What is video-on-demand (VOD) streaming and how does it work?

What is video-on-demand (VOD) streaming and how does it work?

Video on Demand streaming, or VOD streaming, has taken the world by storm since its launch. Many of us use VOD technology without knowing it, probably because we don’t know much about it.

Youtube, Netflix and Amazon Prime are some VODs you may have used at some point in your life. After reading this piece, you should be able to decide if VOD streaming is the right choice for you.

What is Video on Demand?

VOD is an acronym for Video on Demand. It is a content distribution technology that allows you to access video content, such as TV shows and movies, whenever you want. Essentially, it gives you complete autonomy in how you consume media in the form of videos on your TV, smartphone, computer or any other device.

Video on Demand does not need a satellite or cable connection like regular TV. You can watch videos as long as you have the necessary internet bandwidth. This allows you to play, pause, fast forward or rewind a video at your convenience.

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How does video on demand work?

VOD works similarly to music streaming services. A video must first be recorded digitally and stored on a video server to make it available on demand.

The video is then compressed and sent to your streaming device via a high-speed Internet connection server. The video is then available for instant playback, with you in full control of the video’s speed and other functions (such as play, pause, etc.).

Ultimately, a great resource of TV shows, movies and documentaries is gathered in one place for everyone to access. Access is usually tied to a condition, such as paying through subscriptions or viewing ads.

What types of video-on-demand models are there?

When we talk about VOD models, there are three main types. And changes are that you use one of them on a daily basis.

Subscription video on demand

A TV remote control in front of a TV with Netflix on the screen

We are all familiar with the subscription video on demand, also known as SVOD. This VOD model gives users access to content in exchange for payments, also known as subscriptions. There are monthly, quarterly or annual subscription plans. These platforms can also offer different price packages for individuals, students and families to make payments more flexible.

As you can imagine, this model is used by the top streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

Transaction video on request

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Image credit: VideoDonor/Wikimedia

In Transactional Video on Demand, you are not charged for opening accounts and accessing online content. Instead, you’re charged based on how much content you use within a time frame.

This type of VOD usually concentrates on a specific movie, TV series or event. The TVOD model is ideal for unique content with a specific or established audience.

While we don’t know what the future of pay-per-view is, there are still many platforms that use it, including iTunes and Sky Box Office.

Ad-based video on demand

A desktop with an editing suite and YouTube posters

In advertising-based Video on Demand, you have free access to watch most, if not all, available content. You are not charged for opening accounts or for the amount of video content you use.

The cost of running this model is paid for by the ads served on the platforms. You only pay for your data usage and the time you spend viewing ads.

However, many platforms using the AVOD model offer their customers the option to pay subscription fees to enjoy additional features, such as no ads.

The biggest example is of course YouTube. But some YouTube alternatives also use this model, including IBM Video Streaming and DailyMotion.

The benefits of Video on Demand

Video on Demand is great, but it may not be for everyone. Here are some reasons why you should give VOD content a shot or beat it without trying:

Quality content

On-demand videos are pre-produced. As a content creator, this gives you room to make mistakes and improve in the production process. Generally, the more time the creators have on their hands before the final content is released, the better the content they churn out.

No ads (mostly)

Picture this: You’re thirty minutes into your favorite show, struggling to stay in your seat instead of charging at your screen, telling the main character not to go through that door.

As he gets closer, his hand reaches for the doorknob, and the music intensifies. “Did you know…?” You’ve been interrupted by an ad in the heat of the moment. We imagine you’ll either want to throw something at the TV or send your laptop out the window.

Situations like this are non-existent with premium Video on Demand content. Of course, if you’re using free video streaming services, you’ll still have to wade through ads. But for the most part, premium platforms will let you watch your favorite content without ads.


Another great thing about Video on Demand is that you can access it virtually anywhere. You don’t have to be planted on the sofa in the living room to enjoy your favorite programs anymore.

Whether you’re on the bus to work, waiting for your order at the coffee shop or hitting the road on a family trip, you don’t have to miss a thing.

The disadvantages of Video on Demand

You’ve seen why you should watch Video on Demand content. Now let’s consider why that might not be a good idea.

Not all desired content is available

Depending on who your provider is, you’ll have access to a wide variety of shows. However, you won’t have access to everything out there, no matter how popular the show is. Typically, content posted is curated to meet the needs of the most users on a platform.

It is also unlikely that a supplier will broadcast its competitors’ content. Certain channels and programs are unique to specific providers. This forces users to subscribe to other streaming platforms, which can be quite expensive.

Content may not be available in your location

Some countries have banned specific types of content within their borders. They may do this for various reasons, but usually to limit their citizens’ exposure to inappropriate content.

If a popular program is deemed inappropriate by your country’s media authority, you will not be able to access it, even if it is available everywhere else.

Does not have live content

You cannot find content that requires live updates, such as news and football matches, on VOD platforms. You have to rely on traditional methods, such as cable TV or their websites, for such updates.

You do not own the content

Another major drawback is that you don’t own anything you’re watching. For example, if you subscribe to Netflix or another streaming service, you will only be able to view the content in the library for as long as you subscribe. After your subscription ends, you will not have access to the content, regardless of how much money you spend on a platform.

VOD vs. Live Streaming: What’s the difference?

Snacks, drinks and a hand holding a remote control in front of a TV screen showing a football match

The biggest differences between VOD and Live Streaming lie in how you access and interact with content. VOD content is pre-recorded and then uploaded to a content library. This allows you to start, stop, pause, fast forward and rewind content. While you have to be present to see what’s happening for live stream content. However, sometimes there may be a replay after the live broadcast.

Another difference is the quality of the content. VOD content requires more time, allowing creators to make mistakes, learn from them, and polish their work to a perfect state. However, live streams do not allow for edits or do-overs. The best thing you can do is practice before the show starts.

Is VOD the right choice for you?

Video on Demand streaming has proven to have user satisfaction at the heart of its operations. It gives you access to a huge library of content that you can explore however you like. But it’s not all roses either. Like any technology, VOD streaming has its limitations.

For example, a show you’ve been waiting for might not be available in your location. We advise you to weigh the pros and cons of VOD before choosing it to meet all your content needs.

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