Do you need a TV license to watch Twitch?


Streaming games has become a huge business in the last 10 years. With thousands of players streaming daily and millions of viewers following their favorite players, streaming is poised to become a dominant form of entertainment in the coming years. 

However, one issue concerns many of those Twitch viewers: Do you need a TV license to watch Twitch streams? 

In this article, I’ll answer this question once and for all, so you can relax and watch your favorite Twitch stream, having saved yourself the cost of a TV license. 

These Rules could change at any time so please do your own research first.

Can you watch Twitch streams without a TV license? 

In this section, I will examine whether you need a TV license to watch live gaming Twitch streams.

I’ll start this article section with a clear no, you do not need a TV license to watch a Twitch stream. 

However, this claim has a big catch: I am from the UK, and this article is generally about the UK TV licensing system. I can’t go through every country worldwide to determine their rules surrounding TV licensing.

However, after looking at licensing systems across Europe, I have come to the conclusion that they all essentially work the same way. The current licensing system in the UK and the system used by many European countries do not cover game streaming services.

I learned directly from the source that the licensing authority for TV in the UK does not require a TV license when you watch Twitch streams.

UK TV Licensing authority gives an example for Youtube on its website:

“You do not need a TV license to watch videos or clips on-demand on Youtube. However, you do need a TV license if you watch TV broadcasts live on YouTube. An example of this would be watching Sky News live. But it’s not just live news or sports that requires a license, it’s any program that’s part of a TV channel and is broadcast or transmitted to everyone at the same time.”

In this paragraph, taken directly from the UK TV licensing website, I would like to address a few things.

First, it mentions that you need a license to watch TV programs on YouTube. Well, I would say that all streams on Twitch are not TV programs. They do not have the production value of a TV program, they are not broadcast in any way on terrestrial or cable TV, and the streams are generally unscheduled and unstructured when compared to normal TV programs.

Another critical point is made in another section of the TV license website. The UK TV license website also states this:

“When you don’t need a TV license: Play Internet video clips through services such as YouTube or to play video games.”

Note that this addresses gaming video clips directly. Yes, it mentions YouTube and not Twitch. But in this context, YouTube and Twitch are the same. They offer on-demand gaming videos not broadcast on traditional TV.

You may notice that the language on the TV licensing website is not entirely clear regarding live gaming streams on Twitch. 

I believe this is because the TV license system simply has not kept up with modern technology. Twitch and other game streaming services have only emerged as viable and attractive forms of entertainment in the last 10 years. I would say that the UK TV licensing system does not currently know how to classify game streaming. It is not traditional broadcasting. Yet everyone has to tune in simultaneously to watch it live. 

In the next few years, we will likely see a change in the licensing system that could result in you having to pay for a TV license to watch live streams on Twitch and other streaming platforms. Fortunately, at the moment, you do not need a TV license if you only watch Twitch streams.

But a word of caution: you need a TV license if you watch any kind of TV that was originally broadcast. If you watch something on YouTube that was initially broadcast by, for example, the BBC, you need a TV license. This also includes game tournaments that are broadcast on cable TV.

In this section, you learned that you do not need a TV license to watch Twitch streams.

In the next section, I will address a related issue: Do you need a TV license to watch game streams on YouTube.

Can you watch gaming YouTube streams without a TV license? 

In the last section, we learned that you do not need a TV license to watch gaming twitch streams. Fortunately, you can avoid the hefty and unjust TV license in the UK if the only TV you watch is a Twitch stream.

But does the same apply to gaming YouTube streams? This section will examine whether YouTube streams need a TV license.

No, fortunately, YouTube streams do not require a TV license. As mentioned in the previous section, YouTube is mentioned clearly on the UK TV licensing website in the section that says you do not need a TV license to watch video clips on the site.

However, there is a point on the UK TV license website that indicates that you do need a TV license in certain situations when watching YouTube. Here is the sentence:

“However, you will need a TV license if you watch TV programs live on YouTube. An example of this would be watching Sky News live.”

I think this is crystal clear: if you watch regular broadcast TV programs on YouTube, i.e. a program that was broadcast in the past or live on normal TV, you need a TV license.

However, if you only watch gaming videos and streams, you do not have to pay for a UKTV license.

Okay, now you know that you do not need a TV license for YouTube gaming streams, just like Twitch streams.

In the next section, we will look at another popular game streaming platform: Facebook.

Can you watch game streams on Facebook without a TV license? 

In the last section, we examined whether you need a TV license to watch gaming streams on YouTube. And fortunately, you do not need a license. But what about Facebook? Do you need a TV license to watch gaming streams on the biggest social media channel in the world?

In this final section, I’ll answer that question for you.

I bet you can guess the answer, but I’ll tell you anyway. You do not need a TV license to watch game streams on Facebook.

The wording on the UK TV license website is not very clear, but I would say that streaming games on Facebook falls into the same category as YouTube and Twitch, as far as the UK TV licensing system works. 

If that’s the case, and I am 95% sure it is, then you do not need to buy a TV license to watch game streams on Facebook.

In this last section, you learned that, just like YouTube and Twitch, you do not need a TV license to watch game streams on Facebook. 

Summary

I always end my articles with a bullet point summary to help stick these points in your long-term memory. So here it is: 

  • You do not need a TV license to watch Twitch gaming streams.
  • You do not need a TV license to watch YouTube gaming streams. 
  • You do not need a TV license to watch Facebook gaming streams. 
  • The UK TV license website clearly states that you do not need a TV license to watch gaming content on sites like YouTube. 
  • Twitch and Facebook are not directly mentioned on the UK Tv license website.
  • If you watch any other type of TV broadcast, even through Youtube, you must have a TV license.

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Nick Sinclair

Having played games since the golden age of the Commodore 64, Nick finally took the plunge and studied Creative Game Design in university. After 3 years of "Study", Nick co-founded a games company where he soon discovered his true calling: writing about games. 11 years later Nick writes about a tower of topics, but gaming is always stacked neatly at the top.

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