graphic showing the differences linear tv vs connected tv advertising

Advertising Strategies for Linear TV vs. Connected TV

Linear TV is essentially live television. It’s the means of watching TV, meaning that you turn on a channel at a specific time to watch a scheduled show. Linear TV has the largest market share and research from Nielson found in 2021 that 64% of time spent on televisions was still on network and cable TV. However, audience reach can be fragmented due to the competitive TV landscape. The rise of streaming through connected TV devices is becoming increasingly popular, which means there are new opportunities for advertisers. 

Now is the time to understand linear TV vs. connected TV, so that you can leverage these channels for the best campaign results. 

What is Linear TV 

Linear TV is the broadcasting style that traditional television programming has used for years. In this system, a viewer watches a scheduled TV program broadcasted on a traditional television network. Viewers access the content through a subscription to a cable or satellite service, or by over the air broadcasting. 

It’s called “linear” TV because of how the content is consumed. Viewers can only watch programming at its scheduled time, and via a specific channel. To watch programming at a later time, it’s possible to record it through a DVR. 

The Benefits of Linear TV Advertising 

Despite being a traditional format, linear TV continues to have unique benefits that advertisers can leverage to reach their campaign goals.  

Advertise alongside live events.

With linear TV, you have the ability to broadcast events as they happen, like global sporting events, live shows that involve audience voting, and news updates. For example, the Super Bowl is a massive live marketing opportunity through linear TV. 

Millions of people tune in to watch the game, with 42% of viewers saying they watch the Super Bowl only for the advertisements. And, 50% of viewers report that they will end up buying from a brand featured in a Super Bowl ad, representing how impactful live ads can be for brands.

Reach an older demographic.

Baby boomers are the only generation in the US that watches linear TV in significant numbers. Among those ages 55 and older, 38% spend more time watching content on cable than on any other platform, compared with 21% of Gen Xers, 16% of millennials, and just 9% of Gen Z adults.

Although baby boomers are increasingly adopting digital channels like CTV, many of them continue to prefer linear TV. This is likely because this generation didn’t grow up with digital technology.

This generation is now beginning to retire, but they are still big spenders. There are now around 68 million baby boomers in the US, and they have a mean household expenditure of $63,325 USD annually. Linear TV is a tried-and-true method for reaching this demographic.

Segment by channel and air time.

Linear TV enables you to reach specific audiences or marketing segments by carefully selecting channels and air times. Specific demographics will watch certain channels, helping you target these groups to market your product.

Many audiences will tune into channels for particular shows or have viewing patterns, allowing you to time advertisements based on when your audience will most likely see them. For example, if you’re aiming to reach children or their parents, select afternoon air times on a channel that runs children’s programming. 

Linear TV Advertising vs. Connected TV 

Connected TV (CTV) is the term describing any type of TV that is capable of streaming digital video. This includes Smart TVs as well as TVs that use a device to facilitate the delivery of streaming video.

Internet connected devices like Roku or Chromecast and gaming consoles like Xbox and Nintendo Switch all enable a TV to stream digital video—making it a connected TV. Lots of over-the-top (OTT) content today is viewed via CTV. 

The rise of CTV has led to a phenomenon known as “cord-cutting.” This term refers to the pattern of viewers cancelling their subscriptions to cable or satellite television services, or dropping paid television channels. It can also refer to viewers who are reducing the number of hours of subscription TV viewed in favour of TV content that is served via the internet. 

The main difference between linear tv advertising vs. connected tv is that CTV includes any ad that plays before or after the streaming of content on connected TV devices, whereas linear TV ads are delivered during the commercial breaks of traditional TV programming.  

CTV allows advertisers to reach highly targeted, potentially niche audiences, and provides access to detailed reporting and metrics (during and post-campaign). Linear TV’s strength is that it delivers ads to a massive audience. 

Complementing Linear TV Advertising With CTV

Linear TV advertising and CTV can be used together to help you reach your campaign goals! Here are 3 strategies that you can leverage to combine the power of these channels. 

1. Repurpose linear TV ads for CTV campaigns.

CTV ads are a perfect opportunity for you to capture your desired audience using the same TV spot creative you may have used for a linear TV advertising campaign. Repurposing that video ad as a CTV ad means you’ll capture more viewers, across more channels. And, you’ll reap the benefits of CTV advertising.

2. Reallocate budget to broaden your campaign reach.

The devices that linear TV and CTV viewers use are similar. With a modified budget that includes both channels, you can earn more ad placements, and reach your audience more efficiently. With some planning, you can even consider launching a CTV campaign to run as a follow up to a linear TV ad placement. 

3. Bridge the gap between channels through retargeting.

Check if your demand-side platform (DSP) has the functionality to retarget individuals who saw a linear TV ad through programmatic campaigns. With linear TV retargeting you can leverage passively collected linear television viewing information to follow up a linear TV ad with CTV. This tactic bridges the gap between these two channels! 

Get Started With Linear and CTV Advertising

Linear TV and CTV advertising have unique benefits that when leveraged together, can drive the programmatic results you’re looking for.

Want to run exceptional linear and connected TV campaigns? Request a demo to learn more about StackAdapt.


What is linear TV advertising?

Linear TV advertising refers to ads that are delivered at a particular time, on a particular channel, as part of linear TV programming.

What is linear vs. non-linear TV?

Linear TV is television programming that is consumed at a set time and on a set TV channel. Non-linear TV is typically streamed and can be watched at any time. 

Why is TV called linear?

It’s called “linear” TV because of how the content is consumed. Viewers can watch programming only at its scheduled time, and via a specific channel. 

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