Do you need a TV licence to watch Sky?
Published 15 February 2017 by Emily Bancroft
It all depends on how you watch Sky programmes.
You probably already know that you need a TV licence to watch live TV. Paying £145 a year for a TV licence is just something you need to do if you watch channels like BBC One or Channel 4. But does live TV include Sky?
Depending on how you watch Sky programmes, you might need a TV licence for this. Let’s take a look at when you’ll need a TV licence to watch Sky and when you can watch Sky programmes without a licence.
Live TV or Sky Go
If you watch Sky channels live on your TV, you’ll need a TV licence for this. In the UK, you need a TV licence for any live TV – this includes Freeview channels and subscription channels like Sky. It doesn’t matter if you already pay a subscription fee to watch the channels – if it’s live, you definitely need a licence.
And if you log in to watch Sky Go on your laptop, you’ll need a TV licence to cover this too.
Even if you’re only planning to use Sky Go to catch up on programmes, you’ll still need a licence because you can watch BBC and other Freeview content through the service. You can’t just claim that you were only using it to catch up on Sky programmes – you still have access to programmes that you need a licence to watch.
If you’re only planning to watch Sky programmes through NOW TV, you won’t need a licence for this. That’s because NOW TV is a streaming service and it only shows live content from selected channels that you don't need a TV licence for.
With NOW TV, you buy a monthly pass – your options are Entertainment, Cinema, Kids and Sky Sports. This will give you access to stream shows from selected channels for that month, and this will roll on every month unless you cancel your subscription. For example, the NOW TV Entertainment pass gives you channels including Sky One, Comedy Central and Sky Atlantic for £6.99 a month – but you won’t get any live shows for this.
If you’re only going to use a streaming service like Netflix or NOW TV, it’s worth telling TV Licensing that you don’t need a TV licence. If you don’t, TV Licensing can send you frequent letters – this can be annoying. They might decide to come round to confirm this but as long as you’re telling the truth, they should stop contacting you.
And if you’re a student living away from home, you might not need a TV licence if you use a smartphone or tablet to watch programmes or films. Find out when you need a TV licence as a student by checking out our blog for more details.
Update 31st May 2019: for more info, read our more recent blog on TV licensing.