Do you need a TV licence to watch Netflix and Amazon Prime?

Like many other people nowadays, I can’t remember the last time that I turned the TV on and watched the actual telly. Aside from sports, which I watch via a Fire stick, there’s really nothing that I’m interested in watching on TV that I can’t find on a streaming service.

And with Amazon Prime and Netflix having more TV shows and films than ever, it seems like the perfect time to stop paying your TV license. But.. hang on. Do you actually need a TV licence to watch these streaming services, or can you get rid of your licence and carry on watching your favourite shows online instead?

Do you need a TV licence to watch Netflix and Amazon Prime?

The correct answer is that the majority of the time, you don’t need a TV licence to watch streaming services like Amazon Prime, Netflix or any other. This is because these services are allowing you to watch pre-recorded films and TV shows, which a TV licence isn’t necessary for.

However, there are some exceptions to this. For example, recently Amazon Prime have started showing a football game or too, as they’ve bought the rights for this. You can also subscribe to the discovery channel too, which like sports, is also streamed live.

You’ll usually be pretty safe if you want to watch Netflix, as none of their TV programmes are live. But anything that’s streamed live as it’s aired, you’ll need to have a TV licence for. Even if you watch it live on an online streaming app, you will need to be covered by a TV licence.

This applies to any streaming service, and it will also apply to Netflix if they choose to start live streaming shows in the not too distant future.

This will apply to anything that you watch live through any of these streaming services; BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, Sky Go, Virgin Media, BT TV, Apple TV, Now TV, YouTube, Roku and Amazon Prime Video.

So to put it simply, if you want to watch or record live TV, you need a TV licence. If it’s not live, then you don’t. Anything that you download or watch through a catch up service isn’t going to be an issue.

What devices am I covered to use?

If you’re going to get a TV licence, then you’ll want to know which devices are covered by your licence. The rule is that any device that can receive a TV signal will be covered by your licence. This includes;

Television – You’re allowed to watch your BBC programmes on iPlayer, but you can’t watch live TV.
Your Computer – You still need a TV licence if you watch anything live on your computer.
Laptops – Want to watch things on demand or on catch up on a laptop? That’s fine, but nothing live.
Tablets – You still need a TV licence to watch the television on a tablet.
Mobile Phone – And yes; even on your mobile, you still can’t watch TV if it’s being aired at the time you’re watching it.
Games console – For those that have invested in a new console, you’ll still need a licence to watch or record live TV.

As you can see, the licence covers pretty much every device in your house, from your desktop computer to your digital top box.

Do you need a TV licence to watch catch up services, like BBC iPlayer?

Yes, if you’re going to watch BBC iPlayer then you need to make sure that you have a TV licence in place. They’re the whole reason we need to pay for a licence in the first place – more than 90% of the fees we pay go to the BBC!

One way that you could get around this and gain the ability to watch BBC programmes is by opting for the newer service Britbox. This has some of the shows that are on iPlayer, as well as a ton of other old favourites like Doctor Who on the BBC (it has every year of the show). But, it costs around £50 a year on its own anyway.

As well as this, it’s worth knowing that you only really need a TV licence if you’re trying to watch iPlayer specifically. You won’t need a TV licence if you want to use other catch up services like the ITV Hub, or All 4. So, you do need a licence for iPlayer, but not for most catch up services.

What is ‘live tv’?


Is Freeview live TV? Yes, Freeview is just another form of watching live TV, so it definitely counts and you will need a TV licence to watch it. This goes for Freeview, Freesat and all other forms of TV you’re watching as it’s aired.

This includes any show that you’ll find on TV – sports, soap operas, documentaries, the news and much more. So, it’s okay to watch an old documentary on Netflix without a TV licence. But, you can’t watch repeats of a new series, as these have been recorded from a live programme.

How to Avoid Paying TV License Costs

If you want to get rid of your TV licence costs altogether, then the best way for you to do this is get rid of your ties to live television altogether. This means not using an aerial, and not using a satellite too.

Many people have given up on watching live television completely, and are more than happy with the alternatives out there. And if you don’t find yourself watching BBC channels, then it could be worth thinking about.

Most of us have found that there are more than enough to watch with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now TV and the variety of other streaming services we have to choose from.

Plus, if you’re trying to save cash, then you can cycle between them. When you’ve watched everything on Netflix, cancel and switch to another service for a month!

You can still watch all of your favourite shows on your television. The best way to do this is either with your laptop via a HDMI cable, or you could consider getting a streaming stick to plug into your TV too. Fire sticks and Roku sticks are the best option here.

Common Questions about TV Licensing

Can I record live shows and watch them later without a TV licence?

No, you can’t record shows and watch them later without a TV licence – this is also the same for catch up, which is considered to be recorded too. You can’t watch anything live, and you can’t watch the recordings of anything that was streamed live either.

Can I cancel my TV Licence if I don’t watch BBC?

You can cancel your TV licence if you’re happy watching streaming services and ITV and Channel 4 on catch up only. You can’t watch or record ITV, channel 4 or any other channels live without a licence.

Do you need a TV licence to watch NOW TV?

Now TV is a more complex one, because many of the films and TV shows on there are pre-recorded and not live. If you only watch these films and TV shows through NOW TV, then no, you wouldn’t need a TV licence. However if you’re buying NOW TV to use the Sky Sports Season Pass for example, you would need a TV licence, because this is live streamed.

Do I need a TV licence if I use a Virgin or Sky Box?

You’ll still have to pay for a TV licence if you’re watching TV through one of the big broadcasting companies, like Sky or Virgin. This is true even if you’re only using the box to watch TV shows and films that are pre-recorded.

Do i need a TV licence in the UK to watch Twitch?

One area where people get confused is streaming platforms like Twitch. Obviously they’re streaming live, so you’d need to pay a licence for this right? Well no, actually – you don’t need a TV licence for Twitch. This is because they’re classified as an internet streaming platform, not a TV platform.


All in all, for the most part you won’t have to have a TV licence to watch any of these online streaming services. Let’s hope that in the not too distant future, the whole TV licence is scrapped altogether, as more and more people turn away from it in favour of the ability to watch whatever they want, whenever they want.

If you want to get a TV with Netflix and Amazon Prime installed, then check out this list of the best 24 inch smart TV options. These TVs will come with these apps and Freeview installed too, and they’re relatively budget friendly too!

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About Jon

Hey, I'm Jon. I'm an engineer by trade, so it makes sense that I'm obsessed with anything technology related! On the weekends, you can find me playing around with my computers or fixing something around the house. Feel free to leave a comment if you want to get in touch.

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