Guide to video on demand

Published: 1 August 2023

Ofcom regulates editorial content (programming) on UK 'video-on-demand' services. Previously our co-regulator, the Authority for Television on Demand (ATVOD), led on this.

Video-on-demand services include TV catch-up and online film services. The platform on which these on-demand services are delivered does not matter, so services on connected TVs, apps on mobile phones and programmes you view through set-top boxes may all be regulated.

The way Ofcom regulates BBC iPlayer is different to other video-on-demand services. Complain about something you have seen on BBC iPlayer

We have made available a list of the video on demand programme services (PDF, 263.5 KB) that we regulate. Ofcom does not regulate radio on demand services.

What rules do on demand programme services have to follow?

Regulated on demand programme services must ensure that:

Protecting the under-18s

  • "specially restricted material" (which has been or would be classified in the R18 category by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), or material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of under-18s, is made available in a way which secures that under-18s will not normally see or hear it;
  • "prohibited material" (which would be refused a classification by the BBFC) does not appear;

Incitement to hatred

  • they do not contain any material likely to incite hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality; and

Commercial references in programmes

  • they comply with rules about product placement and sponsorship.

If you have a complaint about editorial content (i.e. programming) on a regulated video-on-demand programme service, please contact the on-demand service provider. We have made available a list of these and how to contact them (PDF, 263.5 KB). If you are dissatisfied with the response you receive, or if you can't find the video-on-demand service provider on the list, you can complain to Ofcom using our on demand programme service complaint form.

There are also rules about what advertising you can see when you view a video-on-demand programme. This kind of advertising:

  • must be readily recognisable, and cannot contain any surreptitious advertising or use subliminal advertising techniques;
  • must not encourage behaviour that risks the health or safety of people; and
  • must not advertise tobacco products, prescription-only medicines or medical treatments.

If you have a complaint about an advert on a regulated video-on-demand service, please complain to the Advertising Standards Authority using its online complaints form or by calling 020 7492 2222.

As well as rules about the programmes and advertising that service providers show, there are rules (PDF, 209.2 KB) about how the service providers should operate.

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