You DO need a TV licence to watch live shows on Netflix — and risk a £1,000 fine for not having one, BBC says

netflix logo pictured next to bbc iplayer on a samsung smart tv

As Netflix increasingly broadcasts live events, like the Chris Rock comedy special and upcoming boxing match between Mike Tyson and Jake Paul, it's no longer exempt from the TV licence fee

Aaron Brown

By Aaron Brown

Published: 26/04/2024

- 05:01

Updated: 26/04/2024

- 13:21

By offering live shows, Netflix subscribers might need to pay the £169.50 annual fee

  • A valid TV licence is required to watch live television on any platform
  • For years, Netflix was exempt as it only offered on-demand shows and films
  • But the streamer has been experimenting with live broadcasts
  • It plans to stream a boxing match between Jake Paul and Mike Tyson in July
  • Watching these live broadcasts removes the exemption
  • Disney+, Prime Video, and Apple TV+ have also experimented with live content
  • TV licence rose to £169.50 earlier this month, an increase of 6.6%

Watching Netflix without a TV licence could trigger fines of up to £1,000.

Under UK law, every household is required to have a valid TV licence to watch or record live television. This £169.50 fee doesn't just cover programmes on the BBC but applies to live broadcasts on ITV, Channel 4, Sky TV, Virgin Media, and all other channels in the TV Guide.

You've always needed to be covered by a TV licence to catch up on previously aired shows and films on BBC iPlayer. However, watching on-demand content from streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, and Prime Video was exempt. But that's all about to change.

That's because these streamers are increasingly branching out into live broadcasts.

a poster for the jake paul vs mike tyson live netflix event

Teasing the fight, Netflix says: "A ringside seat (on your couch) awaits. For the first time ever, Netflix and Most Valuable Promotions (MVP) are teaming up for a heavyweight boxing mega-event headlined by the Problem Child, Jake “El Gallo” Paul, versus the Baddest Man on the Planet, Mike Tyson."


Netflix broadcast a stand-up show from Chris Rock called Selective Outrage back in March 2023 to subscribers across the globe — its first foray into live events. Another comedy special, John Mulaney Presents: Everybody’s in LA, will be broadcast on the platform in the coming months.

But the US streamer is looking to up the ante in July, when it will exclusively broadcast a boxing match between YouTube superstar Jake Paul and heavyweight champion Mike Tyson from the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The hotly-anticipated fight will be watched by 80,000 fans in the venue but has the potential to reach 260 million paid subscribers worldwide.

Since this is a live broadcast, the TV licence exception no longer applies.

As such, Netflix viewers — as well as those who tune-in to other streamers who dabble in live events — will need to spend £169.50 on the licence fee.

A spokesperson for the BBC told GB News: "A TV Licence is needed to watch live content on streaming services, watch or record a TV programme on any channel and when using BBC iPlayer. Further information is available on the TV Licensing website or via the customer services team, who can help with any queries."

The loophole was first spotted by the team at telly-centric blog CordBusters. Crucially, those who only watch on-demand shows and films on streaming services will not need to be covered by a TV licence.

Netflix isn't alone, with a number of streamers now experimenting with live broadcasts. Prime Video has aired Premier League fixtures to its fans, who can watch with a standalone £5.99 subscription or as part of an annual Prime membership, as well as coverage of the ATP Tour, WTA Tour, and European Open.

Meanwhile, Disney+ streamed Elon John's farewell concert, Elton John Live: Farewell from Dodger Stadium, on November 20, 2023 — the 47th anniversary of his 1975 performance at the Los Angeles ballpark. Apple TV+ has secured the rights to all football matches in the Major League Soccer 2024 season too, marking its continued push into live sports coverage.

Given that so many of these streaming services previously only offered on-demand content — and were therefore exempt from the TV licence — their changing schedules and the ramifications for licence fee payers will likely catch some viewers off-guard. Many (outdated) online guides claim that viewers who stream exclusively from ITVX, Channel 4, Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney+ do not need to pay the £169.50 fee.

Crucially, whether you need a TV licence fee is never determined by the device you're using to watch a programme. It applies to traditional TVs, as well as desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets, games consoles, set-top boxes like Sky Stream, and or DVD/VHS recorders.

Earlier this month, the TV license fee rose 6.6% up to £169.50 a year. The rise is determined based on the rate of inflation as measured in September last year. The previous TV licence fee was £159 a year.

Elsewhere, the price of a black-and-white TV licence is increasing by £3.50 going from £53.50 to £57.

In a statement to the House of Commons, the Culture secretary said the £10.50 hike would be "felt" by households but added that the BBC was facing "increasing pressure" due to "a rapidly changing media landscape".


According to data released by the BBC, 90% of UK households who were required to hold a valid TV licence had one between March 2022 - 2023, something that could change as more streaming services branch out into live entertainment


According to BBC data, the total income from the licence fee last year was £3.74 billion, which accounted for about 65% of the BBC's total income of £5.73 billion. The TV licence fee was frozen for two years between 2022 and 2023. At the time, the UK Government hailed the announcement as giving "broadcaster certainty while protecting the public from price hikes".

If you're caught watching live TV without a TV licence, then you may be fined £1,000 or be taken to court. The maximum fine is £2,000 in Guernsey.


In 2022, there were 40,220 convictions for licence fee evasion, resulting in an average fine of £202.

According to TV Licensing annual 2022/23 review, a total of 90% of UK households who were required to hold a valid TV licence had one. In that same period, 73,000 people were caught watching live TV without a licence and £137 million was spent collecting the necessary fees.

It's a common misconception that you can be sent to prison for licence fee evasion. However, you can be imprisoned for failing to pay the fine for not having a valid TV licence.

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