What Is On Demand TV?

On-demand TV offers programming when the viewer is ready, not at a regularly scheduled time, like traditional TV. As of the date of publication, a variety of providers offer on-demand TV and movie programming, including HBO, DIRECTV, DISH Network and Netflix. On-demand programming requires viewers to subscribe to the providers’ services and can be enhanced through a variety of media, including computers, mobile devices and Internet-equipped TVs.

How It Works

On-demand TV requires a satellite or Internet connection for the content to be downloaded or streamed to your TV. Some on-demand providers, such as HBO On Demand, require subscription to its traditional programming, like what’s offered through a cable or satellite service provider, such as Comcast. These types of providers offer on-demand programming directly through the cable or satellite box. Other providers, such as DIRECTV, require a satellite converter box and an Internet connection to view on-demand programming. In these instances, the Internet connection facilitates the downloading of the content, while the converter box offers playback for viewing. Providers like Netflix offer streaming on-demand programming through an Internet-only connection.


While the majority of on-demand TV programming is facilitated through cable and satellite providers’ equipment and a TV, some, such as Netflix, offer on-demand services through other media such as video game consoles and mobile devices. Netflix’s on-demand TV service can be viewed through Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 game consoles. You can also view on-demand programming on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, by downloading and installing specially designed applications.


On-demand TV providers offer programming from an assortment of genres, including drama, comedy, sporting events and romance. As the on-demand industry expands, providers regularly add new programs. For example, HBO On Demand adds more than 140 programs to its on-demand listings each Monday, including movies, children’s programming and TV shows. At the time of publication, on-demand providers offer vast collections of programs to choose from.


Some TVs are able to connect directly to the Internet through pre-installed Wi-Fi technology. These TVs are capable of downloading on-demand content directly to the TV where it can be viewed instantly. Some on-demand providers, such as DISH Network, lump their on-demand services with pay-per-view programming, which is similar to on-demand viewing, but is different in at least two major aspects. Pay-per-view programming requires viewers to tune in to a regularly scheduled time to see the programming, which is delivered through traditional means, such as satellite or cable signals.