Linear TV vs. OTT
We recently broke down the reasons why traditional linear TV is – contrary to what the Netflix CEO might tell you – not dead or dying. But what’s the actual difference between linear TV and streamed content (OTT)? Of course, one is presented in a scheduled fashion and the other is on demand. But the differences go deeper than that. Here’s what you need to know about linear TV vs. OTT.
What is linear TV?
Linear TV – also referred to as broadcast or traditional TV – is the original way of consuming TV content. Programming is run in a linear, scheduled fashion, at a particular time on a particular channel. It can be recorded for later viewing via DVR or a similar device but is most often viewed live.
Benefits of linear TV
And then, of course, there’s trust and prestige. Linear TV has both in spades. Being a dominant medium for so long has given linear TV an air of gravitas that OTT simply can’t match at the moment. Having your brand appear on TV gives you a huge boost in credibility.
What is OTT?
Benefits of OTT
On top of those benefits, there’s also the simple fact that OTT is growing – and fast! In 2020, 80% of all U.S. households owned a connected TV – a massive increase in just five years, when that number was only 54%.
OTT, on the other hand, means any video content that is streamed on a device other than traditional broadcast, cable, or satellite TV. It’s not the device, but rather the content. Examples of OTT are Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. You can use a CTV device to watch OTT content, but you could also watch that content on your laptop or smartphone. Getting these terms mixed up isn’t the end of the world – most people will know what you mean. But now you’ll know the difference when you spot them in the wild!
If the product or service you’re advertising has a heavy generational bias one way or the other, you’ll definitely want to consider that if you must decide between advertising on OTT or linear TV.
We don’t want to make it sound like linear TV is completely powerless to target, of course – that’s far from true! Linear TV has mountains of information that can help advertisers target their audience effectively. Strategists use demographics and other data to create segments and dayparts. What linear TV lacks is the precise, real-time data that comes with digital.
With the rise of CTV devices and streaming, the reach of OTT is expected to keep growing. Linear TV has likely already maxed out its reach. However, when that number is over 95%, the slowing of growth is nothing to worry about.
Linear TV has the edge in numbers here, but both linear and OTT are an excellent choice if you’re looking to reach a wide audience.