What is Linear TV Advertising, and What Are the Takeaways for CTV Ads?

It’s easy to see how far television has progressed since the old black-and-white units. But what about advertising? Hasn’t it evolved along with TV sets? The first TV commercial spot aired on July 1, 1941. It cost Bulova just $9 for a 9-second ad. At that time, no one had any idea of today’s subscription-based streaming, DVRs, and premium cable services. Even though television has changed over the decades, TV advertising is still the most cost-effective, efficient, and viable means for brands to reach their target audiences. However, many marketers are still reluctant to use linear TV advertising, while well-established TV advertisers question if they should shift their budgets away from linear TV ads toward the world of connected TV (CTV). But the shift just makes sense if you want to reach those who are watching.


What Linear Means in TV

Linear in the TV world is the term used for traditional television. It is watched via cable, satellite, or an old-school antenna “over the air.” When the term Linear TV is used, it is referring to the way television content is being consumed. Viewer options are limited based on what the service provider determined to schedule for any given time slot. To be able to watch a favorite show, the viewer must tune in to the specific channel at the time the program is scheduled to air. Traditionally, free ad-supported TV, or FAST, was the only option.

What is Linear TV Advertising?

Linear TV advertising is displaying ads using a schedule. The ads are displayed on cable TV and Satellite channels during scheduled programs. Consumers have no control over the ads that they see. They may or may not be relevant to them. The ads are presented to viewers without user-level targeting strategies. The challenges to linear TV advertising include the lack of measurement, lack of guarantee the ads will be viewed, and limited, if any, insights into viewership. One study suggests that almost 90% of viewers skipped TV commercials thanks to the convenience of the DVR. Many also do other tasks while ads are on and miss them altogether.

Linear TV vs. OTT vs. CTV

There are many ways to watch TV. But with the plethora of options available, it can all get very confusing for viewers and advertisers. Linear TV, OTT, and CTV are sometimes used interchangeably, but it’s important to understand what they all mean. Linear TV is content that is consumed on a predetermined schedule and on a specific TV channel. OTT and CTV are non-linear TV options. This means that the viewer decides what they want to watch, when they want to watch it, and what device they want to watch it on.

OTT is an acronym for over-the-top television. This type of content is delivered through the internet either live or in a streaming format. It doesn’t require a subscription to a satellite or cable provider. OTT TV includes a variety of popular streaming services, and content is delivered through an app on a Smart TV. Some of the most common are Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Lately, some cable providers are including OTT services such as HBO, Disney Plus, and NBC’s Peacock.

CTV is the shortened version of Connected TV. This has become a catch-all term for anything that isn’t traditional TV. What makes a TV connected? Basically, it’s connected to the internet so that content can be streamed on demand. A Smart TV is connected so that the internet connection provides interactive features that are integrated into the device. A regular television set can be made “smart” by connecting to the internet using intermediary devices such as an Amazon Fire stick, a game console, or Apple TV. 

What Can the CTV Ad Break Learn from Linear TV?

So with the various ways to consume TV content, how does it affect advertising today? The pandemic increased streaming almost faster than the market could keep up with. Presently, CTV is a smaller portion when compared to all TV ads. However, as audiences continue to turn to streaming as the main way to watch TV, it is expected to grow significantly. 

Traditional TV airs programs at specific times on a dedicated channel. There is limited time and space for ads and air time, so it’s competitive. Advertising is based on an average viewer profile that may or may not be relevant to viewers. If there is anything to be learned from Linear TV advertising, it’s that it can be a powerful tool for brands.  

Advertising on CTV devices allows the creation of targeted content. Marketers understand more about their viewers and have more data to work with when creating ads. This allows them to be more specific about who they are reaching and reach more people simultaneously. The latest programmatic technologies enable real-time measurement so that campaigns are more easily tracked. They can make in-flight optimizations. Using CTV, ads can be delivered to viewers’ phones, PCs, or tablets based on what they watch. 

What is linear TV advertising vs. CTV advertising? They are the same in many ways. Ads are developed by a brand that wants to get its name and product in front of as many people as possible. CTV advertising is more targeted and takes linear TV ads to another level via more devices. Even with all the latest advancements in television technology and the increase in streaming options, linear TV is still alive. However, the media landscape is continuing to change, and it’s essential to evolve to stay relevant in today’s competitive climate.  

CTV advertising is data-driven, digital, and complex because each streamer is a unique ecosystem. People should have an expert partner to help them buy or sell inventory – that’s TVIQ.  Contact us today to see how we can help you grow in the CTV space.