Watching TV online in the UK: 6 VOD options (part 1)

Recent findings from research by communications watchdog Ofcom has documented that Brits put only personal care items and groceries at a higher budget priority than broadband. 47% of respondents said they would cut down on dinners out, while 41% would cut down on travel holidays, and 25% would cut down on clothing purchases. At the same time, television viewing and internet use have gone up over the past year, perhaps as a result of cutting all those restaurant meals and holidays from the budget. Watching video content on the internet is steadily gaining popularity.

Half of the British population have watched on-demand video over the internet, with 20% of those watching it regularly every week. With the boundaries between Internet video on demand (VOD) services and traditional broadcast television blurring a little more each day, perhaps it would be a good idea to summarize the current popular VOD options:

1. BBC's iPlayer. Based on Adobe Flash Player, iPlayer is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. You have your choice of watching streaming video online or downloading the iPlayer to your desktop. If you download the iPlayer and download programmes to watch, you can choose from the previous week's BBC shows. Once you download them, you have 30 days to watch. Or you can choose from the BBC's streaming offerings and watch online. Legally, you only need a TV licence to watch TV on the iPlayer when they are being broadcast live.

2. Channel 4 4OD. To watch 4OD, just go to the website and start browsing. Programs are categorized as follows: food, homes, film, 4car, news, sports, health, entertainment, and drama. 4OD has Big Brother, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and First Cut, which showcases works by new film directors.

3. Microsoft VOD. Just launched this week, Microsoft's VOD portal carries UK hits Shameless, Hustle, and Peep Show among its 300 hours of programming from BBC Worldwide and All3Media. Programmes are ad-supported.

Coming this year or next to the UK:

4. Hulu. This American VOD service launches next month with 3,000 hours of American content and Channel 4 and ITV as content partners. Hulu hopes to get a piece of the action that would have gone to the defunct Project Kangaroo, which was blocked by the Competition Commission earlier this year.

5. BBC Canvas. Details continue to emerge slowly about this project in which the BBC, along with Channel 5 and ITV will create a "platform" to support programmes delivered by broadcast and broadband. The proposed launch time is Christmas 2010.

6. Arqiva. Arqiva is buying the technology behind the now-cancelled Project Kangaroo to launch its own VOD service. The company is now looking for partners in content provision to supply the video content that will be available online. The schedule for Arqiva is "in the coming months," and it will offer free and paid content.

In Part II we'll explore what kind of hardware gives you the best VOD experience.


  • h0dgy
    sky player?
  • barry
  • chrisg
  • SRH
    Microsoft VOD has got some right old crap on it.
  • Jane
    I am being too sci-fi to see a future where VOD etc lead to the demise of the DVD industry? Why pay for a DVD when you can watch it online? Think of the energy (& money) we'd save by not using all that plastic/chemicals/storage/transportation - perhaps we can save the planet after all!
  • f.d. a.
    Can't believe ITV Player and Five On Demand are not included in there... And what about Youtube!!!!
  • John S.
    While not strictly VOD, has over 30 live streaming freeview channels.
  • Martin
    If you have a media center PC, you can watch catchup and live TV from BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, MSN and Hulu for free using the open source application TunerFreeMCE, from Martin (author of TunerFreeMCE)
  • Watch m.
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  • Bertram D.
    I can't wait for more Visitors episodes it has to be one of the best shows from ABC!

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