If you’ve ever watched the Super Bowl the day after it aired or binged-watched your favorite show, you’re likely aware that TV is undergoing a transformation — both in how it’s consumed and how brands use it to advertise. Gone are the analog-only days. We’re entering a new era of TV that fuses analog and digital — and spans an ever-growing array of platforms and devices.

With that shift comes a new set of concepts to master. And to help you better understand the new world of TV, I present this Cheat Sheet. You’ll find a collection of key TV terms likely to come up in the context of TV marketing and measurement, broken out by categories and arranged in logical order for easy use.

With TV advertising in a transformational phase, some of these terms may fade away, but this guide should be a helpful place to start. See it as one aid on your journey toward integrating next-generation TV — and next-generation TV analytics — into your marketing program. 

The Terms

The Viewing Experience

Linear TV: This is what you might call regular, old-fashioned television. You turn on your TV and start watching a scheduled program at the time that it’s broadcast, and on the channel where it originally airs. Linear TV stands in contrast to “time-shifted” TV recorded for later viewing.

Non-Linear TV: Streaming, DVR, video on-demand, over-the-top (OTT) or mobile TV technology that facilitates time shifting.

Advanced TV: Four features characterize advanced TV: time shifting, addressability (see “The New TV Advertising” section below), interactivity, and interoperability*. Advanced TV is marked by the ability to target ads to individual households — versus broadcasting to all households watching the same content. Data-driven targeting is often utilized to target ads to individual households by leveraging a host of data sets from advertiser 1st-party data to purchase data, behavioral data and more.

Over-The-Top (OTT): Refers to the delivery of TV content online. Users are not required to subscribe to a traditional cable or satellite provider to watch OTT content. Typically, OTT video is delivered in a streaming or VOD format.

Video On-Demand (VOD): This OTT format allows consumers to choose what to watch and when to watch it, via streaming. VOD services include popular apps like Amazon Video, Hulu, Bravo on Demand and Netflix.

Set-Top Box (STB): The device that delivers the incoming television signal to your TV, typically when the household subscriber uses a satellite or cable service.

Automatic Content Recognition (ACR): A technology that allows a media device, often a television, to identify what content is being played.

The New TV Advertising

Addressable: Most often refers to a type of television advertising targeting in which the ad is targeted to a household and has been classified within a specific audience segment (e.g., auto intenders, soccer moms, frequent travelers).

Addressable advertising is made possible via Advanced TV. It stands opposed to non-addressable advertising, which runs on linear TV. In non-addressable advertising, anyone in the same geographic region viewing the same show will typically see the same ad.

Programmatic: Programmatic refers to how the ad is bought and placed. In most linear TV advertising, TV networks and stations pre-arrange with brands which of their ads will run and when. Programmatic advertising automates a part or all of the process — typically using audience data to trigger an algorithm that helps decide which ads will run in a given time slot.

Operators and Distributors

MSO (Multiple System Operator): These entities own and operate a large number of cable or satellite systems. MSOs include companies such as AT&T, Charter and Comcast.

MVPD (Multichannel Video Programming Distributor): A provider that distributes TV programming services to the consumer for a fee, such as Spectrum and Verizon FiOS.

Enabling Devices and Technologies

Data

Ad Exposure Data: A log of impression-level data displaying which anonymous households were watching what network at what time. Ad exposure data can include additional viewing statistics such as how much a household viewed, if viewers dropped off, and when. This data can be sourced for analytics from MVPDs like Comcast and Spectrum, set-top box (STB) panel data aggregators like Fourth Wall Media, and automatic content recognition (ACR) identity technology companies like Alphonso, iSpot.TV, Inscape, and Samba.

Airings Data: A log of which ads aired at what time and on what network, as well as associated meta-data including program, genre, daypart (time of day), and DMA (geographic region). Brands typically get their ads’ airings files from their media agencies, which provide the files for billing purposes. National-level airings files are also available from companies like iSpot.TV and Kantar’s AdScope.

Ratings Data: Estimates projecting the number of national viewers across the country who are tuned in to a given program.

There are essentially only two major ratings players: Nielsen and comScore. The companies use different methods for their ratings. Nielsen models its estimates on a panel, or the viewing activity of a smaller, representative set of households. Meanwhile, comScore models its ratings from a wide, anonymized sample set of STB viewer data.

Business Outcome Data: Shows how well ads worked, and can apply to any marketing medium — including, but not exclusively, television.

Business outcome data is granular, individual or household-level. The data provides purchase, conversion or customer acquisition details over a time period — along with basic customer details. Most industries have their own main aggregators of purchase-level data, which many marketers store within their CRM systems. CRM systems can be “activated” for linkages to media campaigns and audience targeting by one of the main three linkage providers available — Neustar, Experian and LiveRamp.

*Interoperability means that the same program and commercial content that’s viewable using a TV receiver can also be viewed across platforms and devices like PCs, mobile devices, etc.