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Video On Demand in the UK

This page takes a look at the various video and TV 'on demand' services available in the UK, to let you watch the TV and films you want, when you want to watch them.

Listen to show 19, covering On Demand TV:

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What is Video On Demand?

The world of TV is changing - for years we've had multiple channels of TV, and more recently, we've seen the introduction of DVRs (digital recorders that record TV onto hard-disk). From 2007 we started to see an increase in what's known as VoD - Video on demand. In Show 19 of our online radio show, we took a closer look at Video On Demand

The concept is that with a VoD service, you can watch the TV programme or movie you want, when you want - without having to wait for a programme to start, worrying about forgetting to record a programme, or making a trip to your local Blockbuster video. Here, we'll outline some of the Video-on-demand options available in the UK:


Virgon Media Cable TVVirgin Media Cable TV

Highlights: Must be in a Cable area. Offers free digital TV channels on some packages.

If you're served by cable TV operator Virgin Media, take a look at their Virgin TV On Demand service. This offers you a huge library of TV programmes and around 500 movies that you can access whenever you like, in addition to your normal channels. You can also access recent BBC, ITV and Channel 4 shows.

Content is provided on-demand via Virgin's cable network and a supplied set-top box.

For more details, go to


BT Vision On Demand TVBT Vision

Highlights: Subscription-free option available. Good collection of TV, films and sport on pay-per-view, plus catch-up TV. Great value for BT Broadband customers.

BT Vision comes with a set-top box that gets live TV with Freeview, has a digital disk recorder, and gets video content downloaded over Broadband. You'll need to get your Internet via BT Total Broadband.

BT's Video-on-Demand service offers over 7,200 TV shows, movies, special programming, recent TV shows that you may have missed as well as sporting events including Premier League football. You can access on-demand content on a pay-as-you-view option, or on subscription. Catch-up TV from BBC, ITV and Channel 4 is available.

BBC Logo
ITV Player Logo
4 On Demand Logo


We reviewed BT Vision in Show 12. More info on our BT Vision page. More at


TalkTalk TVTalkTalk TV

Highlights: Not UK-wide. £19.99 a month subscription

In some parts of the UK (currently London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leicester, Wolverhampton, Salford, Stevenage, Milton Keynes and Warrington and a few others), you may be able to connect to TalkTalk TV (formerly Tiscali TV). This service offers over 70 TV channels over a phone line. The service currently offers the widest choice of on-demand content - including over 1500 on-demand movies, over 5000 music videos and a number of TV series for download and playback on your TV.

The service comes with a set-top box to connect to your phone line and TV.

More on our Talktalk TV Page or on the TalkTalk TV site


Sky Anytime screenshotSky Digital

Highlights: Watch a selection of Sky's movies, sport and TV shows on your PC or Sky+ box.

Sky box: Sky launched Sky Anytime TV in 2007. The service has similarities to Top Up TV Anytime's offering, in that movies and TV shows are sent over-the-air to Sky+ and Sky+HD boxes and stored to be viewed later.

The box offers a selection of the week's best TV from Sky, and you can get on-demand content over Broadband from your Sky+HD box. More details: We reviewed Sky and Sky Anytime in Show 16.

PC service: Download and watch content on your PC or Mac. Service includes Sky Movies (including Sky Box Office), Sky Sports highlights and episodes from Sky's top TV series. Full details here: Sky Go


Top Up TV On DemandTop Up TV Anytime

Highlights: Limited content available. £40 for the box, plus £11.99 a month.

A different twist on 'on-demand' - The service uses a special Freeview set-top box that downloads special TV content overnight onto the built-in hard-disk. The box captures 100 hours of content over the course of a week from channels including Gold, Home (formerly UKTV Style), CBS and Warner TV. There's also a movie service offering 7 movies a week. The selection is a little limited - you get what you're given.

More info on our Top Up TV Anytime page. We reviewed Top Up TV Anytime in Show 10.


TV on a PC

A number of UK broadcasters are offering TV content via a PC online:

BBC iPlayer

The BBC launched its iPlayer service in July 2007. This is free-to-use and offers a 7 day catch-up service on BBC shows. More at

BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer is available for PC and Mac. In March 2008, a version for the Apple iPhone became available, and in April 2008, a version appeared for the Nintendo Wii console.

BBC iPlayer is now available over Virgin Media , and you can access the BBC's catch-up TV service on a BT Vision set-top box. More on the BBC iPlayer Unofficial Guide

We covered the BBC iPlayer in-depth in Show 26 of our radio show - listen online now.


ITV launched an online streaming TV service in 2007. They offer a 30 day catch-up service for their channels ITV1, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and CiTV.

Rather than offering downloads, they'll stream content to a PC, for faster access. The service is free, and funded by adverts. Go to

Channel 4 Channel 4 launched 4oD - their free seven day catch-up service. Other content is available, priced from 99p to £1.99. 4oD content is also available on BT Vision.
Channel 5 Offering downloadable episodes of some of their top shows, priced from 99p to £1.99.
Sky TV Offering their Sky Player service - movies, sporting highlights and recent TV shows. Free to Sky customers.



Download TV and Movies from Blinkbox Blinkbox lets you stream or download TV shows and movies. You can choose to stream content, or download and keep TV shows and movies. There's also some free TV content, if you're ok to watch a couple of ads. We tried out watching some shows from Peep Show Series 2, and the service worked really well.

Definitely one to try out - see for details.


Apple iTunes

Apple's now offering TV shows, including BBC shows such as Damages, and hit US shows such as Lost, South Park, That 70's Show, Grey's Anatomy, Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives. Download shows to watch on your PC or Mac, or copy them to your iPod, iTouch, iPhone, etc.

Hopefully you're already using iTunes for listening to our podcast. Go to to see what's on offer (you can also subscribe to our show).


Fetch TV BoxFetch TV

This service launched at the end of 2008 offering a combined Freeview box and on-demand service. Fetch TV offers content from the BBC iPlayer, Sky and CNN.

With Fetch TV, you need to purchase a special set-top box that acts as a recorder, Freeview set-top box and portal to the on-demand TV services.

More details here: Fetch TV Explored


DVD Rental

Highlights: DVD mail order rental service with no late fees.

Not your actual on-demand, but worth considering if you're into your DVDs... LOVEFiLM offers a mail-order service where you'll be posted DVDs in accordance with a list you set up. You can hang on to them for as long as you want, and when you return them, they'll send you another one from your list. Receive an unlimited number of DVDs through the post with no late fees.LOVEFiLM currently offer over 64,500 films with 24/7 online ordering, free delivery and returns.

More info:


On Demand outside the UK?

UK TV from outside the UK? A question from Sarah in New Zealand... "There are lots of British Ex-Pats living in New Zealand - me being one of them. I really want to subscribe to UK TV on demand via PC. I would love to watch BBC and ITV and C4 programmes. I am having no luck being able to subscribe to anything as I live abroad. Do you know of anywhere I could join. New Zealand TV is awful and although they sometimes have UK programmes they are mostly 3 years out of date!

Hmmm - tough one. TV programmes are hot property for the show's producers and TV studios, and it's all about broadcast rights and territories. A broadcaster will pay to screen a TV show within a certain country for a certain time period, and the TV channel bids for the broadcast rights. If a service were to pop up offering TV shows to a worldwide audience, then the system breaks down - this compares with the fact that DVDs are region-coded, and only play in certain parts of the world.

This page lists services that provide TV shows to the UK, but many of these are not available outside of the UK. Here are a couple of other options worth a look:

  • We've found a service called JumpTV that has partnered with more than 180 television broadcasters from over 60 countries to provide live broadcasting of TV stations from around the world. More details at
  • See for a service that offers a small selection of shows on demand.
  • Thanks to John T for recommending He says "I saw your request for any other ideas which let people watch UK web-based TV services from outside the UK. We live in France and the service works via a VPN to the UK and so far works perfectly. It's been a revolution for us."
  • Slingbox - Here's a clever one. If you have a friend (or office) in the UK with a broadband connection, you could get them to buy and connect a Slingbox to their TV aerial and Broadband connection - you can then watch TV that's streamed from this box from any Internet-enabled PC in the world. A clever solution. More on our Slingbox page.

Got any other suggestions? Let us know.


Got a question on Video On Demand?
Call 020 8133 4567 for inclusion on our show, or send us a message


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