The difference between On Demand and Catch-up TV

Mon 16th Jun 2014 Guides

As well as watching great Digital TV from your set-top box, if you missed your favourite shows, you’ll be able to access an extensive On Demand library from your provider or Catch-up TV. 

For some, On Demand and Catch-up TV appear to be the same thing, but in fact there are distinctive differences.

Use our handy guide to find the main differences between these two platforms, giving you the chance to never miss your favourite programme again.

On Demand

On Demand is a convenient service that comes with your Digital TV provider subscription. You’ll have access to a wide range of content, from previously aired episodes of your favourite series to great movies.

If you know you’re going to miss something you want to watch, you also have the option to record the content while you’re out. Your set-top box provides you with a certain amount of storage to record TV, with the On Demand service also taking up some of your allowance.

For example, with Virgin Media’s TiVo 1TB box, you have a massive amount of storage space to record the movies you want to see and the episodes you missed.

You’ll also be able to watch a library of On Demand content, containing programmes you didn’t even know existed, whenever you feel like viewing something different. These programmes tend to stick around for a long time, but most digital TV providers give you a ‘last chance’ warning, before the content is gone forever from the library.

On Demand subscribers can benefit from their provider’s pay-per-view content too. This is where you pay a one-off fee to rent out box sets or the latest DVD releases; perfect for a cosy night in with friends and family.  

Premium On Demand services

Alternatively, premium streaming websites are also considered to be On Demand services. Netflix, Blinkbox from Tesco and Now TV powered by Sky offer monthly subscriptions for unlimited streaming content from their libraries.

Simply sign up to one of their services and you’ll be able to watch any of the available content for a certain amount a month. You have the convenience of cancelling your subscription at any time and you won’t be tied into any contract.

Instead of watching from your TV, you’ll be able to connect your smartphone, tablet and laptop to your streaming account, giving you extra accessibility. The number of devices you can link to your account will depend on the service you choose.

Catch-up TV

Catch-up TV is an online service where you can catch up on all the recently aired programmes from some of the free-to-view channels, such as BBC One, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

Each broadcaster has its own service, which has a library of programmes that have been shown over the last week. If you’re lucky, some services keep programmes available for a longer period of time.

Keeping up with the technology evolution most catch-up TV streaming services, including BBC iPlayer, 4oD and ITV Player, have an app for your smartphone where you can watch programmes on the go. This is especially useful if you have a long commute to work each morning.

Although these watching platforms are known as free-to-view, you will still need a TV licence to watch the content. We don’t recommend getting fined when you only have to pay once a year to enjoy these catch-up TV services.