A quick and dirty rundown of video streaming terminology

Video streaming has been around since the early ‘90s—an eternity, in the media world. However, there’s still some confusion about exactly how content is streamed and the differences between common streaming terminology like Connected TV, Over-the-top and video on demand.

It may seem tedious, but knowing how these terms are different can make sure your media runs where you intend it to. We’re here to break it down and make it (just a little bit) easier to understand some streaming lingo.

Connected TV

ConnectedTV (CTV) is a television that is connected to the internet. This connection can be embedded directly in the television or it can come from a device that is connected to said TV, like a Chromecast, Roku or Xbox.


Over-the-top (OTT) media services are streaming services offered directly through the internet. OTT programming includes all content that is streamed over the internet, regardless of the device the content is being played on. The OTT umbrella includes services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+.

Video on demand

Video on demand (VOD) is a term that describes a service that provides content outside of a typical broadcast television station, whether that is on a mobile device, desktop computer or Connected TV. There are two types of VOD services to be aware of: ad-supported (AVOD; like the free version of Hulu) and subscription-based (SVOD; like HBO Max).

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Pop quiz: can you use the terms CTV, OTT and VOD to describe a single piece of media?

Yes! You can stream a movie that’s outside a regular broadcast television station (VOD) through a service like Netflix (OTT) on a television that’s connected to the internet (CTV). All of these terms are part of a new-age media landscape that people use every day.

So why is that important? When purchasing ad space, you’re likely going to compare CPMs (cost per thousands). In doing so, a provider selling plain OTT that runs on any device is going to cost less than an OTT provider guaranteeing space only on CTVs. If your goal is to run an ad on the large screen in homes, your ad spot could be unknowingly running across other devices if you didn’t ask or confirm those placements from the beginning.

If you still need help, don’t worry. We made you this free chart that outlines OTT, CTV and VOD. Enter your email to check out how all these terms flow together to bring movies and shows directly to people’s TVs, phones and computers.

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Ready to chat about getting an ad into people’s living rooms and on their phones? Give The James Agency call. We’re ready to talk goals, marketing, social media, creative—whatever your heart desires.

Mandy Karimi
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