On-demand TV is a offered by all of the major broadcasters, letting you watch whatever you like, whenever you like, via the internet. We're no longer slaves to the TV schedule and can watch content for free at a time convenient to us...
What is on-demand TV?
The way we watch TV has changed. Thanks to the rise of on-demand services. we're no longer slaves to the TV schedule. From catch-up services like BBC iPlayer to renting films through the TV, we can now choose what to watch and when to watch it.
Every major TV service in the UK offers some form of on-demand service, so let's take a look at what's available from each provider.
Sky on demand
Called, appropriately, Sky On Demand, it offers catch-up TV from Sky's own channels - including the likes of Sky One, Sky Living and Sky Atlantic - the BBC's channels, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Nat Geo, History and Crime & Investigation.
It's not just catch-up that's available from Sky. You can also get TV programmes and films through the service on demand. For example, 'box sets' of Sky TV series are available, so you can start working through entire series at your own pace. Alternatively, you can choose to watch one of Sky's vast library of on-demand films. However, bear it in mind that you need a Sky Movies subscription to watch movies on demand.
You can rent movies to watch on-demand via the Sky Store. This is a good way to get access to brand new blockbuster releases, but remember that you'll have to pay a rental fee before watching.
Sky Go is Sky's online television service. This lets you watch shows and movies on demand from Sky's entertainment, children's, sports and movies channels on PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones and tablets, games consoles and more. You can also watch live TV, including eight sports channels.
If you're a Sky TV customer, you can watch shows from any of the channels you subscribe to at no extra cost. Non-Sky customers can also use the service if they pay for a monthly pass.
Virgin Media on demand
Catch-up TV from the big five UK TV channels is available - BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4od and Demand 5. Subscribers can also choose from a large library of programmes to watch on demand - from classic British dramas to entire series of recent hit shows from the US. Music videos, sports and occasional live events are also available.
Those who prefer the silver screen to the small one are catered for by Virgin Movies, which lets users rent films - both brand new releases and older titles - directly through their TVs. These aren't included in the subscription price though - they are available on a pay-per-view basis.
Virgin TV Anywhere
Another service that does what it says on the tin, Virgin TV Anywhere lets subscribers watch live TV and on-demand shows anywhere they want via PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad. The service also lets you control your TV and set shows to record from your phone or tablet.
YouView is available standalone or with certain broadband packages from BT and TalkTalk. The on-demand content available differs depending on the provider supplying the YouView box.
Whichever you choose, catch-up TV sits at the heart of YouView. BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4od and Demand 5, Milkshake! and STV are all available through the service, provided you have a broadband connection. What's particularly great about YouView is how easy it is to access this on-demand material.
If you want to watch a show that's been broadcast in the last seven days you can simply select it by scrolling back through the TV guide, and the relevant service and episode will start up automatically.
You can also get on-demand films and TV shows on YouView through NOW TV, the subscription-based online streaming service from Sky. In addition to the YouView box, it's compatible with PCs, smartphones and tablets - as well as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox.
At present, for £8.99 per month, NOW TV gives you unlimited access to all 11 of the Sky Movies channels, and allows you to watch films live as they're broadcast or on-demand at a later time.
Popular Sky TV shows, such as Mad Men and Game of Thrones, are available separately with a NOW TV Entertainment subscription, currently priced at £4.99 per month.
For more information, check out our full guide to YouView.
BT TV on demand
Both boxes offer catch-up TV from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5. In addition, an extensive library of additional content, including box sets of popular UK and US drama and comedy series, kids' TV, music videos, films and more, is available to watch whenever you want through BT's BT Vision service.
Subscribers to BT's TV Essential packages can watch BT Vision on a pay-per-view basis. The more expensive TV Unlimited packages let you watch as much as you want on BT Vision each month.
For full details read our complete guide to BT's TV services and packages.
TalkTalk TV on demand
What's more, TalkTalk also offers a library of more than 1,000 TV shows and films through TalkTalk Player. This service, accessible through YouView, offers box sets of British and American TV shows, from drama series to classic comedies, on demand.
You can also stream films for a rental fee via LOVEFiLM Box Office.
Read our comprehensive guide to TalkTalk TV if you'd like to know more.
Freeview on demand
Catch-up TV from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5 is available on Freeview+ boxes, which can be bought from high street stores such as Curry's and John Lewis and online retailers like Amazon.co.uk. To get TV shows on demand shows via a Freeview+ box you'll need to connect it to the internet.
Bear in mind that not all Freeview boxes can access these services, so check before buying.
Read our Freeview+ guide to find out more.
freesat on demand
freesat provides catch-up TV through BBC iPlayer and ITV Player on its freesat+ with freetime boxes from Humax.
These services are also available on some other freesat+ boxes, but not all of them, so check compatibility to make sure you can watch on-demand TV before you buy.
Read more in our freesat guide.
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