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BBC iPlayer catch-up viewing now requires a TV licence. What are the changes?

tv licence-news

It's official: viewers will now need a TV licence to watch or download BBC programmes on demand through iPlayer. Here's all you need to know...

It’s all change in the TV world, as viewers now need a TV licence to watch or download BBC programmes on demand through iPlayer.

This put an end to a loophole which had allowed the viewing of programmes after they had been broadcast without the viewer having a licence.

While this won’t affect the majority of the population, of which 94% of households have a licence, a small number may be impacted.

Here are the key things you need to know about the new legislation:

BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer is now only available to those with a TV licence (Nick Ansell / PA Wire/ PA Images)


What are the new restrictions on watching TV programmes on iPlayer? As of September 1, those wishing to watch on demand shows – including catch-up – will need to have a valid TV licence.

How is this different from before? There was a loophole which allowed people to view previously broadcast shows on catch-up without having a licence.

Why do people need a TV licence? In the UK, it is a legal requirement to have a licence to watch or record live TV programmes on the BBC and all other channels.

How much is a TV licence? The fee is £145.50 for 12 months for a standard colour licence and £49 for a black and white licence. This can be paid weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly.

Can BBC shows be watched on other services? Netflix – which has a monthly subscription fee – broadcasts several BBC series, including Happy Valley, Luther and Sherlock.

What is the cost of Netflix compared with a TV licence? After a free monthly trial, a Netflix Premium account costs £8.99 per month. A TV licence costs £12.13 monthly if paid in instalments.

What if you watch iPlayer on devices other than a TV? The new legislation applies to all viewers wishing to use the service, whether that’s on a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or Blu-ray/DVD/VHS recorder.

Will students be affected? Students are likely to be the most affected by the changes, as they are believed to mainly watch TV shows by catch-up on a variety of devices instead of TVs. No longer will they be able to watch programmes for free on catch-up using iPlayer.

iPlayer loophole closed

iPlayer loophole closed (BBC iPlayer/PA Images)


Students living in halls of residence or in shared accommodation are required to pay for a TV licence if they have a single tenancy agreement, but if a shared house has a joint tenancy agreement, just one licence will be needed between all occupants.

What is the punishment for watching iPlayer without a TV licence? Someone using the service without a licence faces prosecution, a fine of up to £1,000 and additional legal fees.

What about other TV-on-demand services? Britons will still be able to watch programmes on All 4, the ITV hub, Demand 5 and Netflix, among others, without a TV licence. They will still have to pay subscription fees applicable to some of these services.


Victoria Wilson
Victoria Wilson

With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!