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...
The way we watch TV is changing. We want to be more in control over what we watch, not slaves to the TV schedules. 'On demand' means exactly what it sounds like: TV programmes that are available to watch when you want to watch them. Just click play and go - no set timetables and sometimes not even any adverts.
It can come in the form of catch up TV, which lets you watch episodes that aired in the last seven days; it can be box sets, which give you instant access to full series with continuous playback; or it could be movies to rent at the click of a button. Think 4OD, Netflix, Sky Go, and so on.
Read on and we'll take a look at what kind of on demand TV you can get with the major TV providers in the UK.
Virgin Media TV on demand
Catch up TV is available with all of Virgin Media's (www.virginmedia.com) TV packages. You'll get the four main catch up services - BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5 - along with any extra your subscription includes, like UKTV Play. The bigger the package, the more channels you'll be able to watch on demand. And unlike other on demand services, Virgin Media TV doesn't require a broadband connection or access to your router - you can hook up to full seasons of your favourite shows through just your TV cable.
Virgin TV Box Sets are a big draw, though they only come with the top package. This is how you can binge-watch some of your favourite shows, such as Atlanta and Lost.
Here's a quick breakdown of what you get on demand with each package:
- Player TV - basic catch-up from BBC iPlayer, All4, and more
- Mix TV - basic catch-up plus Sky On Demand
- Full House TV - catch-up, Sky On Demand, and Virgin TV Box Sets
- VIP - Everything in Full House TV, plus Sky Sports and Sky Cinema.
You can also log into your Netflix account (or sign up if you don't have one) with any Virgin Media TV package that includes a TiVo box. Full House TV gives you access to the Hayu app as well, and if you get Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, or BT Sport, you'll get them on demand too.
All their TV packages let you use Virgin TV Anywhere too, so you can watch TV anywhere from any device - and that includes the on demand services you have access to.
If you want more, there's also the Virgin TV Store, where you can buy and rent a range of box sets.
Sky TV on demand
Catch up TV is included in all three TV packages from Sky (www.sky.com), provided you have a Sky TV box and a broadband connection. That's all the basic catch up services - including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, and Demand 5 - that you can scroll back for up to 30 days.
As well as that, you can catch up with your favourite Sky TV channels with Sky On Demand. Different Sky TV bundles come with different channels, some of which are included in the catch up range too. Altogether you can watch telly from up to 60 channels, depending which package you pick.
If you add a Sky Cinema or subscription to your package, you'll get those on demand as well. That means you can watch movies instantly or replay that stunning goal whenever you want.
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You can also watch exclusive box sets with Sky TV that you won't find anywhere else, available with the Sky BoxSets add-on, which costs an extra monthly fee. In fact, Sky offers the UK's widest selection of on demand TV, with over 350 box sets to watch - and it's the only place where you can get up to date with Game of Thrones. Along with that, you've got award-winning shows like Broadchurch, Mad Men, and 24 to sink your teeth into.
Sky Go is included for all Sky customers. That's the service that lets you watch Sky TV anywhere from any device, and it includes catch up, box sets if you have the Sky BoxSets add-on, and movies if you have Sky Cinema. And if that's not enough, you can upgrade it to Sky Go Extra, which allows you to download shows via Wi-Fi to watch later.
If you want to watch big movies at the same time as their DVD release, you can also rent or buy them outright from Sky Store. While not limited to Sky customers - anyone can watch films with PC or smartphone - it works seamlessly with a Sky TV box so you can watch in the living room. Rented movies can be watched for up to 48 hours, but buying a film outright with Sky's Buy & Keep service can prove particularly good value - not only do you get the digital copy to watch as much as you like, you also get the DVD sent through the post.
BT TV on demand
Both BT (www.bt.com) TV packages include a YouView box, and that means you automatically get catch up TV. Go back seven days on four catch up services - BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, Demand 5 - and get up to date with your favourite programmes. Remember that for all YouView on demand services you'll need a broadband connection with a minimum line speed of 2Mb.
BT TV's on demand services include a little extra. You can watch box sets from all the above channels, plus Milkshake!, STV (Scotland only), UKTV Play, Quest OD, AMC On Demand, and Now TV (with a separate subscription). It's all integrated neatly into YouView, so you needn't get stressed out trying to find last week's Doctor Who. Simply scroll back in time on the TV guide and YouView will do the rest for you. Or search by genre to find something great to watch right now.
For the littluns, you can also add on thousands of episodes of kids' telly with BT TV Kids - available with top-end Max package.
BT has a lot to offer in the way of movies as well. With the BT Store, included in all BT TV packages, you can rent films instantly, or even buy them to download and keep from as little as £3.99.
There's a Sky Cinema bolt-on available too - a rolling subscription to 11 Sky Cinema channels that you can add and remove whenever you like. And with it comes Sky On Demand to watch all those movies instantly.
And if all that isn't enough, you can add a Netflix subscription to your BT bill too, and watch it right there through your BT box.
TalkTalk on demand
TalkTalk (www.talktalk.co.uk) TV includes a YouView box too, so you'll get access to basic catch up TV with both TalkTalk TV packages. So once again, that's seven days of programmes to catch up on from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, and Demand 5.
Other on demand services can be added on as part of TalkTalk TV's 'Boosts'. These are bundles of channels that you can add on a monthly rolling subscription. That means you can start or stop subscribing to them from month-to-month on a wonderfully flexible basis.
One of these is the Sky Cinema Boost which lets you watch movies instantly - including some of the latest blockbusters.
And then there's the TalkTalk Store - an on demand service for movies, TV series, and episodes. You can 'rent' movies and TV shows for 48 hours, letting you watch them instantly (and as many times as you can squeeze in in two days), or buy them outright to keep. It's available for anyone - you don't need a TalkTalk subcription to access it - but if you do have TalkTalk TV you can access it super easily through your set-top box.
The Netflix application is included with YouView as well. Log in to your account or sign up for a new one - you can even add the subscription to your TalkTalk bill if you want.
Freeview on demand
The great thing about Freeview is that it only requires a one-off payment - there are no subscription fees. And if you splash out on a Smart TV with a Freeview+ box and a broadband connection you can access catch up TV as well from the four main catch up services. Plus there are apps for Netflix or Amazon Prime Video if you have a subscription.
Freesat on demand
Freesat is another option if you want subscription-free TV. With Freesat you'll have access to catch up TV from BBC iPlayer and ITV Player - or upgrade to Freetime and you'll get 4OD, Demand 5, YouTube, Curzon Home Cinema, and Hopster as well.