All truths, no lies: CTV Myths debunked

Explaining the truth behind the most common misconceptions about CTV

01/16 By IAS Team

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that over-the-top (OTT) has been commanding the way we consume digital content. Netflix has been around for over a decade and, with newer platforms like Hulu, Crackle, HBO Go, and Disney+, there’s almost no reason to have a cable subscription anymore. In fact, US marketers will increase their 2020 connected TV (CTV) ad budgets 28% to reach $8.88 billion. Traditional TV budgets will stagnate and eventually decrease as cord-cutters (those who cancel their cable subscriptions) transition to significantly cheaper and more convenient streaming services.

At IAS, we’ve been working diligently with major premium publishers to create the most accurate CTV measurement product. Throughout this beta, we’ve realized that there are still many unknowns in the CTV space. In this post, we’ll walk through some of the common misconceptions around connected TV.

Myth: CTV and OTT are the same
OTT was around long before connected TV came on the scene. OTT refers to “over-the-top,” which is a reference to going over the top of traditional cable, broadcast, or satellite television. On the other hand, you can think about CTV as just that: connected television. CTV is specific to the device you’re watching on, and not the streaming services or platform. For instance, watching a show on Hulu on your phone is considered OTT, but if you were to watch that same Hulu show on your television, that would be CTV.

The two terms are often conflated but this is problematic, especially in the measurement and verification space. If a company is claiming that they can measure certain metrics (viewability or brand safety, for instance) on OTT, they may be referring to content streamed on a mobile or desktop device, and not connected TV. This can cause confusion because, historically, we have always been able to measure desktop and mobile. However, CTV is a different beast that requires a more specific solution because javascript, the code we use to measure things like viewability, is not supported on CTV.

Myth: Since CTV inventory is premium, it’s fraud-free
IAS is in the business of fraud, so we know better than anyone that fraudsters follow the money! Since the CTV business has been booming, with forecasts of it continuing its upward trend, we know that fraud will also trend upward. CTV is ripe for fraud for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s a new space that is highly fragmented and, because of this, hasn’t been able to standardize measurement yet. This makes it easy for fraudsters to find a point of entry and harder for us to find them.
  2. CTV uses Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI), which stitches the ad within the content being streamed, giving viewers a seamless viewing experience (read: no buffering). However, it makes it increasingly more difficult to detect fraud.

When we started our CTV beta, we knew that SSAI would pose a problem in the measurement of CTV. For this reason, we decided to work directly with premium publishers to be able to learn how to accurately detect fraud SSAI scenarios. After witnessing fraud in our beta, we leveraged our access to publisher inventory to better understand what real fraud looks like. Now, we can build out our AI and machine learning models to be able to detect it.

Myth: High quality connected TV inventory is not available on the Open Exchange
As the space continues to grow and direct deals become more cumbersome, publishers are working to make their premium inventory available programmatically. Currently, most programmatic inventory as been sold mainly through private marketplace deals directly with publishers, specifically to avoid running across inventory that’s likely to be fraudulent. This means the leftover inventory that is bought programmatically through the Open Exchange is perceived to be lower in quality because it has a higher risk for fraud.

We understand the importance of programmatic CTV, and our beta is designed to address this issue. We are currently recruiting advertisers for our programmatic CTV beta. If you’re interested in joining, get in touch with your IAS representative or email

Myth: Only millennials watch CTV
Our favorite myth of all! While we wish we could say that only millennials have taken advantage of this new platform, the truth is CTV is easy enough for every generation to use. As CTV/OTT continues to expand with more content that is increasingly accessible, the number of cord-cutters and cord-nevers (those who never had cable) grow as well.

As CTV becomes more popular, and as major publishers and content creators develop apps such as Disney+, we are seeing an increase in the number of ad requests during primetime hours. This means that the reign of traditional TV as king is slowly starting to fall to CTV. Plenty of forecasts show linear TV is declining and it’s important to recognize that, despite being a new platform, CTV is far from lacking reach. In fact, 3 out of 4 homes in the US own a connected TV device. Thanks to easy access and ease of use, all generations and demographics are shifting towards connected television.

Want to learn more about CTV at IAS? Check out these resources: