Introducing Video on Demand (VoD)

Video on Demand (VoD) is one of the latest trends in the television and film industry and is in a bid to appease audiences growing demand for greater control, choice and immediacy over their viewing habits.

This introduction will refer to the television aspect of VoD which is divided into a television cable service and an online service, the latter being my main focus. VoD works by using either an application that connects to the internet or a website that acts as a database of video content typically available at a cost. The video content, usually in a programme format, is obtained by the user through either “streaming” the content, allowing it to be viewed whilst the data is transferred, or “downloading”, where the programme is transferred in its entirety and can only be watched when the download process is complete. Streaming is a popular format chosen for viewing video content and forms part of the peer-2-peer networks that UK television broadcasters use for their VoD services.

BBC’s iPlayer, Channel 4’s 4OD and Sky’s Anytime all use Kontiki’s Delivery Manager, a peer-2-peer network software that works by the user downloading the television programme from other users rather than a central server. The downloaded programmes are encoded with digital rights management (DRM) that protects copyright and restricts piracy.

For Audiences

Benefits include:

  • Convenience
  • Immediacy
  • Digital quality picture and sound
  • Can be used to preview entire series
  • Catch up on missed episodes
  • Watch programmes where and when you like
  • Freedom to watch which episode you like

Negatives include:

  • Uncertainty of new technology
  • Don’t understand how to operate it
  • Computer specifications aren’t compatible with software
  • Don’t have fast internet connection speed

For the TV Industry

Benefits include:

  • Can be used as a site for ‘first look’ of new episodes
  • Source of revenue through payment or sponsorship
  • Cheaper to set up than a new ‘free-to-air’ channel for established broadcasters
  • Worldwide audiences
  • Established VoD technology is advancing forward

Negatives include:

  • Some software is divided into Macintosh or Windows compatibility only
  • Possibility of hackers
  • Censorship/Classification issues

Useful links for further research

Watch a video clip
 from RealNetworks on how streaming media works

SearchVoIP.com (Explanation of Streaming media)

Streaming Media World (News, resources and online tutorials about Streaming media)

AOL video (Example of website using VoD)

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