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VOD? OTT? DTC? What Do The Alphabet Soup Of Streaming Acronyms Really Mean — In English?

While writing about streaming companies and systems, we use terms and acronyms on a daily basis that many of us almost take for granted.

And while it is easy to rattle them off, sometimes it is hard to remember that there are folks who are new to the landscape all the time. Many of those folks are not familiar with the terms — especially the acronyms — that we rattle off without thinking about it.

Hopefully this can help level the playing field a little bit with an explanation of some of those terms.

VOD - Video On Demand

Very simply, it allows viewers to request video content at will. YouTube is an excellent example of a basic video on-demand system.

AVOD - Advertiser Video On Demand

The concept works in much the same way: the viewer requests the video content they want to see, but the provider includes an ad along with the content, usually in the form of commercials inserted in the content. Services like Redbox and Tubi both provide video on demand using this model.

SVOD - Subscription Video On Demand

A subscription-based service that allows viewers to have access to a library of VOD content, or access to live video content, delivered over the internet. The viewers pay a periodic subscription for access, which is usually monthly, though discounts may be given for longer terms - sometimes quarterly, or annually. Discovery+, Disney+, and HBO Max are all examples of major SVOD services.

OTT - Over-The-Top

A service that streams its linear content on the internet in an unmanaged form as opposed to more traditional managed form (like you would find on a cable or satellite system). OTT services place more control in the hands of viewers as opposed to system operators. OTT content can be delivered through several methods:

  • Mobile devices - Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google TV or Chromecast, Apple TV, and other devices can attach to a television and provide content to consumers from OTT services.
  • Smart TVs - Smart TVs have become increasingly popular in recent years, as manufacturers are finding demand increasing for including the same technology from the mobile devices within the TV sets directly.
  • Personal Computers and Mobile Devices - Many of the OTT service providers make their content available over the internet so that anyone with a personal computer may watch the content from their destop, laptop, or mobile device.

Major OTT service providers include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

vMVPD - Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributor

A single collector of a set of channels, not unlike a traditional cable or satellitle system, but distributed without the overhead of a singular set-top box or consolidated system. vMVPD systems may provide free or paid distribution for their services. Sling TV, AT&T TV, and fuboTV are examples of vMVPD systems.

UGC - User-Generated Content

This would encompass content created by individuals or small groups on video or audio platforms. Many podcasts and the majority of YouTube content fall into this category.

TVE - Television Everywhere

This allows consumers to access content on-demand through the internet, provided they also subscribe to the linear version of the service. Live streaming services tied to cable television outlets like CNNgo and The Weather Channel’s digital app are examples of this type of service. They are increasingly being supplanted and bypassed by OTT services like Paramount+ and discovery+.

DTC or D2C - Direct to Consumer

This refers to the distribution of satellite television and radio to homes and businesses. In the United States, Dish and DirecTV provide DTH satellite television, while SiriusXM is how most listeners receive satellite radio.

Linear TV

Traditional broadcast television, where signals are sent over the airwaves from a broadcast tower in individual television markets. This also refers to broadcast, cable, satellite, or internet-based television programming being delivered according to a previously set schedule on a particular signal or line. Local broadcast affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox & PBS, and their traditional broadcasts over the air, all fall into this category.

FAST - Free, Ad-Supported Streaming TV

This is a service that mimics the experience of cable television with a “lean-back” linear television experience, a programming grid, and is supported by advertising. Some examples of FAST services include Pluto TV, Tubi, the Roku Channel, and Xumo.

OTA - Over-The-Air

Over-the-air broadcasts are what can literally be called old-fashioned, terrestrial television and radio. The broadcasts are sent through airwaves from a local tower and received by individuals by way of an antenna attached to their radio or television at home or elsewhere

VPN - Virtual Private Network

A virtual private network runs across a public network and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their devices were directly connected privately.

ISP - Internet Service Provider

An internet service provider is a company or entity that provides an individual or group access to the internet, usually for a subscription fee.

Mike is the General Manager of The Streamable and has been running recommendation websites since 2009. He cut the cord in 2014 and is a Utes football fan despite living in SEC territory. He currently streams on a TCL 4K 65" and his favorites to watch include "Inception," "Big Fish," "Back to the Future," and "New Girl."


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