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CTV Myth Busting: Yes, It’s Confusing, But CTV and OTT Are Different

by Krista Thomas, September 23, 2020
knowing the difference between ctv and ott

Key Takeaways:

  • CTV and OTT are basically the same thing: False.
  • CTV and OTT can help you reach hard-to-find audiences watching premium TV. True.
  • Only half of premium OTT and CTV is available programmatically. True.

Today’s savvy marketers know they must intelligently plan, buy, and allocate advertising that leverages both the mass reach and scale of traditional linear TV and the real-time and on-demand targeting and measurement strengths of over-the-top (OTT) digital content, as delivered on devices such as “smart TVs” or connected TVs (CTV).

But CTV and OTT are not interchangeable terms, and knowing the distinct roles they each play in the convergence of linear TV and digital media will help you more effectively activate OTT and CTV inventory across your entire media portfolio.

CTV and OTT are basically the same thing: False

In combination, they provide a seamless, TV-like experience, but OTT is in fact a content delivery format and consumer service, and CTV refers to the hardware or “smart TV” set we have in our homes, or the act of consuming video on the big screen. 

Put another way, OTT is the process of streaming professionally produced television content to any device connected to an internet service in real-time or on-demand. In contrast, CTV is broadly defined as a device, typically the big screen in the living room or bedroom, regardless of what content is playing. Even the IAB has recommended that the phrase CTV only refer to actual television sets with internet connectivity. 

As our friend and colleague Kevin Maloy says: Me watching cat videos on my TV is CTV, not OTT. Me watching Sports Center on my phone is OTT but not CTV. Me watching ‘60 minutes’ on my smart TV is both.”

The benefits of buying cross-screen audiences far outweigh the complexity 

The OTT content market is fragmented and comprises both ad-free subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) and ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD). 

SVOD enables unlimited OTT consumption at a flat monthly rate, whereas AVOD is free in exchange for consumers’ willingness to watch advertising, much like a traditional linear TV experience before cable. AVOD ad delivery is brand safe and 100% viewable, and ad completion rates hover around 98%. 

The landscape is also characterized by a growing number of aggregators that seek to bundle compelling content on behalf of consumers, such as Hulu, PlutoTV, Tubi, Xumo, and more. As a result, marketers have much to consider when it comes to finding their audiences at scale and allocating budget across the entire range of linear TV and OTT inventory sources.

CTV and OTT can help you reach hard-to-find audiences watching premium TV

Second only to linear TV—a $70 billion market in the U.S.—advertising in premium OTT content via CTVs is a rapidly growing $8 billion slice of the overall advertiser pie. And it attracts desirable and highly engaged audiences enjoying brand-safe TV content, as opposed to user-generated content.

As demand for OTT content continues to increase, and with people spending more time at home watching TV and other devices, today’s advertisers have an ever-growing ability to reach their audiences. And because OTT content is consumed on internet-enabled devices, advertisers have access to a variety of ad formats, data-driven targeting tactics, and near real-time optimization and measurement capabilities. These features of OTT and the CTV experience enable brands to better understand and engage effectively with their target audience.

Only half of premium OTT and CTV is available programmatically

Virtually all linear TV, and the most premium OTT content, is available only through upfront and Newfront reservation-based buys. Infact, 48% of this inventory will be sold directly by the media companies and other bits will be distributed through the aforementioned aggregators. 

These buys represent an advertiser’s most premium investments and need to be planned in advance and allocated quarterly with care. Fortunately, there are new tools and technologies that make this possible and plenty of resources to help you get started.

The other half of OTT inventory on CTV devices is more flexible as it is made available “as needed” to be purchased programmatically through the open auction, PMP, or programmatic guaranteed deals, which can be ideal for meeting specific campaign objectives. Today’s most sophisticated media planning and allocation solutions will let you work across both of these inventory siloes—digital direct and programmatic—holistically.

Smart planning across all screens and platforms can unify your portfolio  

As bigger budgets shift to OTT/CTV—and with the holidays and political season upon us—marketers need a converged campaign strategy that enables them to take their upfront and Newfront commitments into consideration and then allocate accordingly to optimize reach and frequency against their strategic audience target. 

Planning, activating, and measuring CTV and OTT campaigns across multiple transaction types, devices, and platforms—especially when combined with linear TV investments—requires a proven means to eliminate gaps, minimize overlaps, and deliver efficient and cost-effective cross-screen reach. Achieving this balance is Amobee’s vision and the promise of convergence in linear TV and digital media.

Make the promise of convergence real with a full suite of solutions

Amobee is all inclusive when it comes to planning, activating, and measuring advertising on TV screens, whether it’s OTT streaming content, legacy broadcast, cable, or satellite delivery systems. Amobee’s complete suite of convergence solutions unifies all linear TV, CTV, OTT, and programmatic, including social investments, across a marketer’s entire portfolio. Contact us today at

You can also test your knowledge of the CTV marketplace with our Amobee Myth Busting Quiz on Adweek

P.S. It’s worth noting that, as digital consumption of TV content becomes mainstream, some of this nuance has been lost and the OTT category of inventory is now generally referred to as “CTV.” This and more rapidly evolving trends will be covered in an upcoming blog post authored by the aforementioned Kevin Maloy.

Krista Thomas from Amobee


About Amobee

Founded in 2005, Amobee is an advertising platform that understands how people consume content. Our goal is to optimize outcomes for advertisers and media companies, while providing a better consumer experience. Through our platform, we help customers further their audience development, optimize their cross channel performance across all TV, connected TV, and digital media, and drive new customer growth through detailed analytics and reporting. Amobee is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tremor International, a collection of brands built to unite creativity, data and technology across the open internet.

If you’re curious to learn more, watch the on-demand demo or take a deep dive into our Research & Insights section where you can find recent webinars on-demand, media plan insights & activation templates, and more data-driven content. If you’re ready to take the next step into a sustainable, consumer-first advertising future, contact us today.

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