CTV, OTT, SVOD, FAST – it’s all just ‘Telly to viewers

By Philip Acton, country manager, UK, Adform

Once upon a time, watching TV meant gathering around the big box in your living room with your family to watch the latest shows live. Today, in the age of Connected TV (CTV), streaming, and smartphones, watching ‘TV’ can mean anything from binging a new Netflix series over a few nights, or maybe catching up on a Disney+ show on your commute to work.

Clearly, viewing habits are changing. The latest Ofcom figures find that the proportion of people watching traditional TV in a week has dropped from 83% in 2021 to 79% in 2022. Meanwhile, an astounding 94% of British adults are now accessible through CTV. This comes partly as a result of older generations tuning-in to an ever-growing number of streaming services. In addition, video-sharing platforms such as YouTube and TikTok are continuing to command a larger share of audience time and attention.

As a result, the marketplace for TV advertising is undergoing a profound transformation. CTV is at the spearhead of this transformation, giving rise to a whole taxonomy of new industry acronyms (e.g. OTT, BVOD, SVOD, FAST, and so on). Each of these, from an advertiser’s point of view, represents a different type of channel with its own accompanying audience. However, to the average viewer, there’s no real difference between these at all. Each is simply a channel where they can access the content they want to watch on the device of their choice.

There is a lesson to be learned here by the advertisers. Instead of isolating advertising to each type of TV channel, brands today need to fully recognise the significant shift in how and what audiences are watching and then design campaigns that address this new reality. A first step in this journey would be a shared language that starts to break down the silos of TV advertising.

Fragmented picture

Due to the fragmentation and complicated nature of the TV advertising marketplace, CTV’s position as the linchpin of an omnichannel strategy can often be stunted. While it’s not possible to serve ‘personalised’ ads at scale on CTV just yet, solutions will soon be available that identify users and reactions to content, while data will then be used to determine the best times to advertise to reach peak audiences. Once measurement, privacy-compliant and permissioned IDs become the norm on CTV, cross-channel frequency capping and integrated brand and performance campaigns will soon be widespread.

So, how do we get to this promised land for advertisers? The answer is that market consensus is really needed on both sides of the negotiating table. On the one hand, media planners need to elect ‘Heads of TV.’ In other words, evangelists who can sit across the AV and programmatic teams and navigate this transition period as linear TV and connected TV converge in priority. Having one source of truth will also make it far easier for marketers to activate their budgets across these ostensibly disparate channels.

Traditionally, media buyers have been siloed into teams with distinct channel expertise. As a result, some media buyers (e.g. linear TV buyers) have been suspicious of other channels outside their scope of knowledge. Education, such as recent efforts by the IAB, will be key to unifying knowledge and dissolving these classification differences.

On the other side of the table, broadcasters (particularly in the UK) would do well to take a page of the European playbook (see the recent moves from AtresMedia, Prosieben, Mediaset and RTL), which have implemented HbbTV technology to move their linear TV offerings from a GRP to CPM model. Not only is this making it far easier for media planners there to compare the cost and profitability of their budgets across ‘TV,’ but it’s also in the broadcasters’ interest given the increasing competition that they are seeing from the likes of Disney+ and Netflix.

It’s time for the TV ad industry to scrap the confusing acronyms and start thinking like those outside of the industry. In doing so, we can harness the power of “all TV” among a broader omnichannel approach to target audiences wherever and whenever they are watching their favourite shows. As this complicated taxonomy dissolves, CTV advertising can enter a new golden age, where campaigns deliver value for brand, broadcaster, and viewer alike.