Decoding the Streaming Alphabet Soup: Let’s Unravel the Acronyms.

Since the disruption of cable TV, the streaming space continues to get more and more confusing with new channels and formats popping up constantly. Less than a year ago, we were discussing the new opportunities for advertising in CTV and OTT. Fast forward to now and there has been an explosion of new entrants and even more niche channels for advertisers to be more targeted with their spend.

This is great news, as it has created new opportunities to more directly and cost-effectively reach target audiences. Especially with more ad-based services and channels entering the market like Netflix’s lower-tier ad service and free services like PlutoTV gaining popularity. But this also poses difficulty for advertisers trying to wade through the clutter to find the best ways to reach their target audiences. This article will explain the various streaming categories and confusing acronyms so that marketers can better understand how to navigate this landscape for advertising.

What Are CTV, OTT, VOD, Linear TV, and FAST in Marketing-Speak?

CTV, OTT, VOD, and Linear TV are all types of television, but they differ in how they are delivered and consumed. Here’s a breakdown of each:

What Is CTV?

CTV stands for Connected TV, which refers to televisions that are connected to the internet and allow users to stream content directly from the internet.

Examples of CTV providers include:

  • Smart TVs with built-in streaming capabilities, such as Samsung, LG, and Vizio.
  • Streaming devices such as Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast.
  • Gaming consoles such as Xbox One and PlayStation 4, which also have built-in streaming capabilities.

What Is OTT?

OTT stands for Over The Top, which refers to the delivery of television content via the internet, without the need for a traditional cable or satellite subscription.

Examples of OTT providers include:

  • Streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and HBO Max.
  • Live TV streaming services such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV, and AT&T TV Now.

What Is VOD and AVOD?

VOD stands for Video On Demand, which refers to a service that allows users to select and watch video content at their own convenience, rather than at a scheduled broadcast time. AVOD is Video On Demand with Advertising and is typically a free service due to the commercial ads that play throughout the primary content. VOD providers are the companies that offer video content in the on-demand format. VOD providers can be standalone platforms, or it can be a feature offered by other types of providers like streaming services, cable, and satellite providers.

Examples of VOD/AVOD providers include:

  • Streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and HBO Max.
  • Live TV streaming services such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV, and AT&T TV Now.
  • Social media platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Facebook Watch, and Twitch.
  • Cable and satellite providers such as Comcast and DirecTV, which offer on-demand content as part of their packages.
  • Online rental and purchase platforms such as iTunes, Google Play, and Vudu.

What Is Linear TV?

Linear TV refers to traditional television, in which programming is broadcast at a scheduled time and must be watched live or recorded for later viewing. Linear TV providers are the companies that offer television content that is scheduled to be broadcasted at a specific time. They provide a programming schedule that viewers must tune in to watch live, or record for later viewing. Linear TV providers typically require a subscription to access their content, and they may also offer on-demand content as part of their packages.

Examples of Linear TV providers include:

  • Traditional cable and satellite providers such as Comcast, DirecTV, and Dish Network
  • Broadcast television networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox
  • Public television stations such as PBS
  • Specialty networks such as ESPN, HBO, and AMC
  • International networks such as BBC and CCTV

What Are FAST Channels?

FAST (Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV) Channels are a feature that allows users to watch live TV channels on streaming platforms. They use automation technology to scan and index live TV channels, making them available to be streamed on-demand. This allows users to watch live TV channels, just like they would on traditional cable or satellite TV, but through streaming platforms.

FAST channels are different from traditional Linear TV channels as they are not scheduled and are available to watch anytime, anywhere, and also don’t require a cable or satellite subscription. They can be accessed through streaming devices or smart TVs that support the technology.

Examples of streaming platforms that offer FAST channels:

  • Pluto TV, Sling TV, YouTube TV, and Philo are just a few platforms that offer a combination of live and on-demand content, which makes them more flexible and convenient for users.

Still confused? In short, CTV and OTT are the way of watching, VOD is the way of consuming and Linear TV is the way of scheduling. FAST channels are the combination of Linear TV and VOD to provide users with VOD content in a Linear TV format.

How Does Advertising Work on These Streaming Platforms and Channels?

Advertising on CTV, OTT, VOD, Linear TV, and FAST channels is done in different ways, depending on the platform and the type of content being viewed. CTV and Linear TV are more traditional, offering 30-second spots. The opportunities for targeting are limited to geographies and some demographics based on the content. In comparison, OTT, VOD, and FAST channels have more advertising options and increased targeting capabilities. They provide more detailed information on their viewing audiences and allow in-content placements. Additionally, ads can be placed in specific channels or within specific content to target specific audiences.

In general, advertising on streaming platforms allows for more targeting, measurement, and flexibility than traditional linear TV advertising. Advertisers can better understand the audience, and deliver more relevant and engaging ads. Because of this, advertisers are moving their marketing dollars away from traditional linear TV avenues and instead looking to the advanced targeting potential of streaming TV. 

With effective targeting and better measurement, this trend will certainly continue. Modern marketers will be experimenting and shifting ad spend in this direction and will continue to adapt to the opportunities that arise as streaming TV platforms evolve.

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