Europe's position in the VoD market is characterised by a distinctive set of issues that differentiate it from much of the rest of the world.
One is the role of the telecoms companies, such as British Telecom, France Telecom, Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom. These were often the state monopolies that once ran the continent's telephone exchanges but which, after privatisation, have been looking at entertainment as a long-term replacement for their diminishing calls business.
They generally have an advantage over rival providers in having taken a leading role in the development of broadband and they want to use the cables they installed to carry fully fledged entertainment services.
The nirvana for the telecoms companies is called 'triple play' - calls, VoD and Iptv delivered through a hub in people's homes. As the services featured in this section show, there have been positive moves but the potential for a decisive early lead has gone and they are now having to compete for access to mobile customers and living rooms with a large number of rivals, including television, games and technology businesses. The European Audiovisual Observatory identified 140 would-be European VoD providers in 2007.
Europe also suffers from being highly fragmented. While the European Commission believes digital distribution to homes will be responsible for 7% of all movie revenue in Europe, the potential for growth is stunted by a highly fragmented market.
The continent is a patchwork of national licensing and digital rights laws and regulations. Apple will be required, for example, to secure individual copyright licences in each of the 27 European Union member states.
The European Commission has come up with directives to try to lead towards a truly open market but it has a long way to go. The European Court of Justice demonstrated the problem earlier this month in ruling against a Europe-wide demand for internet service providers to reveal details of individuals engaged in piracy.
In short, Europe seems likely to have to develop on a country-by-country basis which will be both limiting for growth and extremely difficult to enforce.
Owned by: Telco
Operates in: Italy, France and Germany under the broadband 'Alice' brand.
How it works: Subscription service, broadband connection. A monthly subscription of $30 (EUR20) per month with upgrade options through viewers' Alice Home TV offering in high definition and, where accessible, in terrestrial digital. One feature of this package is access to films six months after their theatrical runs, as well as cult pictures.
Key deals: Paramount, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Company, Sony Pictures, Lucky Red, Bim, Media Film and Sky Italia.
Original approach: Telecom also owns LA 7, a private broadcaster, which provides a small amount of (non-film) original content.
Number of subscribers: 80,000
Owned by: Canal Plus
Operates in: France
How it works: Delivers VoD to viewers with a broadband digital TV package or a broadband internet package.
Key deals: Fox, DreamWorks, Sony Pictures and Spyglass. Also works with StudioCanal, Gaumont, Pathe, EuropaCorp, SND, France Television Distribution, TF1 International and Wild Side Video
Owned by: TF1
Operates in: France
How it works: Delivers VoD to viewers with a broadband digital TV package or a broadband internet package; also works with Archos portable media players.
Key deals: NBC Universal, Pathe, Disney-ABC Int'l Television, and with French producers including Pyramide and Ocean. It also offers films from Europa Corp.