Exploring Video-on-Demand (VoD) - dummies

By Danny Briere, Pat Hurley

Many cable companies now offer video-on-demand (VoD) as part of their digital cable services. With VoD service, you pay for individual movies and shows, and watch them on your cable-connected TV — similar to the concept of how pay-per-view (PPV) works.

But the similarities between VoD and PPV end there, because:

  • VoD movies aren’t run as scheduled broadcasts (like every hour on the hour PPV movies). Instead, VoD movies are stored on big computers (video servers) as MPEG-2 files.

  • When you want to watch a VoD movie or other program, you select it on your onscreen guide and press Play on your remote. The movie gets streamed to your set-top box (just like movies you watch on the Internet, but at a much higher quality) and played back on your TV.

  • You have complete control of the stream, so just like using a VCR or DVD player, you can Start, Stop, Pause, Fast Forward, and Rewind — the works — all for the same cost as regular PPV. These functions are typically available on the remote control that is supplied by your cable provider. Contact your service provider if you have questions about this functionality.

  • One other neat VoD service is called SVoD (subscription VoD), which allows you to subscribe to a certain channel or show, such as HBO, and get VoD access to all the episodes of a favorite show (such as The Sopranos).

Another alternative for movie buffs is to join a service that does movie rentals online (and via the U.S. mail), such as Netflix. The price for this type of service varies depending on how many DVDs you want to check out at one time (such as only one-at-a-time, two-at-a-time, and so on).