Digital distribution is the delivery (through downloading) of any digital content, including audio, e-books, games, PDFs, pictures, software, and video. Digital distribution is handled through a digital distribution platform designed to stream the digital content or allow the content to be downloaded in full. For example, a platform like Steam allows a user to purchase and download a game to their computer. Netflix is another example of a digital distribution platform that charges a monthly fee for users to stream TV shows and movies.
Digital distribution may also be referred to as content delivery, ESD (electronic software distribution), and online distribution.
Examples of digital distribution platforms
Digital distribution platforms are designed to help manage digital goods and distribute those goods to users. Although some services may offer limited free options, because of content bandwidth distribution costs, all charge for most or all their services. Below we've broken up the different digital distribution platforms into categories of content they serve.
As more people move to broadband around the world, video has become the most popular and used digital distribution platform. Below is a list in alphabetical order of digital distribution platforms for watching TV and movies on your computer or Internet-connected device.
Most of these services only allow you to stream the digital content and not download them to your device. Also, not all of the following digital distribution platforms are available globally.
- Amazon Prime Video - Service from Amazon that offers thousands of movies and TV shows, including original content.
- Hulu - Current and past shows from ABC, Fox, and NBC, including its own original programming.
- Netflix - Thousands of movies and TV shows, including original content.
- Vudu - Store a library of movies and television series.
- YouTube - Most people are familiar with the videos they can watch for free on YouTube. However, it is also a digital distribution platform for movies and shows.
- The Criterion Channel - Stream classic and award-winning cinema from the Criterion Collection.
- Kanopy - Stream from a collection of classic movies, educational programs, and television shows. Kanopy is affiliated with local public libraries, and membership based on your library card. Check with your library to find out if they are part of the Kanopy library network.
Many modern computers no longer feature optical disc drives, which previously were the primary way to install software on a computer. Digital distribution platforms are now the most popular way of getting computer games onto a computer.
Below is a list of the digital distribution platforms for computer games in order of popularity. Once the digital distribution platform software is downloaded and installed, you'll be able to purchase, download, and play the games available on that platform.
- Steam - Steam is the largest and most well-known provider of computer games from thousands of different publishers.
- Epic Games Launcher - Games made by Epic, like Fortnite, Borderlands, and The Outer Worlds.
- Battle.net - Games made by Blizzard, like World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo 3, and Hearthstone.
- Origin - Games made by Electronic Arts, like Anthem, Battlefield, and The Sims.
- Rockstar Games Launcher - Games made by Rockstar, like GTA (Grand Theft Auto), Red Dead Redemption, and Max Payne.
- Ubisoft Connect - Games made by Ubisoft, like Rainbow Six, Assassin's Creed, and Farcry.
- Bethesda Launcher - Games made by Bethesda, like Doom, Elder Scrolls, and Fallout.
Listening to music and other audio is another popular service digital distribution platforms can offer. Below are examples of audio services.
- Spotify - One of the most popular music streaming services, with over 100 million active users. The free version of Spotify includes audio advertisements, or Spotify Premium offers ad-free listening for a monthly fee. Spotify mobile lets you stream music over Wi-Fi or wireless data carrier. Spotify Premium users can download songs, albums, playlists, and podcasts for offline listening.
- Amazon Prime Music - Service from Amazon with thousands of songs and the ability to skip, replay, and choose what songs you want. Songs and albums can be streamed or downloaded as MP3 files.
- Pandora - Music and podcast discovery service with free options and a large library of music artists. The user can create "radio stations" based on an artist or song, and Pandora's algorithm chooses the songs and artists to play next. The free version of Pandora has advertisements, and the paid version does not.
- YouTube Music - Thousands of music videos on YouTube can be viewed and listened to ad-free, for a subscription price.