TV Licence vs BBC Subscription: Price May Hit £580/year

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In recent years, there’s been much talk about potentially moving from a TV Licence fee to a BBC subscription model. But how much would such a subscription cost, and how much worth are licence fee payers currently getting from the BBC?

Today’s release of the BBC’s annual plan for 2024/2025 brings these questions into sharper focus.

The plan gives us insight into a theoretical cost for a comprehensive BBC subscription, suggesting it could be significantly higher than the current licence fee, which is set to rise to £169.50 next month.

This comparison comes at a time when other streaming services and Pay TV providers are also adjusting their pricing, reflecting broader industry trends and economic pressures.

TV licence documents

As we look into the details of the BBC’s plan regarding the licence fee’s costs, it’s worth considering not just the financial aspects, but also what a shift from a universal licence fee to a subscription model could mean for access to quality, ad-free programming for audiences across the UK.

The TV Licence Fee Controversy

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

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 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).

TV Licence fee inforgraphic 2024

Evading the TV Licence fee is a criminal offence – and those who don’t pay can end up in court, and – in rare cases, end up in jail.

Can A BBC Subscription Replace The Licence Fee?

In recent years, there’s been ongoing talk from the government about possibly replacing the TV Licence Fee with a subscription model.

The BBC’s annual plan for 2024/2025 subtly touches upon the financial implications of a hypothetical shift from the traditional TV Licence fee to a subscription model.

While this discussion does not endorse such a transition, it provides a detailed analysis to illustrate the potential cost disparities between the two funding mechanisms.

The plan outlines that an equivalent bundle of the BBC’s ad-free video, audio, and premium news services could theoretically cost consumers more than £580 per year.

Fire HD 8 BBC iPlayer
BBC iPlayer

This figure is a significant leap from the current TV Licence fee of £159.50, which is set to increase to £169.50 next month.

Highlighting a 30% increase from a previously estimated £450/year in 2021, the BBC seems to be drawing attention to the financial burden a subscription model could impose on households, especially in contrast to the comparatively lower TV Licence fee.

Historically, the BBC and its representatives have already engaged in discussions about the cost implications of a subscription-based model.

For example, in 2021, it was suggested that to sustain the broadcaster’s comprehensive offerings across TV, news, and radio, a subscription fee would need to be around £453 per year.

Watching BBC News on tv

Just a few months ago, the then-acting Chair of the BBC, Dame Elan Closs Stephens, suggested that a BBC subscription “would probably be around £400 a year.”

These figures have emerged within debates over the TV Licence fee’s relevance in an era increasingly dominated by on-demand and streaming services.

The BBC’s mention of these costs appears to underscore the potential financial disadvantages of transitioning to a subscription model, especially compared to the current licensing system.

The BBC also mentions that in the last three years, almost every big name in video-on-demand (VOD) and music streaming, including Netflix, Disney+, and Spotify, for the first time in its 15-year history, has increased the price of its UK subscriptions.

Disney Plus and Netflix on phone
(Photo: Deposit Photos / Daniel Constante)

It’s not just streaming services feeling the pinch, of course – Pay TV providers like Virgin Media and Sky have also hiked their prices well above the rate of inflation in 2023, by 13.8% and 8.1% respectively.

Even online news hasn’t been immune, with subscription costs rising by around 20% on average.

This comes at a time when many are feeling the squeeze due to the cost-of-living crisis, which has become a leading reason for people cancelling their streaming subscriptions.

This trend of rising costs across the board is expected to significantly impact household budgets, making it harder for many to justify the expense of these services.

The Future of the TV Licence Fee

As we reported last week, the BBC’s funding is currently under scrutiny, with a newly appointed expert panel set to review the future of the TV Licence fee and explore potential alternatives, including a subscription model.

BBC TV Licensing collage


The panel, comprising industry experts with diverse backgrounds, will assess the sustainability of the current licence fee model against the backdrop of digital transformation in broadcasting.

Their task is to recommend a funding framework that ensures the BBC continues to deliver its wide-ranging, ad-free content while adapting to the changing ways audiences consume media.

The outcome of this review could lead to significant changes in how the BBC is funded, potentially moving away from the traditional TV Licence fee to a model more in tune with today’s on-demand, internet-driven content consumption habits.

It’s also worth noting that earlier this week, BBC Director General Tim Davie stated that starting next year, the BBC is planning to open up their “biggest-ever consultation process”, so that the public can inform and drive the debate on the future BBC and its funding.

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17 thoughts on “TV Licence vs BBC Subscription: Price May Hit £580/year”

  1. Unfortunately it will remain as it for many years, there is no way that Labour would change the model to subscription from a licence fee when the charter is renewed in 2027

  2. Should the BBC move to a subscription service, it must not continue to provide the government/foreign office services that were foisted onto it by the current government. Those must return to government.

  3. Why not at least offer the potential viewership a choice, Have a really slimmed down BBC, too many channels showing very poor quality programmes,Daytime TV is atrocious, too many repeats, too many boring cooking programs, too many antique programs, They’ve just announced that they’re cutting 100hours of programs next year, they said it’s going to be replaced by repeats, that’s all that’s on the BBC, as for quality programs, apart from David Attenborough and a very few average dramas, what’s on there, I almost never watch the BBC, they’ve lost almost all the sport , my preferred choice would be to have just 2 channels BBC1 and BBC2, make those ad supported, the ads could be at the start and end of every programme, cut to the bone the radio stations, I never use them anyway, I have YouTube premium which also gives me YouTube music, cut back on their internet sites, they’ve got their fingers in too many pies, the biggest gripe of many people is overpaid left wing woke presenters, you know who I’m on about, make iPlayer a subscription say no more than £4.99/£5.99 per month, no more than that, that’s all I want from the BBC, every week I go through the tv guide to select stuff to record, so far this year I haven’t recorded or watched anything on the BBC, all the good stuff is on other platforms, ie ITV, CHANNEL4, CHANNEL5, Netflix prime video,Disney plus Apple TV and Paramount +, so the license to me just isn’t worth it, they also have to remember that the average age of viewership for the BBC is 61/63 yrs old, the youth of today have no affinity with them, they find it totally strange to have to pay for something that they don’t use, they right out won’t pay for it , what will happen then, you can’t take most of the population for non payment of something they don’t use, the worst outcome would be a media tax added to household rates, people are struggling now, the BBC, need to be dragged into the 21st century and show ads and make iPlayer a subscription model, Rant over.

  4. The proposal of a subscription BBC sounds like the only option at the moment, but there are two potential problems with this… 1, making the BBC for just the rich! And will they pay…? how do you ring fence things like radio which is still set to be free to the point of use via DAB in future even if FM goes in 10 years or so… 2, much of the BBC high quality drama which will be the vehicle to attract subscribers has to be co funded with the likes of Netflix so why pay £500 a year to the BBC when these big high profile dramas and series will be licenced to Netflix anyway, at the cost of probably around £150 per year! At the price point they are proposing they’re on a heading to vanishing.
    The only real funding option is to gain more licensing deals for programming worldwide and permission to open up the iPlayer to more English speaking territories… then having more households pay a smaller amount via their internet subscription, and allowing things like government advertising where they would buy airtime across all channels anyway as to not piss off the commercial sector… and of course doing less… 1 or 2 TV channels as a shop window for what people can find on iPlayer.

  5. The bit that anoys the most is having to still pay the licence fee to watch othe live stations when they derive nothing from the licence fee and yet it is still an offence to watch them.

  6. BBC……….slim down and offer what Netflix and Prime offer, forget the way you’ve always broadcasted and get with the times, we don’t need all these over paid presenters and ‘celebrities’ and we don’t need national or local news, you can get everything you need on dedicated News stations or online.
    They don’t want to change because at the moment they are raking in more than 3 billion pounds a year !!!

  7. They won’t want a subscription based system as it means not everyone will pay it, it’ll be even more optional as it is now, even less money coming into the coffers!

  8. Ludicrous amount for a poor service. Cut executive and celebrity salaries.
    The price will be beyond this disabled octogenarian and thousands of others. Where to then?

    • You can’t cut celebrity salaries. They will just go elsewhere. However that’s not a bad thing, bring in new, less expensive talent. Let them rise up and go, bring in more new. The benefit is people at the peak of their creativity and fresh ideas! People of course can stay, with the realisation that wage increases have a ceiling. I’m not saying let’s fill our screens with unprepared, stumbling people, training and expected quality must still be there.

  9. IN January this year, I made the conscious decision to stop watching anything on the BBC after a particularly odious and offensive news report was featured on their Lunchtime news.

    I only ever watched or listened to BBC News, Radio 4 and a very occasional BBC1.

    It was only then that I realised I was paying for, and not using:
    All the DAB stations
    All the so-called Local Radio Stations
    BBC World Service

    Now that’s a pretty bad deal.

    • As an 86 year old pensioner, I initially objected to having to pay the licence fee again. However when it’s pointed out that I can avail myself of all the TV and radio stations mentioned in Poppasmurf’s post, it seems a pretty good deal. I detest advertisements on TV.

      • My initial reaction to your comments was to ignore them. However, you offer nothing constructive and can only do what the Brits do so well, moan and criticise, so I suggest you carry on paying into the quagmire that is the BBC and sucking up their awful products. As for your comment that you cannot cut the salaries of celebrities as they can go elsewhere – kindly tell us all who would want that awful little oik Garry Linecker with his £1m plus price tag? C4 are cutting staff, C5 don’t do football, ITV are losing money.

  10. At least we the public can choose to pay this ludicrous £400+if we want to if that’s going to be the price, Atm people do NOT get the choice if they pay the TV tax or not!


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