Understanding CTV OTT: What's the Difference?

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Understanding CTV OTT: What's the Difference?


Also commonly referred to as OTT for short, Over the Top is a content delivery mechanism that sees shows, movies and similar types of programs delivered over the Internet, directly to users. Essentially, it is an alternative to the traditional cable television approach of paying significant sums of money each month for a subscription to packages that may include channels the user doesn’t actively watch or enjoy. Instead, they get to pay only for those services that they like. Hulu and HBO Max are just a couple of the most prominent examples.

CTV is an acronym short for “Connected TV,” and it describes any type of television set that can stream digital video. This includes not only smart TV sets that have built-in app stores but also boxes that can be connected directly to the set like the AppleTV, Roku and even certain types of video game consoles. CTV OTT are directly related in that way, although the CTV definition is understandably a bit different. What is CTV experience will vary depending on how users are accessing that content. For example, the way the HBO Max app functions on an AppleTV may offer a slightly different experience than the HBO Max app on a desktop or mobile phone.

When it comes to Connected TV vs OTT, they are almost two different sides of the same coin – but they’re not the same thing and shouldn’t be treated as such. Many people – especially advertisers – make the mistake of using these terms interchangeably. Instead, think of it like most OTT content is viewed on a Connected TV – they’re extensions of the same idea but are talking about two entirely different parts of a similar experience.

Both OTT and CTV advertising offer advantages that would have been unthinkable even as recently as a decade ago. Chief among them involves the superior level of targeting that is available. Streaming services know exactly who their users are, what they’re watching and for how long. The CTV devices know which platforms are being interacted with the most. By drawing from first-party data, advertisers can get better and more relevant ads in front of the people who were most likely to become their ideal customers in the first place.

What is OTT?

To truly get an idea of how big of an impact OTT has made, it’s important to compare it to an experience we’re all familiar with–linear TV.

With traditional television, the consumers themselves are always at a serious disadvantage. If there is a program that they want to watch, they need to be home at a specific time to avoid missing it. They could always record it to watch it later, but they also have to remember to do that and if they don’t, they’re out of luck.

That is just one major advantage of OTT vs linear TV – with the former, all content is delivered up in an on-demand fashion in a way that lets users watch what they want when they want with absolutely no exceptions. The advantages of OTT vs TV are a big part of what has spawned the “cord cutter” revolution of the last decade – people are tired of bowing to the whims of major corporations and instead want to take their entertainment into their own hands.

What is OTT Advertising?

Partnering with an OTT advertising agency is another move that will bring with it a host of unique advantages. These include but are certainly not limited to ones like:

  • Superior brand safety. By leveraging first-party data, marketers can control exactly who is seeing their messaging and when. They don’t have to worry about an ad running alongside a piece of content that may be objectionable to their audience.
  • 100% viewability. OTT ads run before and during a piece of content and are typically not shippable like they would be on a site like YouTube.

The above gives way to what may be the most important benefit of all–near perfect ad completion. Because someone needs to watch the ad before they get to whatever movie or television show that they’re interested in, you can virtually guarantee that they’ll sit back and experience the entire video.

OTT Platforms

All told, there are a plethora of OTT networks and companies these days with more cropping up on a seemingly daily basis. Just a few of the most popular include:

What is CTV

The next question marketers are likely to ask themselves is “what is Connected TV and how is it different from OTT?” When thinking about what is CTV, it’s important to remember that most OTT content is delivered on CTV devices. Most, but not all. CTV examples include any smart television set with an app store built into it, along with the aforementioned streaming devices and game consoles. OTT content can also run over the Internet, allowing advertisers to reach people who may not even have a television set in their homes at all.

In terms of the concept of Connected TV vs smart TV, the chances are high that they may be the same. So long as a smart TV has its own app store where streaming services can be downloaded and subscribed to, that would qualify as an OTT device.

In terms of Connected TV vs linear TV, this concept brings with it a lot of the same benefits as outlined above via OTT. Users can watch what they want when they want and they don’t have to worry about programming schedules. Content is delivered in an on-demand fashion that guarantees they can see their favorite programming on their own terms. CTV vs linear TV is another major reason why so many people have been leaving the cable companies behind.

Linear TV vs Connected TV, in truth, isn’t much of a battle at all. Users have been embracing these CTV partners in droves for years, and it’s a trend that shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. Connected TV advertising companies are certainly reaping the benefits.

CTV examples include but are not limited to ones like:

  • Smart TVs
  • Amazon Fire Stick
  • Roku
  • AppleTV
  • Gaming consoles, such as a Sony PlayStation or Microsoft Xbox would also be examples of Connected TV providers.

Connected TV companies focus on how content is delivered to users, while OTT providers focus on the content itself. CTV advertising companies can take advantage of both concepts at the same time.

What is CTV Advertising

As a result, the CTV landscape offers several distinct advantages, especially regarding advertising. The CTV advertising definition by nature puts marketers closer than ever to the consumers they are trying to reach. Advantages may include:

  • Superior targeting capabilities. If you know who someone is, what they’re watching, what they like and what they dislike, you can get better and more relevant content in front of them in a far easier way.
  • Measurable results. Another great Connected TV advertising example is the fact that you know exactly how much of an ad someone watched, allowing you to see which of your efforts are working and which ones aren’t. This is a perfect opportunity to optimize your CTV media buying budget.
  • A growing audience. As stated, there are hundreds of millions of Connected TV users around the world – a number that is only getting bigger as time goes on.

What is OTT/CTV Advertising

The OTT/CTV definition indicates a clear move away from “traditional” media consumption, and the way ad buying was handled in general. When it comes to linear TV vs streaming, the former offers nothing but restrictions and the latter offers both users and markets a new level of freedom and control. What is non linear TV? It’s a way to connect with audiences in a better and more meaningful way than ever.

These campaigns also bring with them significant reporting opportunities that are not possible in a linear TV landscape. Just a few of the metrics that can be reported on include:

  • eCPM
  • Cost Per Visit
  • Cost Per Acquisition
  • Return on Ad Spend
  • Video Completion Rate
  • Impressions by Network
  • Impressions by Daypart
  • Impressions by Device
  • Impressions by Day of Week
  • Impressions by Date
  • Site Visits

CTV, OTT Landscape

In the end, CTV advertising examples do share a lot in common with OTT – but they’re not the same thing and shouldn’t be looked at in quite the same way. Remember that OTT refers to sites like HBO Max and Hulu, while the Connected TV examples are filled with set-top boxes like the Roku and AppleTV.

CTV advertising rates are also excellent, especially given the data-driven targeting and engaged audiences available by CTV providers. According to a study conducted by eMarketer, people in the United States spent more than an hour per day with this type of subscription content in 2020 – up an impressive 23% over just a year prior.

With all being told, the future of the CTV OTT landscape is a bright one which is why this is all one opportunity that most can’t afford to overlook.

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