VOD vs OTT: What’s the Difference?

Blog 1 min read | Aug 30, 2023 | JW Player


The way we watch our favorite movies and shows, and all other media, has undergone a big transformation the past decade. Traditional TV, while still relevant to some degree, is no longer the only source of entertainment. We have new ways now of consuming content, with Video on Demand (VOD) services and Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms taking center stage.

You are probably thinking that these sound like high-tech jargon, but they are crucial in how we access and enjoy video content and you have probably used them without even realizing it. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of VOD and OTT, exploring their functionalities, differences and similarities.

What is VOD?

Video on demand is content you can watch whenever you want (whenever you “demand” it). You can watch on-demand videos through your computer, mobile device, smart TV, or any other type of device). Remember when you couldn’t even press pause while watching TV? Those days are gone because VOD gave end-users the power to pause, rewind, fast-forward and replay any time they feel like it.

The popularity of VOD is visible through all the ways that you can access it – cable TV, satellite TV, or those streaming apps that are everywhere. You’ve more than likely heard of the big players that make use of VOD technology: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Max and Apple TV. Their content is “on demand” because you can watch it whenever you want as long as you are their subscriber.

There are also VOD platforms that let you rent or buy a movie or a TV show for a little while as well as platforms that let you watch video content for free in exchange for an ad or two during it – think the ultra-popular YouTube, where you watch for free, but ads drop by here and there. 

We’ve made a list of the best VOD platforms for delivering video on demand content, ranked for their quality and strengths.

And for a deeper dive, check out our comprehensive guide to understanding video on demand.

Types of VOD Models

Based on its functionality and the method that users can access it with, VOD can be categorized into three main categories:

  • Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD): This model allows subscribers to access a wide range of content for a fixed monthly fee. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are prime examples of SVOD platforms. Subscribers have unlimited access to the platform’s content as long as their subscription is active.

    This model of video distribution allows subscribers access to the platform’s content in exchange for a fixed monthly fee. Even if you haven’t heard of the term SVOD, you have probably watched a Netflix movie or an Amazon Prime series, which two are the prime examples of subscription-based platforms.
  • Transactional Video on Demand (TVOD): If you have ever rented movies from a video store before the digital age, then you will find that this method is the digital version of that.TVOD, or you can find it referred to as pay-per-view as well, is the method that allows users to purchase or rent specific video content that they want on an individual basis. Popular TVOD examples are iTunes and Google Play Movies.
  • Ad-Supported Video on Demand (AVOD): You couldn’t have missed this method in action because most people on the internet have had to watch an ad before the video they wanted to watch on YouTube started playing.AVOD platforms, such as YouTube, allow free access to their vast libraries of VOD content, whether user-generated or professional, in exchange for users viewing video advertisements before or during the video playback. Other popular AVOD platforms include Dailymotion, Pluto TV, Roku and others.

And if you want to do an even deeper dive into the differences between AVOD, SVOD, and TVOD, our guide has you more than covered.

What is OTT?

Over-The-Top (OTT): OTT is a digital distribution method where content is delivered and consumed over the internet rather than through traditional cable or satellite. It’s the way you watch streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

For OTT streaming, no need for special equipment – just a good internet connection. OTT services deliver streaming video content directly to your devices, like your smart TV, laptop, tablet or even your phone. The beauty of OTT is that it’s like a virtual library that is available to you whenever you are in the mood for watching video content. OTT services can include not just VOD, but also live streaming channels and other interactive features. They’re all about convenience, variety and making your entertainment experience a lot more personal, flexible and catered to your needs.

In the OTT streaming world, the big names are Roku, Apple TV, and Hulu + Live TV, and all those popular streaming platform names your favorite shows are on that you’ve heard over the last few years. We have compiled a list for the best OTT platforms for 2023 for your business as well as all the reasons why the world of OTT is a lucrative solution if you are a broadcaster.

Types of OTT Apps

With so many OTT apps out there, you are probably wondering which ones are catering to your needs or worth your attention. There are several types of apps, and they can be grouped in these categories based on the type of content they offer or the delivery method of their distribution:

  • Connected TV OTT Apps: Android TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung TV, and Apple TV host apps for a TV-based experience
  • Mobile OTT Apps: Offering on-the-go content consumption, these apps are designed for iOS and Android mobile devices based on the audience’s region
  • Smart Devices OTT Apps: Amazon and Google offer visual content through their apps Echo Show and Nest Hub
  • Live Streaming OTT Apps: These apps focus on delivering high-quality live events, live sports and news in real-time directly to viewers
  • Niche Content OTT Apps: These apps target specific interests, like education, documentaries, or specialized hobbies such as fitness, spirituality, podcasts etc.
  • Social Media OTT Apps: OTT apps to enhance video sharing and viewing experiences of their respective social platforms
  • Game Console OTT Apps: Apps on gaming consoles like PlayStation and Xbox provide entertainment while playing

Comparing VOD and OTT

So, by now we know that VOD is the content and OTT is a method of distributing that content. Now, let’s get into the juicy part and compare them to see where they differentiate and whether or not they have any similarities.

Channels of Delivery

As mentioned, VOD is content and it transmits through many channels, such as cable providers and streaming service providers. OTT on the other hand, is only provided through the internet.

Payment Model

OTT apps most of the time offer a subscription-based model which allows you to access their content for a monthly fee, which is oftentimes a flat fee. The VOD pricing, however, can be different depending on which service you are using and the content you want to watch.

Accessing Content

Video on demand content is offered through various subscription services, like cable or satellite, which limits the accessibility of many users to it. However, many OTT apps are more accessible to users to use as well as providing the content directly to them, putting more control in the users’ hands over what they want to watch with this online-based distribution model.

Collection of Content

Because OTT content apps cater to such a diverse span of interests, they are known for their vast and diverse content libraries, which in turn makes them appealing to a bigger audience. VOD streaming libraries can vary depending on which service provider the content is, so the variety of content is not as broad.

User Experience

Regarding improving upon the experience of users, both VOD services and OTT apps makes use of tailored recommendations – VOD services do it through your viewing history, while OTT uses online-based user data for suggesting you personalized recommendations.


Most of the time if the content is available for free, VOD services will include advertisements as a form of monetization while the content is playing. On the other hand, OTT platforms can offer an ad-free content experience which is a big selling point.

Compatibility with Devices

Both VOD and OTT services and platforms are compatible with various number of devices, but OTT’s online-based method has an advantage in content delivery to a broader range of devices which also ensures a broader range of audiences.

JW Player as a VOD and an OTT platform

JW Player is a complete video platform with all the features that are needed for uploading, hosting, arranging, distributing, and capitalizing on your video content. Our approach involves a multi-CDN (Content Delivery Network) strategy, using Points of Presence (POPs) in over 130 countries. This makes sure that your content achieves the best performance, seamless streaming and guaranteeing buffer-free playback for your audience.

We provide APIs and SDKs so that you can mold your VOD content to suite web players, OTT apps, Smart TVs, social media platforms and mobile devices as well as the choice to monetize your VOD content though an AVOD, SVOD or a TVOD model.

On the other hand, JW Player as an OTT platform is trusted by over 40,000 broadcasters and publishers because we use cutting-edge technology like the MPEG-DASH protocol, multi-bitrate streaming, simulcasting to Facebook Live and a customizable HTML5 player.

With our platform, companies can very easily stream videos to global audiences, make use of our powerful Recommendations engine, which drops video suggestions that have the best shot at keeping viewers glued for more binge-watching, as well as monetize their content through standard ad types (AVOD, SVOD, TVOD), third party technologies (Google IMA SDK, FreeWheel SDK), and any other ad server with these ad types.

If you want a more in-depth look as to why JW Player ranks as the leading VOD and OTT platform compared to the best in the industry, check out our 13 Best VOD Platforms for Delivering Video on Demand Content as well as The Best OTT Platforms for 2023 lists.