This week’s Future of TV Briefing aims to define some of the key terms that can cause confusion when talking about the TV, streaming and digital video industry.

The future of TV, defined

A year ago, we published a glossary of key terms that people in the TV, streaming and digital video industry use and, often, misuse. A year later, many of those terms continue to be used and, unfortunately, misused. So we are republishing the guide — with a few new additions for 2022 — that seek to head off any future confusion in conversations about the Future of TV.

CTV

What it stands for: Connected TV

What it refers to: TV screens that are connected to the internet. This can be either a smart TV with its own built-in operating system or a regular, “dumb” TV hooked up to an internet-connected device like an Apple TV box, Roku streaming stick or Chromecast dongle. The point is that CTV concerns the TV as a device through which people stream services like Netflix and Disney+ — it is not synonymous with streaming.

How to use it: To refer to the TV screen as an internet-connected device or to refer to the audiences, programming or ads that are accessed through an internet-connected TV screen. Consider CTV to be the TV industry’s analogue to the mobile industry’s smartphone.

Example sentence: I don’t want to watch “House of Dragons” on my laptop, so I’ll stream it through HBO Max’s CTV app.

OTT

What it stands for: Over the top

What it refers to: The method of distributing TV shows outside of — or, over the top of — a cable box or satellite dish. At least that was the original definition. This acronym was introduced to describe TV networks making their programming available on their websites and other digital properties. Eventually, that included Hulu, which was one of the pioneering streaming services and likely a major reason why OTT has become synonymous with streaming and conflated with CTV. 

How to use it: Don’t. Repeat: Do not use this acronym. Please. OTT was fine for a time, but that time has passed. As mentioned above, OTT has become synonymous with streaming, so let’s just say streaming instead. That way our friends and family members will know what the hell we’re talking about.

Example sentence: Remember when we used to say OTT? I’m so glad we all just say streaming now.

FAST

What it stands for: Free, ad-supported streaming TV

What it refers to: Streaming properties that resemble linear TV by carrying channels that air 24/7 based on a set programming schedule, are available for free and feature ads that interrupt the programming.

How to use it: To refer to the subsection of the ad-supported streaming market that mimics pre-DVR broadcast TV. The term FAST can be applied to the services themselves or to individual 24/7 channels that the services carry. 

Example sentence: I don’t feel like figuring out what to watch. Just put o
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