Live TV and how you watch it

One simple question makes it easy to know if you need a TV Licence.

Am I watching or recording live TV on any device?


‘Live TV’ means any programmes you watch or record at the same time as they’re being shown on TV or an online TV service.

An online TV service is a service that mainly aims to provide TV programmes over the internet, e.g. on a website or through an app or Smart TV.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

Watching and recording TV

Watching online and on mobile devices

Note, if you are a landlord and you install a TV to allow your tenants to receive live TV, that address needs to be covered by a TV Licence.


The TV Licence – not just for TV sets.


Having a TV Licence means you can watch or record live TV using any device you like, including:

  • TV sets
  • Laptops and desktop computers
  • Tablets, mobile phones, satnavs and other portable devices
  • Digital boxes (PVRs), satellite and cable, e.g. Freeview, Freesat, Sky, Virgin Media, BT Vision, YouView, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and Amazon Fire TV.
  • Games consoles
  • DVD, Blu-ray and VHS recorders

There are a few devices listed above that can be powered solely by their own internal batteries, and your home TV Licence will usually cover you to use these to watch live TV away from home. However, if you plug one of these devices into the mains and use it to watch live TV away from home, 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). This is a legal regulation governing TV Licensing.


Frequently asked questions


Watching and recording TV

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

Yes you do. If you record live TV, you need a TV Licence. It doesn’t matter when you actually watch the programme or how you record it, whether it's using a VHS/DVD/Blu-ray recorder, a digital box (PVR) like Sky+ or TiVo, or a hard disc drive or USB stick. If you record live TV, you need a licence.

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

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

No you don’t. As you’re not watching or recording live TV, you don’t need a licence.

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

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

Yes you do. If the programme is being shown on live TV, you need a TV Licence to watch or record it. If the device or technology you’re using to watch the programme causes a delay between when the programme was shown and when you watch it, you’re still receiving live TV.

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

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Do I need a TV Licence to watch repeats?

Yes you do. If you’re watching or recording a repeat as it‘s being shown on live TV, you need a TV Licence.

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

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

Yes you do, as you’re still watching live TV.

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

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

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

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

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

Yes you do if you watch live TV. Whether you receive a TV programme from a cable or satellite provider, through an aerial or via the internet, you need a TV Licence to watch or record live TV.

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

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

Yes you do. You need a TV Licence to watch or record live TV, no matter where it is broadcast or distributed from. This includes satellite or online streamed programmes from outside the UK or Channel Islands.

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

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Do I need a TV Licence if I don’t watch the BBC?

Yes, even if you don’t watch the BBC you need to be covered by a TV Licence if you watch or record live TV.

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

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When don’t I need a TV Licence?

If you never watch or record live TV, you don’t need a TV Licence.

Without a licence you can only:

  • Watch on demand – including catch-up TV and on demand previews – through services like BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand 5, BT Vision, Virgin Media, Sky Go, Now TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and Amazon Fire TV.
  • Watch on demand movies from providers like Sky, Virgin Media, BT Vision, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.
  • Watch recorded films and programmes either from a disc (e.g. DVD or Blu-ray) or downloaded from the internet.
  • Watch on demand internet video clips through services like YouTube.
  • Play video games.

Note, if you are a landlord and you install a TV to allow your tenants to receive live TV, that address needs to be covered by a TV Licence.

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

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Watching online and on mobile devices

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

If you watch live TV online – e.g. through BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, Sky Go, Virgin Media, BT Vision, Apple TV, Now TV, Chromecast, Roku or Amazon Fire TV – you need a TV Licence.

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

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

Yes, you need a TV Licence if you’re watching live programmes on an online-only TV service.

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

No you don’t. If you only ever watch on demand services or catch-up TV and don’t watch or record live TV, you don’t need a licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

Services that provide on demand or catch-up include: BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand 5, Sky Go, Now TV, Virgin Media, BT Vision, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Netflix or Amazon Instant Video.

Remember, if you watch any live TV through these services, you need to be covered by a TV Licence.

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

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Do I need a TV Licence to watch subscription channels like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video?

Subscription channels are television services that are normally paid for on a monthly basis via cable, satellite or the internet.

If you watch live TV on a subscription channel, then you need a TV Licence. You don’t need a TV Licence to watch on demand programmes on paid-for subscription channels.

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

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Do I need a TV Licence to watch programmes that are first shown on demand, e.g. using BBC iPlayer?

No, you don’t need a TV Licence to watch programmes that are first shown on demand, e.g. using BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand 5, Sky Go, Now TV, Virgin Media, BT Vision, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and Amazon.

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

Yes, you need a TV Licence if you watch or record live TV online, no matter where it is distributed from. This includes online streamed programmes from outside the UK and Channel Islands.

‘Live TV’ means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it’s being shown on TV or an online TV service.

If you only ever watch ‘on demand’ programmes, you don’t need a TV Licence. On demand includes catch-up TV, streaming or downloading programmes after they’ve been shown on live TV, or programmes available online before being shown on TV.

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