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 might have used at some point in your life. After reading this piece, you should be able to decide whether 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 on how you consume media in the form of videos on your TV, smartphone, computer, or any other device.

Video on Demand doesn’t need a satellite or cable connection like regular television. You can watch videos as long as you have the required internet bandwidth. This allows you to play, pause, fast-forward or rewind a video at your convenience.

How Does Video on Demand Work?

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

Next, the video is compressed and sent to your streaming device through 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 features (such as play, pause, etc.).

Ultimately, a large resource of TV shows, movies, and documentaries is pooled into one location for anyone to access. The access is usually tied to a condition, like making payments through subscriptions or watching ads.

What Types of Video on Demand Models Exist?

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

Subscription Video on Demand

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

We’re 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 may 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 best streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.

Transactional Video on Demand

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Image Credit: VideoDonor/Wikimedia

In Transactional Video on Demand, you are not charged for opening accounts and accessing online content. Rather, you are charged based on how much content you consume within a timeframe.

This type of VOD usually concentrates on a particular movie, television show, 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 the pay-per-view is, there are still a lot of platforms that use it, including iTunes and Sky Box Office.

Advertising-Based Video on Demand

A desk with edit suite and YouTube posters

In advertising-based Video on Demand, you have free access to watch most, if not all, of the content available. You are not charged for opening accounts nor for how much video content you consume.

The cost of running this model is paid for by the advertisements aired on the platforms. You would only pay for your data use and the time spent watching ads.

However, many platforms that use the AVOD model offer their customers the option of paying 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 Advantages of Video on Demand

Video on Demand is great, but it might not be for everyone. Here are a few reasons you should give VOD content a shot or knock it without trying:

Quality Content

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

No-Ads (for the Most Part)

Picture this: You’re thirty minutes into your favorite show, you struggle to keep yourself on 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 door handle, and the music intensifies. “Did you know that…?” You’ve been interrupted by an ad in the heat of the moment. We imagine you either want to throw something at your TV or send your laptop flying out the window.

Situations like this are non-existent with premium Video on Demand content. Of course, if you use free video streaming services, you’ll still have to sit through ads. But, for the most part, premium platforms will let you watch your favorite content with no ads.


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

Whether you are 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 anything.

The Disadvantages of Video on Demand

You’ve seen why you should watch Video on Demand content. Now, let’s consider why it may not be a great idea.

Not All Desired Content Is Available

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

A provider is also unlikely to air its competitors’ content. Certain channels and shows are unique to specific providers. This forces users to subscribe to other streaming platforms, which can get pretty expensive.

Content May Not Be Accessible in Your Location

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

If a popular show is deemed inappropriate by your country’s media authority, you won’t have access to it, even if it is available everywhere else.

Does Not Carry Live Content

You can’t find content that requires live updates, such as the 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 Don’t Own the Content

Another big disadvantage is that you don’t own anything you watch. For instance, if you subscribe to Netflix or another streaming service, you’ll only be able to watch the content in its library for as long as you’re subscribed. After your subscription ends, you can’t access the content, no matter 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 major 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. Whereas, for live stream content, you must be present to see what is happening. However, sometimes there might be a replay after the live event.

Another difference is in the quality of 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 don’t make room for edits or do-overs. The best you can do is rehearse before the show starts.

Is VOD the Right Choice for You?

Video on Demand streaming has proven to have the satisfaction of its users at the heart of its operations. It grants you access to a massive library of content that you can explore however you want. But it’s not all roses, either. Like other technology, VOD streaming has its limitations.

For example, a show you have been anticipating may 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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