Students going mobile as they leave TV sets behind

New research from TV Licensing shows students are increasingly watching mobile devices rather than on a TV. Just 37 per cent say they watch live TV on a TV set once they’ve arrived at university in a survey1 of new students carried out by TV Licensing. In contrast, of those who watch live TV, 84 per cent say they watched live on a TV set before moving to halls of residence.

A change to the law last September means students are now more likely to need a TV Licence to watch on mobile devices. A TV Licence is needed for watching and recording live television, and since September, watching or downloading BBC programmes on iPlayer. This applies to laptops, mobiles or any other equipment.

Jason Hill, spokesperson for TV Licensing, said:

Students are increasingly streaming, downloading, recording, using catch-up services and watching live TV on mobile devices. To help undergraduates decide if they need a licence, we encourage them to view advice at tvlicensing.co.uk/studentinfo before the big move.

More than a third (34 per cent) of those who watch live TV, choose to watch live TV via a laptop as their main device, up from just 7 per cent before they left for university, indicating a switch to more portable ways of viewing.

Almost half (48 per cent) of students own a TV but only half of those (23 per cent) choose to bring their set to university, a fall from 35 per cent just two years ago. By contrast, 89 per cent bring a smartphone with them, 86 per cent a laptop and 36 per cent a tablet.

Research also shows young people are more clued up than their older counterparts as to when they need a TV Licence. When compared to the general population as a whole, more students were aware of the iPlayer law change than the general public when asked in the weeks following the law change2.

Currently, 72 per cent of students are aware of the law change and know a licence is needed to watch catch-up or on-demand TV via BBC iPlayer, using any device. This may be as a result of parental intervention, as growing numbers of parents are mentioning the need to have a TV Licence whilst at university. Three in five parents discuss the TV Licence with their children, indicating parents and guardians are keen to ensure their offspring stay within the law whilst enjoying TV away from home.

Generally speaking, students won’t be covered by a communal TV Licence or their parents’ licence. More information can be found online on our dedicated TV Licence for studentsTV Licence for students page or by speaking to an adviser over the phone on 0300 790 6113.


1. Research was conducted by Harris Interactive, with undergraduate students who do not live with their parents/guardians. Quotas were placed on gender, region of university, year of study and whether they are from the UK or international students (10% are defined as international students), in May 2017.

2. Harris BBC On Demand Survey - Monitoring brand sentiments and understanding of licence requirements.

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