As the term suggests, on-demand TV is a technology that lets you watch what you like, when you like over the internet. No more are you tied to TV channels’ schedules, giving you the freedom to watch TV your way. At last.
Free on-demand TV providers
All major UK broadcasters make their output available to watch online, via services such as the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5. All of these are free to watch and allow you to catch up with TV programmes you’ve missed.
The window you get to watch a particular show before it is pulled from the service varies between broadcasters. This can range from seven days after the show was first broadcast to up to 30 days after.
What do I need to watch these?
A broadband connection that’s fast enough to handle streaming video is all you need you to start enjoying these services. Better still you can watch them on internet-connected smart TVs, games consoles or your laptops.
Pay on-demand TV via set top boxes
Sky, BT, whose service is called BT Vision, and Virgin Media offer a different type of on-demand TV service. As well as a broadband connection, all of these require a set top box.
A set top box is best described as a hard disk video recorder, with space to store thousands of hours of TV.
But that’s not all. Set top boxes also mean you can record live TV and access huge libraries of content, including hundreds of movies and entire TV series.
You can also pause live TV and rewind it, giving you even more freedom over when and how you watch. And you can even set them to record entire series of your favourite shows.
BT Vision explained
BT Vision is the name of BT’s on-demand service. Once you’ve got a Vision box you can pick from a selection of premium shows and movies that you can watch on a pay per view, subscription-free basis.
With Vision you can watch premium television services on a pay per view basis or subscribe to individual packs such as Sports or Music or a Value Pack subscription where you can bundle individual packs together and save even more.
Virgin Media on demand TV
Virgin Media on-demand TV also uses a set top box. Dubbed TiVo, it enables customers to pause and rewind live TV and record three programmes simultaneously.
You’ll also get a huge choice of channels, including Sky programming, as well as a repository of movies and shows to watch on a pay per view basis and HD channels at no extra cost. And of course, catch-up services from Channel 4 and BBC are available to watch via the box for up to seven days after they were broadcast.
Sky on demand TV
Sky’s on demand offering is called Sky Anytime+. Naturally, choose Sky’s service and you’ll be able to rewind and pause Sky channels, as well as a host of channels from other broadcasters.
Sky’s library of content takes in movies priced from 99p to rent and TV programmes. Or you can choose from 500 movies on demand at no extra cost when you subscribe to Sky’s Movies Pack.
TalkTalk’s TV offering, dubbed TalkTalk+ and available via a set top box of the same name, no longer accepts new customers. In the meantime, TalkTalk is working with YouView to develop a new offering, which we’ll explain below.
YouView is the name of a set top box developed by a group of broadcasters, broadband providers and hardware firms. The service's big selling point is that the YouView box provides a single location and easy to use interface from which you can access all the main streaming services.
How much are set top boxes?
The price of a set top box is usually heavily subsidised by your broadband/TV provider when you sign up for a package. Sometimes your provider will offer it for free.