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CTV vs. Linear TV: Why Both Should Be in Your Cross-Channel Playbook

Video is everywhere and it’s easy to see why. Combining sight, sound and motion creates compelling consumer experiences that have built brands, sold products and helped elect presidents for eight decades and counting. Of course, since the very first TV commercial (for Bulova watches) aired on July 1, 1941, the medium has evolved with the rise of premium cable, the creation of DVRs and time-shifting, the spread of social networks, the advent of subscription-based streaming and, most recently, the changes in consumer behavior caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But through all this, what hasn’t changed is the fact that TV advertising is still the most viable, effective and cost-efficient means for brands to tell their story, demonstrate their value and elicit a response from their target audience at massive national scale.

Yet many marketers still feel that TV is not appropriate for them, or is just not part of their toolkit. They may think it’s too expensive, not measurable enough, too difficult to execute successfully or completely unnecessary in light of the digital channels available now. At the same time, established TV advertisers with experience on linear TV question whether they should move their budgets away from linear (such as traditional broadcast and cable) to the growing world of connected TV (CTV).

CTV vs. Linear TV: A Quick Primer

Exploring a new approach usually comes with excitement and anxiety about the unknown, so let’s demystify some terminology right away. Most importantly, advertisers want to know: What’s the difference between linear TV and connected TV? And what does OTT have to do with it?

Let’s start with linear TV. Linear TV refers to traditional television viewing that is accessed through a cable company or satellite service. To watch a show on linear TV, the viewer must select a specific channel at a specific time that the service provider has “lined up” with programming. In other words, this primarily refers to broadcast and cable television, or what some folks might call “traditional” TV.

OTT is short for Over-the-Top delivery of video content via the internet that does not require the user to subscribe to a cable company or satellite service. Connected TV or CTV refers to the apps and devices that stream the content. This means that OTT is the method for delivering video content, and CTV is the device on which a viewer sees that content.

(Confusingly, many linear TV networks also have streaming apps and other products, which can be accessed through CTV platforms such as Roku, Amazon Prime, etc., but usually require a cable-subscription login. These streaming apps are still classified as “linear” from a Nielsen measurement perspective, even though the front-facing consumer experience is not dissimilar to true CTV streaming services.)

In the past, it has been difficult for marketers to target audiences, find new customers and measure performance by launching advertising campaigns on linear TV. Many advertisers have just accepted that TV is great for awareness but not conversion and have subsequently turned to purely digital channels to grow their audiences.

But fortunately, Simulmedia has brought digital advertising techniques to television. By gathering anonymous viewership data from millions of set-top boxes and combining it with our proprietary algorithms, we can optimize campaigns across both linear and CTV and determine how to most efficiently and effectively allocate budgets across channels to reach untapped audiences.

Marketers who never imagined they could get the reach and performance they see on their social media campaigns can now realize the full potential of data-driven TV/video by engaging high-intent audiences (i.e., those most likely to convert) across platforms. Our cross-channel linear and CTV solution gives these advertisers massive scale, guaranteed impressions against high-intent audiences, digital measurement, tracking and complete transparency.

CTV affords the promise of a rapidly expanding audience, cumulative cross-channel impressions, digital measurement and tracking and access to younger demographics who are harder to reach on other platforms.

So, whether you’re a direct-to-consumer brand accustomed to digital or a traditional TV marketer confused about streaming, there’s no better time to learn how to get started, navigate and scale across today’s multichannel, multiplatform and multiplying TV ecosystem.

Download our Cross-Channel TV Playbook for a more detailed guide on how to unlock audiences on both linear and connected TV.

Want to learn more? Contact us or email us at advertise@simulmedia.com.