Demystifying CTV vs. OTT: What Marketers Need to Know

CTV vs. OTT marketing blog

Streaming content has redefined the entertainment landscape and shifted marketing and content consumption dynamics in unprecedented ways. Gone are the days when a family huddled around a single TV set to watch their favorite shows at a designated time. With the explosion of internet connectivity and device diversification, individuals can choose what to watch, when, and on which device to engage. Enter the buzzwords “CTV” and “OTT.” While they often float around in the same conversations, especially in marketing meetings, they’re not synonymous. Their implications for advertisers, content creators, and consumers are massive. Are you curious about these terms shaping the future of advertising and broadcasting? Let’s unravel them.

Introduction to CTV and OTT

The digital revolution has borne many offspring, and among its most influential are CTV and OTT. To a novice, these might seem like complicated technical jargon. However, they are more straightforward than sound, and their implications are vast and profound.

What is CTV? 

Connected TV, better known as CTV, is the modern evolution of our traditional television. If your TV set can connect directly to the internet – without needing an external device – and stream digital content, it’s a CTV. It’s not just about watching local channels anymore; it’s about diving into a universe of online content. Brands like Samsung’s Smart TV, Apple TV, and Roku devices have popularized this format. Imagine switching from a live football match to a YouTube cooking tutorial and then jumping into a Netflix series on the same screen without any external device. That’s CTV for you!

What is OTT? 

Over-The-Top (OTT), as the name suggests, goes above and beyond. It bypasses traditional content delivery mediums, like cable or satellite, and delivers video and TV content directly over the internet. The content can be accessed anywhere, on any device that supports internet connectivity – from your smartphone to your laptop. Brands like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are the giants in this space. Whether binge-watching a series, exploring indie films, or catching up on missed episodes of popular shows, OTT platforms have transformed the entertainment game. They’ve offered freedom from schedules, repetitive commercials, and geographic restrictions.

The Growing Significance of CTV and OTT

These platforms aren’t just buzzwords; they represent a shifting paradigm in how we consume content, transforming from traditional viewing habits to more modern, user-driven ones.

Rise in Streaming Services 

As cable subscriptions decline, streaming services have soared in popularity. From niche platforms catering to specific genres and tastes to juggernauts like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+, consumers now enjoy an unprecedented variety of content at their fingertips.

A major draw of these services is their on-demand nature. Gone are the days of programming schedules and missed episodes. Now, viewers dictate their timelines, binge-watching entire seasons on a weekend or easily revisiting old favorites. This shift empowers the consumer and paves the way for content creators to experiment with diverse storytelling formats, leading to an explosion of original content.

Evolution of Advertising Tactics 

The rise of CTV and OTT platforms has inevitably prompted a sea change in advertising. With their fixed slots and broad targeting, traditional TV ads often miss the mark in the streaming environment. Here’s why:

  • User Expectation: Streaming platforms, especially subscription-based ones, have conditioned users to expect limited or no ads. So, when ads do appear, they need to be highly relevant and non-disruptive to maintain user engagement.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Unlike traditional TV, OTT platforms capture user data, from viewing habits to pause points. Advertisers can leverage this data to create personalized ad experiences, leading to higher conversion rates.
  • Interactive Ad Formats: The interactive nature of CTV and OTT allows for innovative ad formats. For instance, clickable ads or polls can engage the viewer more than a passive ad, potentially leading to direct action.
  • Flexibility in Ad Length: Traditional TV confines ads to set durations, but OTT platforms offer flexibility. Advertisers can craft shorter, punchier ads or longer, narrative-driven ones based on the content they accompany.

Given these changes, marketers and advertisers must stay nimble, continually adapting to the evolving landscape of CTV and OTT to ensure their messages effectively resonate with their target audiences.

Differences between CTV and OTT

It’s easy to confuse the two, given their interconnected nature in the streaming ecosystem. However, understanding their unique features and functions is essential for marketers aiming to optimize their advertising strategies.

Delivery Mechanism 

  • CTV: It’s essential to recognize that CTV is primarily hardware-focused. When discussing CTV, we’re discussing devices connecting to the internet to stream digital content. This category includes Smart TVs, gaming consoles (PlayStation, Xbox), and standalone streaming devices (Roku, Amazon Fire Stick).
  • OTT: On the other hand, OTT is all about the content delivery method. It’s a software solution that delivers video content to viewers directly over the internet, bypassing traditional broadcast or cable TV networks. Whether on a mobile phone, tablet, or a CTV, OTT services provide content wherever there’s an internet connection.

Content Availability 

  • CTV: Most modern connected TVs come with their app stores or pre-installed applications. Some TV brands might have exclusive partnerships, meaning specific apps or services are only available on that particular brand’s devices. For instance, a particular CTV brand might have an exclusive app not available on other smart TVs.
  • OTT: OTT services pride themselves on their vast libraries of content. From movies, TV shows, and documentaries to exclusive original productions, OTT platforms like Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max offer content that can be accessed across various devices, not limited to CTVs.

Audience Targeting 

  • CTV: Advertising on CTV platforms can sometimes be a bit broad, relying on the general demographics of a household or TV usage patterns. It might not provide the deep granularity or real-time adaptability that digital marketers are accustomed to.
  • OTT: Here’s where OTT shines for marketers. With user profiles, watch histories, and more, OTT platforms can give advertisers a treasure trove of data. This data allows for hyper-targeted ads, from a user’s age, gender, and location to their viewing preferences and habits. For instance, a viewer frequently watching cooking shows might be shown ads for kitchen appliances.

In essence, while CTV and OTT are intertwined, recognizing their distinct characteristics helps marketers navigate the streaming world more effectively, ensuring they place their messages in front of the right eyes at the right time.

Benefits of Using CTV and OTT for Marketing

As the digital age propels forward, the capabilities of CTV and OTT platforms become ever more enticing for marketers. These platforms offer distinct advantages over traditional advertising avenues, making them indispensable tools in a modern marketer’s arsenal.

Precision Targeting 

Thanks to the vast data CTV & OTT platforms collect, ads can be targeted with unparalleled accuracy. Here’s a deeper dive into what this means for marketers:

  • Viewing Habits: By understanding what a viewer watches, how often, and at what times, marketers can craft messages that resonate with their interests and lifestyles.
  • Demographics: Age, gender, location – these basic demographic details allow for tailored messages that resonate with specific groups.
  • Behavioral Insights: Beyond just viewing habits, CTV & OTT platforms can also provide insights into how users interact with their content. This might mean understanding which shows get binged, or which ones tend to be paused frequently.

Flexibility and Control 

Traditional TV advertising often feels like shooting in the dark – once your ad is out, there’s little you can do to modify it. CTV & OTT advertising is a game-changer in this regard.

  • Real-Time Adjustments: As mentioned, if an ad isn’t performing as expected, it’s possible to tweak it or swap it out entirely without having to wait for a new ad slot.
  • A/B Testing: Marketers can test multiple versions of an ad to see which one garners the best response, allowing for continuous improvement.
  • Budget Control: With the pay-per-impression model common on many OTT platforms, businesses can set daily or campaign-specific budgets, ensuring that they never spend more than intended.

Enhanced Engagement 

The interactive nature of CTV and OTT platforms offers an engagement level traditional TV simply can’t match.

  • Fewer Ads: As many CTV & OTT platforms have fewer ad slots than traditional TV, viewers face less ad fatigue. This makes them more receptive to the ads they do see.
  • Interactive Content: Some platforms offer interactive ad experiences. Viewers might be able to click on an ad for more information, watch extended content, or even make a purchase without leaving their screen.
  • Personalized Ad Experiences: Based on user profiles, CTV & OTT platforms can serve ads tailored to individual viewers. This means a family might see ads relevant to kids in the morning, and more adult-targeted ads in the evening.

By leveraging these benefits, marketers can ensure they’re not only reaching their target audience but also delivering messages that truly resonate. The future of advertising lies in platforms like CTV and OTT – those who harness their power now will be well-positioned for success.

Challenges and Considerations

Navigating the world of CTV and OTT isn’t without its challenges. While these platforms offer a wealth of opportunities for marketers, it’s essential to be aware of the potential pitfalls that can impact campaign success.

Fragmented Market 

The landscape of OTT and CTV is vast and varied. Unlike traditional television that had a handful of dominant players, the digital age has spawned a plethora of platforms, each with its own unique audience and offerings.

  • Multiple Platforms, Multiple Strategies: With a variety of platforms available, marketers may find themselves needing to adopt diverse strategies to effectively reach their target audience across each platform. This can increase the complexity of campaigns and require more resources in terms of time and money.
  • Inconsistent Metrics: Each platform may have its own set of metrics and ways of measuring success, making it difficult for marketers to have a unified view of their campaign performance.

Ad Blocking 

As more consumers seek uninterrupted viewing experiences, the use of ad blockers has become increasingly prevalent.

  • Loss of Revenue: With ads being blocked, there’s an immediate loss in potential revenue, especially for marketers who rely heavily on ad impressions.
  • Forced Creativity: The rise of ad blockers forces marketers to think outside the box. Native advertising, content marketing, and other less intrusive forms of advertising have emerged as alternatives.

Measuring Return on Investment 

While digital platforms, in theory, offer more granular data than traditional media, converting these data into actionable insights is often a challenge.

  • Vague Metrics: Views, clicks, and impressions are standard metrics, but do they translate to sales? Determining the tangible impact of an ad can be murky.
  • Data Overload: The sheer volume of data available can be overwhelming. Without the right tools or expertise, important insights can be lost in the noise.
  • Privacy Concerns: With increasing concerns over user data privacy and the implementation of regulations like GDPR, accessing and utilizing consumer data for targeting is becoming more challenging.


The CTV and OTT landscapes, while brimming with potential, are also fraught with challenges that marketers must navigate. By understanding these challenges, strategizing effectively, and being adaptable, marketers can harness the power of these platforms. The key is to stay informed, remain agile, and continually refine strategies to meet the evolving demands of the digital age.


What’s the main difference between CTV and OTT?

At its core, CTV refers to any television set that can be connected directly to the internet. This includes Smart TVs, game consoles, and devices like Apple TV or Roku. On the other hand, OTT, which stands for “Over-The-Top”, pertains to the actual content services that bypass traditional cable or broadcast methods to deliver film or TV content to viewers. Popular examples include Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

Are all OTT services paid?

While many people immediately think of subscription-based platforms like Netflix or Disney+ when OTT is mentioned, there are numerous OTT services that operate on an ad-supported model and are free for users. Services like Tubi or Crackle offer viewers access to a range of content without a monthly fee, generating revenue through ads instead.

Can I advertise on both CTV and OTT platforms?

Absolutely. With CTV, you’d typically target the ad placements within the device’s user interface or proprietary apps. For OTT, ads can be inserted into the content stream, much like traditional TV commercials but with the added benefit of digital targeting. The specifics of advertising might vary, with OTT providing more granular targeting due to its rich user data.

Is OTT advertising more expensive than traditional TV advertising?

It can vary widely. Traditional TV advertising, especially during prime slots or popular events, can be costly. OTT advertising, on the other hand, offers a range of options catering to different budgets. Due to its digital nature, you can opt for programmatic ad buying, enabling dynamic pricing based on demand, which sometimes can be more cost-effective.

Do CTV and OTT platforms share user data with advertisers?

OTT platforms tend to have richer datasets because of the digital nature of their service. They often provide insights on user demographics, viewing habits, and even device usage. This data is invaluable for targeted advertising. However, the extent of data shared is always bounded by privacy regulations and platform-specific policies. Always ensure that advertising practices comply with these regulations.

How do viewers typically respond to ads on CTV and OTT platforms?

Viewer response can be more positive on these platforms, especially if the ads are well-targeted and relevant. The digital nature allows for interactive ads, creating a more engaging experience. However, repetition or overly intrusive ads might lead to ad fatigue, so it’s essential to strike a balance.

Are there any limitations to advertising on OTT platforms?

One challenge advertisers might face is the fragmentation of the OTT market. With so many services available, reaching your entire target audience might require partnerships with multiple platforms. Moreover, some premium services offer ad-free experiences to their subscribers, limiting ad placements.

Founder & CEO at Aragil Marketing agency | Marketing Strategist | Over $30M spent on ads and counting! | Saving the internet from boring ads.

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