Do I still need to buy a BBC TV licence to watch Netflix or Sky and when do you not need one?

·2-min read
You need a TV licence if you watch TV on BBC iPlayer. (Getty Images)
You need a TV licence if you watch TV on BBC iPlayer. (Getty Images)

The government is preparing to axe the BBC TV licence fee as the way we watch TV has changed dramatically in recent years, with the rise of on-demand streaming platforms.

Ministers will review the fee over the next few months and will consider alternative funding methods.

Because the BBC’s existing royal charter expires in 2027 the government has until then to find an alternative to the TV licence fee.

In the meantime, you may need a TV licence–but it all depends on how and where you watch TV.

When do you need a TV licence?

You need a TV licence if you do any of the following:

  • watch or record programmes live on TV, on any channel

  • watch or stream programmes live on an online TV service including ITV Hub, All 4, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV, and Sky Go

  • download or watch any BBC programmes on BBC iPlayer.

This means that if you watch live TV on streaming platforms like YouTube or Amazon Prime Video, you will still need a licence.

“Live TV” means TV that is airing at that time–it does not mean only footage of live events like sports or concerts.

You only need one TV licence per address, no matter how many TVs you have.

When do you not need a TV licence?

You do not need a TV licence if the only TV you watch is any of the following:

  • Pre-recorded media like DVDs

  • Downloading or watching S4C TV on-demand on BBC iPlayer

  • Listening to the radio on BBC iPlayer

  • Downloading or watching on demand programmes from providers like ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5, Virgin Media, Sky Go, Netflix, Now TV Apple, Roku, and Amazon.

This means that if you only watch on-demand TV on apps like Netflix or All 4, but never watch TV live on these apps, you do not need a TV licence.

If you have a TV but you only use it to watch DVDs or play video games, you do not need a licence.

How much does a TV licence cost?

A TV Licence costs £159 per year, which can be paid in one go or monthly via Direct Debit.

Some people are eligible for discounts, however.

People aged 74 and over and you or your partner who lives at the same address receive a Pension Credit, you could get a free licence.

People who live in care homes or sheltered accommodation might be able to pay just £7.50, while people who are blind or severely sight impaired can apply to pay £79.50.

People who only watch TV on a black and white TV can pay £53.50.

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