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
Feature Writer for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and

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!