top of page
  • Writer's pictureOrigin

CTV vs OTT: A tale of two acronyms that kinda, totally, but don't really overlap.


I know it’s 2020 and that for most of us it might seem odd that we're writing this article, but here we are. The reason is that on perhaps half of the calls we have with advertisers, agencies and even desktop-based digital media publishers, we find ourselves wondering if they truly know the difference between CTV and OTT when we or they use the terms.

So, at Origin Media here is how we define OTT vs CTV:


  • Stands for ‘Over The Top’.

  • Can be defined as “The streaming of video content via the internet, through an app", whereby:

  1. The content being streamed can come from an ad supported service (AVOD) or subscription-based service (SVOD).

  2. The app that the content is coming from can be completely independent of the utility provider that the viewer is using to get their internet service, meaning that it is NOT subject to the same contract (eg paying for Hulu and accessing it via an RCN internet account that you have a separate and unrelated contract with).

  3. Perhaps most importantly, when you’re talking about OTT - the type/size of screen that the content is being consumed on is irrelevant.


  • Stands for ‘Connected TV’.

  • Can be defined as “Any TV-sized screen that someone is using to consume content in an Over The Top capacity".

  • The TV they’re using is able to access the internet because:

  1. It has its own internet connection (also known as Smart TV’s: Vizio, Samsung, LG, TCL, Sony, HiSense etc.

  2. It has an internet connected gaming console attached to it (Xbox, Playstation).

  3. It has an internet connected set top box or multimedia streaming device attached to it (Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV etc)


  • Because Connected TV technically falls under OTT, discussions that don’t require the separation of TV sized screens from other screens can all be OTT discussions.

  • Not all people see the need for ‘television’ sized screens to be separated from the other, but the reasons why they do require separation are critical to anyone in advertising:

  1. Targeting, attribution, measurement, tracking and all that fun stuff are different on TV.

  2. The entire ad experience is unique to any other screen. Fundamentally, it is one that we have grown up with.

  3. The entire environment that an advertiser is capturing the viewer in is different - they are leaning back vs forward (think Saturday night movies and popcorn vs sitting on the throne in the bathroom). With the exception of having a phone by their side or a chatty Cathy sitting next to them, advertisers have their complete and undivided attention. The viewer has chosen to invest a material amount of time into sitting back on that fluffy sofa, drinking ice cold beer watching TV. In other words – they’re listening.

This brings us to the final point – CONNECTED TV IS STILL TV and it should never be bundled into the other screens. And it’s because of this that it requires (even deserves) its own acronym.

CTV is OTT, but OTT is not CTV. If TV wasn’t such a unique and powerful place for advertisers to invest their money, then breaking out CTV and OTT might not be necessary. CTV is simply a deepening of the definition, nothing more.

Who knows, perhaps we need to come up with 3 letter acronyms for all the other screen types?

In our next blog, we will pick up from where we started going at the end here –“Why is CTV so good for advertisers?”


bottom of page