Long hobbled by clunky technology and often featuring old movies and television shows, the cable and satellite on-demand video services have been slow to catch on with consumers.
Now, the Rodney Dangerfield of TV technology is hoping wider distribution and programming enhancements aimed at luring new users will get it more respect.
A new report from Nielsen found that VOD is available in 60% of American TV households. That's a dramatic increase from just five years ago, when such services were offered to just 37% of homes.
"VOD is not a new technology. It's been around over 10 years," said Dounia Turrill, senior vice president of insights at Nielsen. "But the big difference is, over the past year or so, it has really transformed significantly."
Turrill said the on-demand viewing technology has gotten easier to use and that, coupled with broadcast and cable networks now more willing to offer episodes of current TV shows on the platform, is making VOD more customer-friendly. Cable and satellite subscribers are now no longer out of luck if they forgot to record a show with their digital video recorder. And many homes still don't have a DVR.
"DVRs are in 50% of households, which by definition means they're not in 50% of households," Turrill said. "VOD platforms ... provide the ability to time-shift to homes that don't have the equipment. So, I think that's a very big development."
One factor that helped bring fresh content to VOD is the ability of media companies to identify shows so Nielsen can incorporate on-demand viewing as part of a show's TV ratings — so long as it carries the same national commercials as the live airing of the episode and is watched within three days of the original telecast.
Nielsen takes a similar approach with DVR viewing.
The new Nielsen report found that VOD is popular with 18-to-34-year-old viewers, who are likely to have kids and access to other technologies, including high-speed Internet connections and tablet computers. Feature films are the most sought after content.
"VOD was very much a movie platform," Turrill said. "As more content is going to be pushed onto these platforms, it will impact what people look for and the behavior."