SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand): What It Is and Why You Need It

2007 was a big year in media: the Sopranos ended on a now infamous note, the first iPhone was released, and Netflix started the first subscription movie streaming service. It’s hard to imagine that less than two decades later, we’re now browsing our iPhone 15s, balancing a half a dozen streaming subscriptions, and people are still arguing about the Sopranos. We maybe didn’t realize it then, but subscription video on demand (SVOD) would set the standard for at home movie viewing, so much so that it managed to destabilize the brick-and-mortar rental industry. 

Even as other video-on-demand (VOD) monetization models surface, SVOD maintains its popularity as an effective and lucrative method for video content distribution. But why is that? How does it work? Is it really the most effective monetization option? Get all your SVOD questions answered and get started building your own SVOD solution. 


What is SVOD? 

Subscription video on demand (SVOD) is precisely what it sounds like. Viewers pay a regular subscription price (typically monthly or annually) for access to a menu of videos that can be viewed at will. When Netflix set the standard for this sort of model, all videos were ad free and the number of views unlimited. However, subsequent streaming services have adapted this model, combining it with other monetization methods.

“Viewed at will” is a key part of this definition. VOD is often confused with general over-the-top (OTT) streaming – and the distinction can be challenging. If it helps think of VOD as any opportunity for video to be selected and viewed on demand, including your internal training system’s video catalogue. OTT refers to broadcast content that is streamed over the internet instead of traditional cable. This could include any time you purchase access to ESPN through Amazon or another streaming service, allowing you to watch content as it is aired without adding ESPN to your cable package. Services like Netflix and Hulu sit at the crossroads of these two terms – meaning they are both VOD and OTT – because the content comes from a cable alternative and is streamed over the internet but allows all content to be viewed at will. 


Benefits of SVOD to Your Business

Maybe you don’t yet have a VOD solution, but you keep hearing about how video is benefitting businesses across a wide range of industries, and you’re curious what it could do for you. Certainly, live streaming and social media videos can help you boost your brand awareness and engage customers. However, your business and bottom line might benefit from an all-out monetized VOD platform. 

  • Customer service – Wrap a subscription to valuable training and educational content into your customer service offerings.
  • Thought leadership – Don’t just sell your products, sell your ideas and expertise as a company. Provide high value content that people who might want to buy your product will want to see.
  • Live to VOD – Record webinars, roundtables, and other valuable content as it goes live. Make it available on-demand for a nominal subscription.

Benefits of SVOD over Other Models

Don’t need to be sold on VOD for your business? Great. However, you might still be wondering why you should choose SVOD over other options. The truth is, all VOD monetization models have their strengths and the likely best option is a hybrid one that adapts to your use case and customer needs. But SVOD does have some advantage over the competition. 

  • Easy to renew (easy to forget) – Let’s be honest, one major benefit of autorenewals, especially those on an annual basis, is that users frequently forget or don’t care enough to stop them. 
  • Single decision moment – When you ask viewers to pay a la carte for their content, you are giving them numerous opportunities to question whether they want to spend the money. On the other hand, a single annual fee only requires them to make that decision once. 
  • Happy customers – Who doesn’t want an add free and disappointment free experience. A straight-forward SVOD model will not ask viewers to watch ads, nor will it surprise viewers with content that is specifically gated with additional fees. They pay one price and get unlimited access. 

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How SVOD Works 

From the perspective of the viewer, SVOD is extremely straight-forward. They pay a monthly or yearly subscription (typically autorenewing) for unlimited access to a library of media. From the perspective of the provider, SVOD is a bit more complicated. Let’s start with an overview of how VOD works in general. 

VOD Workflow: Preparing the Video 

  1. Capture video.
  2. Select video files. To ensure videos can be properly processed, your video files must utilize specific codecs and wrappers, such as MP4, H.264, or ACC. 
  3. Upload files to streaming platform / media server.
  4. Optimize files for online streaming. The media server transcodes the video files to meet packaging requirements necessary for delivery using protocols like HLS and DASH. This process may also involve creating multiple file versions at varying resolutions for adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR)
  5. Protect files from pirating. The media server also protects the files using Digital Rights Management (DRM) to prevent unauthorized access to the videos.
  6. Label and organize video files. content management system (CMS) lets you add metadata, titles, descriptions, and more. This is where you can ensure your video files are easy to find. 

VOD Workflow: Delivering the Video 

  1. Player requests user authentication to access videos.
  2. User browses your platform and selects a video.
  3. Local video content delivery network (CDN) edge server is pinged to see if the video files are cached locally. If so, files are delivered to the viewer’s device. 
  4. If the files aren’t saved to the edge server, the media server sends them along the CDN to the nearest edge server and caches them locally for future video requests in addition to sending the video along to the viewer in question. 

Put the S in your VOD service:

Now imagine all of the above but before users can get authentication credentials, they have to sign up and pay an initial subscription fee. Later, you decide to adopt a more hybrid model and gatekeep specific videos for an additional fee. Once your VOD platform is up and running, it’s easy to build and adapt how you monetize it.

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What to Look for in an SVOD Platform 

If the above steps have your head spinning, don’t worry. There are numerous VOD platforms on the market that want to help you build your SVOD streaming service. A good VOD platform will handle the ingest through delivery, including security, while all you need to worry about is your content. 

  • CMS – Choose a platform whose content management system is easy to use for both you and your audience.
  • CDN – Choose a platform with access to an expansive CDN and a reliable SLA uptime. 
  • DRM – A good platform will offer a wide range of security options, such as watermarking, IP blocking, token authentication, and more.
  • Transcoding and Protocol Support – Not every platform and associated player supports every protocol. Find a VOD platform that works with the protocols that best serve your audience. A VOD platform that works with a wide range of protocols and has a media server that can handle high volume transcoding is primed for ABR.
  • Analytics – Find a platform that offers comprehensive end-to-end analytics, including viewership data, video performance data, and player data. 
  • Player – The online video player is central to the viewer’s experience. Make sure the player used by your chosen VOD platform is high-quality, reliable, and easy to use.
  • General Support – A good VOD platform is one you can trust to not only work but also work with you to help you better learn and adapt their tools.

Of course, the best VOD platform is one that will let you try it out, testing CMS, CDN, analytics, player, and more FOR FREE. Consider a free trial with Wowza and learn how easy it is to build or improve your SVOD service.


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About Sydney Roy (Whalen)

Sydney works for Wowza as a content writer and Marketing Communications Specialist, leveraging roughly a decade of experience in copywriting, technical writing, and content development. When observed in the wild, she can be found gaming, reading, hiking, parenting, overspending at the Renaissance Festival, and leaving coffee cups around the house.