What is the thing called VOD?
Video-on-demand or VOD has become the catch-all term for watching movies, television programs and other digital content online – via the internet – an increasingly available alternative to DVDs in allowing the viewer to watch what they want, when they want.
Online viewing can be via a temporary or permanent download or streamed. It covers catch-up television services, ad-supported services, subscription VOD services, and transactional services.
The common thread is that the viewer decides what they want to watch and when they want to watch it, with a range of online services evolving to enable them do this.
There are four main business models for delivering online content:
— Catch-up television, such as ABC iview, SBS On Demand, PLUS7 etc.
— Ad-supported services such as YouTube.
— Subscription VOD services such as Netflix, Quickflix and Presto;
— Transactional services (including online rental and download- to-own) such as iTunes.
In the research, we found that television series tend to drive viewings on VOD. While Australian series are slightly ahead of foreign series on live television (in terms of the proportion watching), foreign are slightly ahead of Australian on VOD. Both account for higher proportions of viewings on VOD than on DVD. This was the case across all VOD services, not just catch-up television with its strong connection to TV programming through the broadcast schedule.
For TV series, genre data is available for both foreign and Australian content, with foreign drama and comedy the most popular genres across all platforms, closely followed by foreign thriller/crime/mystery. When it comes to Australian programs, VOD viewers are much more likely to be watching them on broadcast television than on other platforms, in fact for most genres on television, viewers are just as likely to be watching Australian series as foreign. In all cases, a higher proportion of people are watching TV series on VOD than on DVD/ Blu-ray.
Each of the four VOD models has some correlations with traditional platforms in the way they monetize content and deliver it to audiences. The catch-up TV and ad-supported services mirror free-to-air television most closely. But in four main business models also show that TV series, both local and foreign are the most popular programs on both services. We can see that audience of VOD tend to watch TV series rather than movies and other programs.
The internet is undermining broadcast television just as it did the newspaper business, and that most coveted demographic, youth, is abandoning the simultaneous ‘appointment’ viewing experience for personalized, on-demand downloading. While TV broadcasters are emulating this trend with online catch-up services, a host of new competitors, legal and illegal, are already exploiting the opportunities of faster broadband across the globe by offering access to vast reservoirs of audiovisual content.
Self-identifying as digital natives, younger generation keen to differentiate themselves from the older one, tend to cast TV viewing as ‘passive’ and interactive media as ‘active’ – a distinction that incidentally contradicts several decades of television audience research undertaken across the globe around the notion of the ‘active’ interpreting audience. With the spread of on-demand media, downloading or streaming a program online is now deemed more ‘active’ than selecting it via a TV remote. On-demand viewing by personal impulse, rather than by the personal choice enabled by time shifting or multiple synchronous channels, is the new premium viewing situation.
Also, Online distribution is about taking a linear product and putting it on the web – not rethinking the network construct itself. At its core, the traditional, linear TV business model is defined by its constraints. Each network has a finite number of programming slots and even fewer primetime slots, which forces it to focus on maximizing “eyeballs” among a specific target demographic and programming thematically and/or tonally similar content. A digital network, however, faces none of these limitations. There’s no maximum or minimum amount of programming required, no limit to the number of genres and demographics it can serve, “no one size fits all” lead in show and no single performance metric. This fundamentally changes what a TV network can look like and can be. So the rise of online distribution and proliferation of portable multimedia devices, audience are able to consume more video content today than ever before.