Connected TV vs. Linear TV—and why they belong together
It’s no secret that the TV industry is in the midst of a massive transformation, as viewers and advertisers migrate from linear TV to streaming.
But the two technologies are actually quite complementary.
As viewers take a hybrid approach to watching television, linear TV and connected TV should be used together to optimize advertising efforts. Here’s what you need to know about connected TV vs. linear TV to get started.
What to know about linear TV
Linear TV refers to a viewer watching a scheduled TV program when it's broadcasted and on its original channel. Traditionally, this was the main form of TV consumption, delivered via set-top box or satellite. (For those around in the 90s, remember the success of NBC's branding of its primetime 'Must-See TV' lineup?)
The emergence of streaming TV has resulted in the slow decline of linear TV, with people consuming their content on-demand. But linear is not dead — there are still roughly 68.5 million pay-TV households in the United States, and this year US spending on linear TV advertising will exceed $68 billion.
What to know about connected TV
Connected TV (CTV) essentially refers to any television connected to the internet that can support streaming content. This includes Smart TVs like VIZIO, Samsung, and LG, streaming sticks like Roku and Amazon Fire TV, and gaming consoles like Playstation and Xbox.
Using a connected TV, viewers can watch content on demand from streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ — and advertisers can reach highly targeted audiences via this video content.
In the long term, it’s only a matter of time before all television is CTV. By the end of 2022, roughly 40 million households will have cut the cord, a number that is expected to continue consistently in the years ahead.
Connected TV vs. Linear TV advertising
Now that we have a clear understanding of connected TV vs. linear TV, let’s dive into the pros and cons of advertising on each.
Impression-based measurement and attribution
Risk of ad fraud
Advantages of linear TV advertising
The biggest advantage of linear advertising is reach. There is still no better place to reach a massive amount of people at one time than a big linear TV event. Just look at the Super Bowl, which garnered more than 112 million viewers in 2022. Big finales from popular shows like Yellowstone also draw millions of viewers (9.3 million for the season 4 finale of this neo-western drama).
Disadvantages of linear TV advertising
Linear’s significant reach is offset by a couple of significant drawbacks:
Targeting capabilities: Advertisers can really only target based on categories like ratings and time of day (unlike the granular audience segments offered on CTV that more closely resemble other digital platforms).
A lot of waste: With limited targeting capabilities, linear advertising often lacks relevance to the viewer — which means wasted spend.
Lack of measurement: Of course, waste and success are both hard to measure on traditional TV. Linear TV is still measured via the GRP, which was created more than 50 years ago. This outdated system has made it difficult to understand how many people actually saw your ad in a meaningful way — and nearly impossible to understand if your ads actually led to a business outcome.
Advantages of connected TV advertising (the best of both worlds)
There’s good reason why the industry is transitioning from linear TV to CTV advertising:
Reach: 87% of US adults own at least one connected TV, and almost half of US adults watch a connected TV daily.
Targeting capabilities: CTV provides marketers with the ability to target consumers based on data, including things like demographics and interests, similar to traditional digital advertising.
Omnichannel approach: CTV advertising can be paired with advertising on other devices that users view streaming content on — like smartphones, tablets and desktops — for a more holistic approach.
Addressable TV: On CTV brands can recreate the kinds of personalized relationships with consumers that they enjoyed across social platforms by specifically tailoring ads for individual people and delivering them in an addressable, one-to-one basis.
Real-time optimization: CTV provides faster data insights on both audience and performance, allowing marketers to optimize campaigns in real-time to ensure efficiency of ad spend.
Impression-based measurement and attribution: Similar to digital, CTV provides impression metrics in conjunction with other data points like site or in-store visits and ‘point-of-sale’, delivering attribution data to drive future ROI. This sort of closed-loop attribution is critical to understanding customer acquisition costs for “TV” in a similar way they would on traditional digital channels.
Disadvantages of CTV advertising
There isn’t much downside when it comes to CTV vs. linear TV advertising, but advertisers should be prepared to prevent ad fraud in CTV. Ad fraud is expected to cost companies $68 billion collectively in 2022.
Thankfully, ad fraud can be preventable.
The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) launched a program to directly combat ad fraud in 2016. To date, 148 companies have achieved TAG certification and according to a 2020 benchmarking survey, have experienced a 90% reduction in ad fraud.
Related content: TAG and ad fraud: Why we got TAG certified (again)
How CTV and linear TV work together to extend your reach
Thankfully, you don’t have to choose just one (in fact, you shouldn’t).
While cord cutters and cord nevers are growing, most TV viewers are actually still considered “hybrid” viewers. This means they’re watching a combination of linear and streaming TV — and advertisers should be thinking about how they can work in tandem.
Advertising through CTV is more adaptive and real time, where as brands can fill in blank spots in their plan with linear for more reach and a trailing optimization.
Here’s how you should be thinking about the two together:
Linear TV sits at the top-of-the-funnel and provides access to a broad group of people. Linear advertising campaigns should focus on metrics like brand awareness, perceptions, familiarity, favorability, and purchase intent.
CTV advertising also allows access to a large group of people, but also opens up access to younger generations who have already cut the cord (or didn’t have a cord to begin with).
Using both linear and CTV allows advertisers to reach both cable subscribers and those without a cord. Without using them together, a large portion of your audience would be “unreachable”.
Thanks to better retargeting and analytics, CTV can amplify the reach of linear advertising.
And in addition to being a top-of-the-funnel touchpoint, CTV also serves as a tool for bottom-of-the-funnel metrics such as location attribution, site attribution and conversion, offline sales lift, and foot traffic.
Advertisers can also reach viewers on OTT streaming devices (like smartphones, tablets and desktops) to drive further bottom-of-the-funnel metrics.
Related content: CTV vs. OTT: Is there a difference?
Linear TV has long reigned supreme, but with the rise of internet-connected devices, CTV is quickly gaining ground. This shift has helped transform the TV screen into a real-time, full-funnel tool, and leveraging both linear and CTV together helps you achieve results. Linear sits at the top of the funnel and provides massive reach in an instant, especially around big cultural tentpoles. CTV also helps with broad reach, but the granular digital-like qualities also provide the ability to drive and measure real ROI and business outcomes.
For consumers, TV is the most impactful advertising platform, with ad recall significantly higher than social platforms. It’s important to think of TV holistically, with linear and CTV serving as the two main ingredients in your advertising strategy. And together, they set the stage and inform efforts across all other devices.