What is ‘Live TV’ and when do I need a licence to watch it?

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.

You need to be covered by a TV Licence if you watch live TV on any channel or TV service (such as ITV Hub, All 4, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV, Sky Go, etc), on any device.

If you’re watching live TV, you need to be covered by a TV Licence:

  • if you’re watching on TV or on an online TV service
  • for all channels, not just the BBC
  • if you record a programme and watch it later
  • if you watch a programme on a delay
  • to watch or record repeats
  • to watch or record programmes on +1, +2 and +24 channels
  • to watch live programmes on Red Button services
  • even if you already pay for cable, satellite or other TV services
  • to watch satellite or online programmes shown live from outside the UK or Channel Islands.

You don’t need a TV Licence to watch videos or clips on demand on YouTube. But you do need a TV Licence if you watch TV programmes live on YouTube. An example of this would be watching Sky News live. But it isn’t just live news or sport which needs a licence – it’s any programme which is part of a TV channel, broadcast or transmitted for everyone to watch at the same time.

Find out more about watching live TV.


General information about TV Licensing is available in other languages: