.

If you only do the following, you don’t need a licence:

  • Watch on demand or catch up programmes on services other than BBC iPlayer (and you also never watch live TV programmes on any channel, including on iPlayer)
  • Watch S4C TV on demand or listen to radio on iPlayer
  • Stream, rent or buy movies from providers like Sky, Virgin Media, BT TV, Netflix or Amazon
  • Watch DVDs, Blu-rays or videos,
  • Play internet video clips through services like YouTube or to play video games.

Note: if you are a landlord and you provide a TV to allow your tenants to watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV, that address needs to be covered by a TV Licence.

Tell us you don't need a TV Licence



If you still have questions take a look at TV Licensing FAQs where you can find all the answers in one place.