Watching Netflix? You Might Need A TV Licence After All

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Have you always thought you don’t need a TV licence when you’re watching Netflix? Turns out you do… in some cases – and that may come as a surprise to many viewers in the UK.

For many years, Netflix viewers were indeed exempt from paying the TV Licence fee. But as Netflix is slowly expanding its offering with live broadcasts, subscribers who tune into these events will find themselves subject to the same licensing requirements as traditional live TV viewers.

Earlier this year, for example, Netflix aired the live Netflix Slam tennis match, live comedy specials are streamed several times a year, and later in 2024, the highly anticipated Paul vs Tyson boxing match will air live on Netflix as well.

Therefore – as the BBC confirmed to us – some Netflix subscribers will discover they need a valid TV licence if they plan to watch those live events (see full details below).

Who Needs A TV Licence?

The TV Licence fee, a mandatory annual charge for all UK households, businesses, and organisations, is the primary source of funding for the BBC.

TV Licensing tv licence document

Evading the TV Licence fee is a criminal offence.

Those who don’t pay are subject to a £1,000 fine and can end up in court or, in rare cases, even end up in jail

Anyone watching or recording live TV broadcasts, any BBC content, or BBC iPlayer, regardless of the device or method used, must pay the fee.

This includes watching any live TV from any broadcaster, even international ones. If you only watch on-demand content such as traditional streaming on Netflix, Disney+ or ITVX (except for iPlayer) – you don’t need a TV Licence (see our full guide on who needs to pay the TV Licence fee).

However, in recent years, some streaming services have started to stream live content alongside recorded, on-demand programmes and films – and any live content requires a TV licence fee.

Live TV on ITVX
Live TV on ITVX

ITVX, for example, can be used to stream ITV’s live channels (at least on some devices). Amazon’s Prime Video has ventured into live sports in recent years. And Netflix is slowly but surely getting into the live-streaming arena as well.

Netflix and the TV Licence Fee

As mentioned earlier, Netflix viewers have traditionally been exempt from paying the TV Licence fee, as the platform has primarily focused on on-demand content.

However, things are changing with the introduction of live events, such as the recent Netflix Slam tennis match, comedy specials such as the Chris Rock live comedy special in 2023 and the upcoming John Mulaney Presents: Everybody’s in L.A..

These days, Netflix is heavily promoting its biggest live event to date: the upcoming Paul vs. Tyson boxing match.

Paul vs Tyson
Paul vs Tyson (Photo: Netflix)

The highly anticipated boxing match between Jake Paul and Mike Tyson is set to take place on July 20, 2024, at the 80,000-seat capacity AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The event, which will be streamed live globally on Netflix, marks a significant milestone for both fighters.

Jake Paul, a YouTuber and social media personality, but also a rising star in the boxing world, will face his toughest opponent yet in Mike Tyson, the legendary former undisputed world heavyweight champion.

The fight is expected to attract a massive audience spanning multiple generations of sports fans and could potentially become one of the most-watched boxing events in modern history.

Netflix on TV socks
Photo: Deposit Photos

As this will be a live event streamed on Netflix, UK viewers who wish to watch the fight (and any other Netflix live event) will need to ensure they have a valid TV Licence.

Cord Busters reached out to the BBC for clarification on this matter, and the broadcaster confirmed that viewers who intend to watch any of the live events on Netflix, including the Paul vs. Tyson fight, will indeed need to have a TV Licence.

This rule may catch many Netflix viewers off guard, as most guides and resources (including here on Cord Busters) have previously stated that Netflix viewers are exempt from the TV Licence fee.

However, now that Netflix occasionally streams popular live events – it’s important for Netflix subscribers in the UK to be aware of this change and that they may need to pay the TV licence fee – if they intend to watch those broadcasts.

Of course, the vast majority of Netflix content remains exempt from the TV licence fee – as long as you don’t watch anything live.

TV Licence fee inforgraphic 2024

This is true of the other streaming services as well – Disney+, for example, streamed a live Elton John concert in 2023, and will likely stream more live events in the future – so, again, viewers would need a TV licence if they intend to watch those live.

If you later watch the on-demand version of those events, however – you do not need a TV licence.

As Netflix and other streamers continue to expand their live event offerings – it’s likely that more viewers will need to consider purchasing a TV Licence.

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1 thought on “Watching Netflix? You Might Need A TV Licence After All”

  1. So how is the BBC going to establish we have watched a Netflix live TV broadcast in order to challenge whether or not we have a TV license? Seems rather far-fetched to me. Why would they bother?

    Reply

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