Linear vs. CTV: Finding the Win-Win for Marketers

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The battle for the main screen in the household is heating up. In one corner stands the longtime player linear TV. In the other, the fast rising Connected TV (CTV).

Since CTV broke onto the scene, its growth has been rapid. Bolstered by shifting consumer viewing behaviour during the pandemic, audiences have wholeheartedly embraced the format – 94% of UK viewers are now reachable through CTV. And this shift is just accelerating. Research indeed shows streaming is now the most popular way for UK audiences to watch content, and we are likely at a popularity tipping point. Last year, 40% of viewers found themselves watching more CTV, while 47% stated they’re watching less linear TV. With this shift, it is no surprise that advertisers are increasingly keen to find audiences in this maturing channel. Ad spend is set to reach £2.31bn by 2026 – almost double the 2021 figure of £1.17bn.

However, linear TV is not down for the count. Two-thirds of UK TV watchers say that they still tune into traditional broadcast TV regularly – though with 73% watching regularly via streaming platforms, it's clear that viewers regularly vary how they watch content.  Certain kinds of viewing events, including live sports, continue to be a draw for linear TV viewers. In 2022 for example, 11.2 million turned on BBC One’s broadcast TV channel to watch the Women’s Euro 2022 between England and Germany – however a further 5.9 million did so via broadcast video on demand (BVoD) platform.

Maybe then marketers need to stop looking at the linear vs CTV debate as a winner-takes-all scenario, and instead focus on creating campaigns that put the viewer at their core, and blend both in order to reach their audiences effectively and maximise their spend.

Captivating audiences

Like all elite boxers, one of linear TV’s key strengths is its reach. As a well-established channel with access to nearly every household in the UK, linear ad slots ensure large reach and are highly regarded by audiences – UK viewers ranked TV advertising as the most trusted format in 2022. As previously mentioned, linear TV is also able to draw in crowds of viewers during shows such as live sports, awards shows, or reality TV finals. Once-in-a-lifetime broadcasts like the coronation of King Charles III can draw over 20 million live viewers, while even regular reality TV shows can bring in viewers – the finale of 2022’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! drew in 11.5 million. However, these events still gain reach through streaming – ITV stated that its 2022 series of reality TV show Love Island registered 250 million streams throughout the series via its streaming service.  

However, while traditional measurements such as Barb have been able to give an insight into the audiences exposed to an ad on linear TV, they can lack the granular targeting and measurement detail that modern marketers demand. Advertisers utilising CTV can, however, gain a holistic overview of the entire landscape – including linear TV – through privacy-first, anonymised content identification technologies, such as automatic content recognition (ACR).

These technologies are able to measure content at ‘glass level’ – meaning that everything watched on a TV screen can be analysed and measured, no matter what the input is. With many viewers switching between linear TV and CTV, this input-agnostic measure helps build a fuller picture of audiences and enables more effective targeting – especially when used alongside traditional measures such as Barb.

Fine-tuned targeting and pinpoint measurement

Advertisers utilising linear TV have long taken advantage of contextual advertising to make an impact on audiences. From supermarkets running promotions alongside cooking shows, to sportswear brands placing promotions during sporting events, one of linear TV’s biggest advantages for advertisers is knowing where your brands are running and when. This can have a dramatic effect on audiences – contextually relevant ads can increase memorability by 40%.

This contextual ability is similarly powerful on CTV. But thanks to ACR and other alternative content identification technologies, this can be taken to an even more granular level. By measuring content consumption across a range of devices, audiences can be broken into specific demographics. This enables not only more successful targeting, but also retargeting. When combining both linear and CTV in a campaign, this multi-touch approach is vital to ensuring consumers are reached an effective number of times with a range of campaign creative.

This approach is also effective at reaching consumers in ad-free environments. The growth of CTV has been tightly linked to the growth in subscription-based streaming providers such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Native ad units – placed on the home screen of smart TVs – are a powerful way to target users before they head into their chosen streaming platform. These enhanced and highly successful units add yet another touchpoint into the arsenal of those trying to reach audiences via the largest screen in the house.

The best of both worlds

While audiences are making the shift from linear to CTV, we know that viewers are still watching both and likely will in the future. While it’s no surprise that this migration has led to 67% of marketers planning to cut their ad spend from linear TV, it doesn’t mean that advertisers should cut linear from their plans completely. Both linear and CTV have their part to play in the modern media mix, and by creating campaigns that play to the strengths of both, marketers maximise the potential of their creative.

[Editor's note: This is a contributed article from LG Ad Solutions. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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