Contact us Customer service: 0800 1388 388
0800 840 4949

With on-demand TV viewing exploding in the UK – we review how best to get your VOD fix

Even though the term "Video on-demand" (VOD) has been around for some time, on-demand viewing on the main TV set is still a relatively new phenomenon and is the "next big thing in TV".

By on September 09, 2011 at 11:12 AM
Digital TV
With on-demand TV viewing exploding in the UK – we review how best to get your VOD fix


Charlie Ponsonby, CEO of Ofcom accredited TV comparison service commented:

"For the last couple of years high definition (HD) has been the big battle ground for the major TV players like Sky, Virgin Media and BT - but now the battle is shifting to on-demand content, with the result that all now offer ever growing on-demand libraries for their customers".

On-demand viewing is essentially the ability to select from a library of stored content whenever is convenient.  It is therefore completely controlled by the viewer and is not in any way dictated by the TV programme schedule for example.

If you want to view on-demand content on your main TV set, how best to choose the right package for you?

On-demand viewing (via streaming or downloading) is clearly a major part of most people's web behaviour - whether legal viewing from BBC iPlayer for example, or illegal viewing from peer-to-peer file shares. 

The great majority of this web content is free and sites like provide a good guide to what's legally available where.

But on-demand viewing on the main TV set is a new and growing phenomenon.  It requires that your TV is connected to the internet either via Wi-Fi or directly via an Ethernet connection. This may be via a SmartTV (which connects directly to the internet) or via a web-enabled set top box (as is the case with Sky, Virgin Media and BT)
Virgin Media for example is seeing on-demand viewing growing at about 20% per year and are likely to hit one billion on demand views in 2011 with 258 million hours watched on demand in H1 2011 (60% of the 2010 total).

Charlie Ponsonby continued:

"On-demand viewing is a natural part of a web-experience, so it is not surprising that it is so rapidly becoming a natural part of TV viewing on the main set."

In addition, the arrival of SmartTV's (which are web enabled) and the impending launch of YouView next year, means that you don't necessarily have to take a subscription TV service to enjoy on-demand viewing (but the quality and range of viewing is likely to be less satisfactory).

What is key therefore, is the speed of your broadband connection and the method of delivery of content over the internet.  Both may compromise the quality of the picture you receive.

Simplifydigital's pick of the on-demand services available this Christmas

(Virgin Media, which benefits from fibre-optic connectivity offers the largest on-demand library of all the providers)

Source of on-demand content On-demand content available Price (£)
Virgin Media (all TV packages) Largest range of on-demand content available: Catch up TV from: BBC iPlayer ITV Player; 4OD and demandFive all free with your package Sky Anytime (included with TV XL only) includes Sky's on-demand library Music and Movies on demand: wide range of SD and HD movies from 99p and music videos from 20p (free with TV XL) TV Choice library offers series from Channel 4, BBC, ITV, HBO, Warner Bros, Living, Virgin 1 and MTV, much in high definition. (Free with TV (XL), some content included with TV (L)) Virgin Media TV Size: M+ (with TiVo 500GB Box) • 65 Channels, 6 HD channels • TiVo box recommends TV shows based on your favourites • £15.50 per month + £49.95 install charge • 1st year cost is £235.95
BT Vision (all TV packages) Catch up TV Last seven days programming from BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, plus BBC iPlayer On-demand TV BT's own library of over 5,500 programmes, music videos, sport and movies (does not include Sky Sports and Sky Movies content) TV Essential + Broadband and Evening & Weekend Calls • 70 Freeview channels • Up to 20 Mb download speeds, 10 GB download allowance • Free evening and weekend calls to UK landlines • £4 for 4 months, £17 thereafter (plus £10 line rental)* + £30 activation fee • 1st year cost is £182 (£302 incl line rental)*
Sky (Sky Anytime+ service for customers who take a Sky+HD box with Sky Broadband Unlimited) No catch up services available Sky on demand library mirrors your subscription - e.g. you need to subscribe to Sky Sports in order to get of Sky Sports on demand. The same is true for Sky Movies. In addition there is a large general entertainment library including box-sets also available. Sky+ HD Entertainment Pack & Broadband Unlimited & SkyTalk Freetime • Over 240 channels, 23 HD channels • Up to 20 Mb download speeds, unlimited download allowance • Free evening and weekend calls to UK landlines • £27.50 per month (plus £9.95 line rental)** + £30 installation fee • 1st year cost is £360 (£479.40 incl line rental)**
SmartTV (requires a broadband subscription) Varies by manufacturer, but fast growing "apps" - e.g. Youtube, Lovefilm and access to the internet SmartTV's start from about £329 Most content is free, some will require a subscription
Freesat (Freesat+) BBC iPlayer ITVplayer Freesat+ boxes from about £209.99. Installation £60-£100 e.g. SAMSUNG SMT-S7800 500GB Freesat+ HD Digital Recorder No subscription

 *Customers must take BT Line Rental Saver, £120 to be paid in advance.
**Customers must take Sky Upfront Line Rental, £119.40 to be paid in advance.
Charlie Ponsonby, concluded:
"If you are serious about choosing the best on-demand library for your household, we strongly recommend talking to an independent expert before taking the plunge.  We advise thousands of customers each month to help make sure that they get exactly what they want at the best price available"



About Simplifydigital
Simplifydigital offers a unique "Switching Support" service, with friendly experts on-hand seven days a week to provide answer all your questions in plain English; find the best deal available at your address (from all the top UK providers); and be there to help make sure that the installation and set-up goes smoothly.
It is the only retailer of digital TV, broadband and home phone services in the UK to have been accredited by Ofcom as impartial and transparent and on average saves customers £445 pa by finding them better deals. 
Customers call their London-based experts free on 0800 1 388 388 or use their online service at

Call for free advice and to switch providers

0800 840 4949

Calls are free from a landline

On a mobile? Call 0203 092 5174 for standard rates

Our call centre is now closed, we'll reopen tomorrow at 8am

You can: