What is Video on Demand?
Video on demand is any system that allow users to select and watch video content over a network. Um, that's it really.
VoD systems either stream content, which means you can start watching it from the beginning while the end is still being delivered, or download it - in which case you have to wait until the entire show or movie is sitting on your box before you can start viewing.
These days the term is used to describe a wide spectrum of delivery devices, and services - not just TV set top boxes, but also computers, mobile phones and indeed any system that can receive on-demand audio-visual content over any network.
Why use it?
Theoretically it means you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want and on whichever device you want. In practice this isn't quite true yet - but here at Download Monkey we firmly believe that technology and market forces will lead us to this Nirvana in the not too distant future. But even current VoD services offer improved choice, increased content and more flexibility.
Where can I get it?
Just about every UK broadcaster, telephony company and Internet Service Provider is jumping on the VoD bandwagon. They are spending millions on rolling out services and advertising them. Next time you walk down to the shops, just look at the posters on the billboards. Every business sees this as a great way to make money in the new digital age now that broadband, network and video technology is maturing. Actually VoD services as such have been around for a while. Check out the Wikipedia entry
What do I need to use it?
First you need a broadband internet connection. Now there are loads and loads of these in the UK - here's a list with their websites and phone numbers - and they are all different in terms of what they charge, what they offer and how good their support is...
But when it comes to broadband the only thing that you'll be really interested in (other than the price) is "how fast will my connection be?" Now this can depend on a whole host of factors and I'm not about to go into it all here. But the top line is this: the nearer you are to your telephone exchange and the better the quality of wiring to your home, the faster your broadband will be. If you already have broadband and want to find out how fast your connection is, try this speed tester.
A detailed deep dive about broadband isn't really why we set up Download Monkey - there are loads of other great sites out there already. This site is one of our favourites and it can tell you just about everything you might ever want to know about the broadband services available anywhere in the UK.
How much does it cost?
Over and above the cost of your broadband connection, you will find that when it comes to video on demand, some content is free and some is paid for. Because I'm a Sky broadband and TV customer taking the full sports and movies package, I can download a whole load of content from Sky Anytime for free. It comes as a bonus with my Sky subscription. Lucky me! But there is also other, paid for content available on the same service, like Pay Per View movies. But if I want to watch last week's CSI because I forgot to Sky+ it, I'll have to go to Five, pay my £1.50 and download it to my laptop. If I then fancy another episode and want to watch next week's CSI I'll have to pay again - but this time it's £2.50. Why? Because I'm paying for the exclusivity of watching it before Five has transmitted it on their terrestrial channel. I'm paying to have it now.
Both of these services mentioned above - and just about all of the others you might be using - have a registration system that you can't avoid. With Sky I had to set up an account to prove I was a Sky TV customer and with Five I had to put in my credit card details. Sometimes setting up these systems can be a pain in the arse. Other users find them a breeze, so I guess it's horses for courses and, as they say, "your mileage may vary". But the good news is they are all getting better and easier all the time. That said, if you have a hot date coming round and you're planning a night in on the sofa watching something on demand - just make sure you've had the good sense to set it up and test the system before she (or he) shows up. There is nothing more guaranteed to kill a night of TV passion than problems with technology. You have been warned.
To get access to VoD services you also need a box. Now that box might live under your TV or it might be your PC. It will almost certainly have a network cable that plugs into your broadband router. This is your network connection and the speed and reliability of your connection to the network will determine how fast your VoD service arrive. Each service is very different and so rather than try and explain them all here, we have a Download Monkey reviews section that goes into the main VoD services in greater detail. In short, some are better than others, none are perfect and all have niggles.
For more information have a look around the rest of the site or visit the Download Monkey Glossary.