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On demand TV

By Phil Wilkinson-Jones | Monday, June 12th 2023

TV is changing and the ability to watch what you want, when you want, is now high on the list for most people when it comes to choosing our TV provider. So what do the various providers offer in terms of on demand TV? Let’s take a look.

What is on demand TV?

On demand refers to any TV service that isn’t broadcast live as a traditional linear channel. It may be that the service is delivered via a set-top box, an app on your phone or on a website, but the defining feature is that you choose when to watch the content.

You may have heard the phrase ‘catch-up TV’ – this is a way of watching programmes and films that have been shown on a traditional channel in recent days, but using an on demand service, such as the BBC iPlayer, to do so.

Virgin Media TV on demand

There are a number of on demand services available through Virgin Media’s TV 360 box, as well as its own Virgin Media Store. You can also scroll back through the TV guide and click anything with the catch-up symbol to see various options for watching it.

  • Virgin Media Store – The Virgin Media TV store allows you to buy and keep, or rent, a mix of new movies, classic films and TV box sets
  • Netflix – You’ll need a separate subscription, but you can access Netflix through Virgin TV, either via its own designated channel or via the app
  • Amazon Prime Video – As well as free delivery on items bought from its website, a Prime Video subscription includes hundreds of films and TV shows as well options to rent or buy anything you can’t find elsewhere
  • Pluto – The Pluto app is free and shows a range of dramas, reality TV shows, lifestyle and kids programming
  • BBC iPlayer – The BBC’s on demand service lets you catch up with the best of the Beeb’s live TV channels, plus there’s box sets, films and all sorts of treasures from the BBC archives
  • ITVX – ITVX allows you to catch up with the most popular ITV shows, mostly from the past week but in some categories a bit further back
  • Channel 4 – The place to find Channel 4 content on demand. There are hundreds of box sets available as well as catch-up TV from the past month
  • My5 – My5 includes all content available on Channel 5, with both live TV and hundreds of on demand shows and movies, including the Milkshake! section for kids
  • YouTube – YouTube is available as an app on Virgin Media TV. There’s an increasing number of original programmes available on YouTube Premium or you can just watch cat videos for free
  • Virgin TV Kids – Virgin TV Kids gives you access to extra channels but also loads of kids shows on demand and a partner app, aimed at children age 3 to 7 years old
  • Box sets – Customers with any of the Bigger Bundles or the Ultimate Volt bundle can access Virgin Box Sets, which includes shows exclusive to Virgin Media

Sky TV on demand

Sky offers a substantial amount of on demand TV but not all of it comes with the standard Sky TV package, Sky Signature. There are a number of extras that you can choose to bolt-on to your package however.

  • Ultimate On Demand – This is an add-on that combines Sky Box Sets and Netflix and now comes as standard with all Sky TV bundles. You get 500 box sets (all in HD) to choose from as well as a Netflix basic subscription, and can watch it all through your Sky Q box
  • Sky Cinema – The Sky Cinema add-on gives you access to 1,000 movies on demand, all in HD. These include the premieres shown every day on Sky Cinema and Sky Cinema Originals the same day as their theatrical release. It also comes with a 20% discount on any Sky Store rentals
  • Sky Kids Pack – The Sky Kids Pack contains more than 5,000 episodes of top kids shows as well as eight live channels and access to the Sky Kids app
  • Sky Store – If you prefer to keep your subscriptions to a minimum and just pay for what you watch, Sky Store is a great place to rent or buy new movies, old classics and TV box sets
  • Disney+ – The home of Disney classics, Pixar, National Geographic, Star Wars and Marvel, offers hours of on demand entertainment and can be bolted on to your Sky subscription
  • Amazon Prime Video – Amazon offers hours of films and TV shows to watch, as well as purchase and rental options. Customers that sign up will also receive free deliveries for a year from the website
  • Catch-up channels – Sky stores everything on certain channels for a rolling 30-day period, allowing you to scroll through and watch anything you’ve missed meaning there is no need to record content unless you want to

BT TV on demand

BT promotes its range of Entertainment packs that come with NOW TV Entertainment as standard, so you can either watch the channels live or choose to watch your favourite shows on demand. BT also supports a range of free catch-up services and also has its own film and TV store.

  • BT film and TV Store – The BT TV Store is a collection of films and TV box sets on the BT Player, which can be accessed by pressing the BT Player button on your remote. You can also watch your purchases on the website or mobile app
  • BT TV Kids – This is an add-on that gives you access to thousands of kids’ shows on demand as well as seven live channels
  • Britbox – A collaboration between ITV and the BBC, Britbox brings you classic TV to enjoy when you choose
  • Netflix – BT includes a Netflix subscription as standard with its TV packages, and you can watch it via the app on the BT TV
  • Amazon Prime Video – Prime Video requires a separate subscription but has a selection of movies plus plenty of its own original shows to choose from
  • BBC iPlayer – The iPlayer lets you catch up on the best of the BBC’s output and on occasion will even let you watch a full series before it’s been shown on a live channel
  • ITVX – Previously known as the ITV Hub, ITVX offers plenty to keep you entertained including top dramas and documentaries
  • Channel 4 – Previously named All4, and now with the same name as the channel itself, this app has the best that Channel 4 has to offer on demand, including box sets of classic shows
  • Sky Cinema – You can add NOW TV Cinema to your BT TV package, and as well as 11 movie channels it also offers 1,000 movies to watch on demand.
  • Sky Sport – Unless you have already chosen a Sport TV package with BT, you can choose to buy NOW TV Sport as an add-on. As well as enjoying live action, you can also watch anything you’ve missed, along with a range of documentaries, news programmes and edited highlights

TalkTalk TV on demand

TalkTalk’s TV service is a fairly simple one but you can access the most popular on demand apps on your TalkTalk TV 4K Box.

  • NOW TV – TalkTalk offers customers the option to bundle up any NOW TV membership with its basic Freeview TV offering
  • Netflix – Like NOW TV, TalkTalk offers customers the option to bundle up Netflix with a TalkTalk TV subscription. Netflix offers loads of original shows and films, as well as big movie releases and big TV hitters from the likes of the BBC
  • BBC iPlayer – The BBC’s own on demand service is free and features the best of BBC One, Two, Three and Four plus CBBC and CBeebies. There’s also plenty of hidden gems in the BBC archive section
  • Netflix – It requires a separate subscription, but being able to watch Netflix via your set top box is a nice bonus. Loads of original shows and films, plus big movie releases and big TV hitters from the likes of the BBC
  • BT Sport – Requiring an additional subscription, BT Sport is the home of the UEFA Champions League and much more, providing access to both live sport and catch up so if you miss a match you can easily get it on demand
  • YouTube – As well as the vast amounts of free video content available (of varying quality), YouTube also offers a Premium subscription where you can watch a whole world of films and TV shows on demand

Freeview TV on demand

Freeview Play is the Freeview service that combines live TV and on demand, allowing you to access programmes from the past seven days through your on-screen TV guide or to go directly via one of the following apps. As you’d expect, there’s no subscription fees involved with the apps on Freeview Play.

  • BBC iPlayer – The iPlayer features catch-up TV, films, box sets and archive material from the BBC
  • ITVX – ITVX has a range of programmes from across the ITV channel line-up
  • Channel 4 – Catch up on programmes from Channel 4 from the past 30 days and find old favourites in box-set form
  • My5 – Features shows from 5USA, 5STAR, 5SELECT and Paramount+ as well as Channel 5 itself
  • UKTV Play – Catch-up TV from UKTV’s free-to-air channels – Dave, Drama, Really and Yesterday
  • CBS Catchup Channels UK – This on demand player lets you catch up with shows from the past 30 days from CBS Reality, CBS Drama and CBS Justice, as well as exclusive content and box sets

Frequently asked questions

Do I need broadband to watch on demand TV?

Yes, on demand services are delivered over the internet so you will need broadband in order to use them. Most recommend a speed of at least 2Mbps, which is well within the capability of even the slowest broadband services.

Is catch-up TV the same as on demand?

In general catch-up TV refers to services that allow you to watch content recently broadcast on linear TV channels, whereas on demand generally refers to box sets and films that are not part of a channel’s current programming schedule.

Can I watch on demand TV without a licence?

You need a TV licence to watch anything that is being broadcast live, even if you’re watching it through an on demand TV service – watching live football via the NOW TV app, for example. You also need a TV licence to watch anything on the BBC iPlayer. With everything else, unless it’s being streamed live, you don’t need a licence.

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