VOD vs. OTT: The Difference and Confusions


For many, the difference between VOD and OTT is non-existent. With both these platforms being so similar in their video delivering service, it’s easy to get confused between the two. However, there are quite a few aspects that differ from one another. If you’re looking for a way to learn about VOD and OTT, to find a better-suited platform for you among the two, this article is for you!

What’s an OTT streaming service?

Let’s start discussing each of these platforms in detail. An OTT or Over the Top platform is the new age of watching video content, where you stream movies through the internet. Unlike traditional methods of getting content, here, you don’t need to download or store the video files for playback. Rather you directly acquire information from the internet and stream it on your TV.

When you watch a movie or series from any of these platforms, you’re not downloading the files, rather streaming every bit, from start to finish. OTT platforms are specific to live streaming and content streaming without any need to download.

YouTube can also be considered an OTT platform as it also has the feature to stream live videos. Instead of these live videos being broadcast over TV cable, they’re broadcast over the internet. Broadcasting over the internet provides greater transmission speed without compromising on quality. So you can watch a 4K Livestream over an OTT platform without having any of those messy cable wires. Connect your TV or streaming device to your LAN or router and you’re good to go!

OTT platforms are very specific to what they provide. You get a more efficient system of video playback with a better streaming quality. However, while VOD platforms provide users to watch whenever they want to, OTT platforms don’t do that. We’ll discuss the differences in detail further into the article.

The VOD principle

VOD or Video On Demand is the medium that inspired today’s OTT platforms. But before we discuss how that is, let’s first try to understand the principle behind VOD. As the name suggests, VOD allows users to watch videos as per their demand, whenever they want it.

Video on demand

Before the era of VOD, people had to tune in to their TV to watch their favorite shows and check each channel to know what show was on during the time. VOD changed this by allowing people to download video content and watch it whenever they wish to. Cable services brought this to users by allowing them to record shows by either pressing the record button when the show starts or by paying a small renting fee for On-Demand videos.

VOD, however, is not just restricted to the cables. It also inspires platforms that provide video content over the internet. Streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are just two of the many streaming services available today that work on the principle of VOD platforms.


There are three models of VOD that are available today. Let’s cover each of them in detail:


SVOD or Subscription Video on Demand has been the most popular format of VOD. IN SVOD, users have to pay a set fee that provides them access to a library of video content based on their subscription pack. Most SVOD service providers have different packs with varying price ranges to fit the convenience of their customers.

These packages differ in terms of the amount of video content available and even the quality of the content. For a higher price, you’ll get access to more video content with a better streaming quality. This is provided with the help of cable, satellite, and the internet.

As long as you pay your subscription fee, you will have access to the content. Once you stop paying, you lose all access to it. SVOD can also allow users to download content and watch it but will take away access once their subscription runs out.

The packages also come with differing time commitments. You could get access to the content on a monthly basis, a semi-annual basis, or an annual basis. If you are still unsure of the quality of content you’d get from the service, you could go for a small-time commitment package.

However, if you are sure and wish to save a little money on your subscription, you can go for a longer package as they are generally cheaper than getting a monthly package. As mentioned, these subscriptions aren’t on a pay-per-view basis and allow users to watch content as much as they want.

The best example here would be subscription-based services like Netflix, Amazon, and even set-top box, where users get access to channels instead of individual videos.


TVOD or Transactional Video on Demand is the complete opposite of SVOD. Here users don’t pay for access to all the content a service provider has to offer. Rather they only pay for that which they wish to watch.

OTT on demand

You could consider TVODs as the new form of DVDs. Here you don’t need to buy a DVD, but simply purchase the movie or show itself. Once you’ve purchased the content, you can watch it whenever and as many times as you want.

In VODs as well, users get to choose how they want to consume their purchased content. If you like having a collection of movies or wish to keep the video with you forever, you can purchase the film, download it and keep it with you forever. But if you want to have access to the video only for a day or week, you can simply rent it. TVOD service providers provide packages on each film accordingly. You can either buy the video content to keep or rent it for a little while, after which you lose access to it.

YouTube, Google Play Movies, iTunes, and Amazon Rent are some great examples of TVODs.


AVOD or Ad-supported Video on Demand is the most convenient VOD service for most people as, unlike other types, users don’t have to pay any money at all. The content is completely free for users to consume whenever they wish to. The revenue earned by service providers here is through ads.

Whenever a user tries to access a new video, they will be shown an ad or two of a brand that pays the service provider to show users their advertisements. Through this method, you get access to all content available without worrying about paying for it. Since you don’t pay for the content you consume, you don’t get a choice in choosing the ads you watch.

YouTube and SlingTV are just a few of the AVODs available today. Many VOD platforms have an AVOD option, where users can opt for uninterrupted video content. Once they pay for the content they watch, users can then watch their desired content without any ads.

What’s the difference: OTT Vs. VOD?

Even after going through each medium individually, you might still have doubts regarding their differences and it’s easy to understand why. So let’s put them beside each other and find out the differences between the two.

OTT Streaming Service

OTT platforms, as mentioned before, allow users to stream live video content over the internet instead of cable or satellite, as traditional TV does. VOD, however, uses all of these platforms based on the choice of the service provider. OTTs are only restricted to streaming online content at the time of broadcast. They cannot be accessed after the live stream is over.

VODs, on the other hand, include pre-recorded and downloaded content. You could either have a collection of your own content that you purchased, rented, or recorded from your VOD service. Moreover, an OTT platform doesn’t only provide its users access to video content but also audio broadcasts like podcasts.

The biggest difference between the two comes from the way they transmit data. While OTT is only restricted to transmission over the internet, VOD uses cable and satellite as well.

What are the similarities that can be confusing?

The similarities between the two are confusing as they are not mutually exclusive. If you were to consider VOD a giant circle, OTT is a smaller circle within the giant circle. The terms are often changed interchangeably due to the flexibility of these platforms today. Many service providers include both VOD services as well as OTT services.


Users can both use the service to watch videos whenever they wish to while also being able to watch a live stream of a broadcast using the internet. YouTube is the most relevant example, as it is an SVOD platform (YoutTube Premium), AVOD (free video streaming), TVOD (renting or purchasing films) while also allowing users to watch live streams.

Closing thoughts – Does the difference matter?

The answer to this question will change as we keep improving our transmission methods. Today, cable TV and satellite are still used by VOD platforms to transmit video content. Differentiating between the two may seem important today. Still, with more and more service providers creating platforms that include both the principle of VOD and OTT, it becomes tricky to see how this argument will build in the future.

Seeing the massive improvement the internet has gone through over the years, the use of cable TV and satellite might move out altogether. Companies that started off using these mediums are trying to make it last as long as possible, but with the internet becoming cheaper and more reliable, the difference between OTT and VOD might disappear altogether.


Originally published on March 31st, 2021, updated on May 26th, 2021
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VOD vs. OTT: The Difference and Confusions

by Simi time to read: 6 min