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A Quick Guide to Linear Television: What is Linear TV?

Are you wondering what linear TV is?

Want to learn everything there is about this form of television broadcasting?

Television has come a long way over the decades. It started as a new form of entertainment changing the way we consume content.

Since then, we have reached the stage that we don’t just passively consume content but we are also able to broadcast it on our own, be it as a live tv or through streaming services.

In this guide, however, we are looking at linear TV and everything you need to know about its future.

First of all, what is linear TV?

What is Linear TV?

Linear TV is a different term for what we know as traditional television, as a matter of fact. The term refers to the broadcasting that has been taking place to our households for many decades now. 

It is also known as cable television and in the traditional linear TV, the schedule is delivered to the audience at a certain time via cable or satellite. In other words, it’s what we traditionally know as television in its main form through the years. 

What’s the difference between linear TV and on-demand TV?

Linear is not the only form of TV broadcasting anymore. On-demand TV has been on the rise while advanced TV is also a term that we get more familiar with. 

How do we define all of them?

Linear TV is the traditional way of watching TV with viewers tuning in to watch a program at a scheduled time. Linear broadcasts run in real-time, showing the same content to everyone who tunes in to receive it. 

Any other form that is non-linear is part of the umbrella term ‘Advanced TV’.

Advanced TV is a term that involves all forms of non-traditional TV:

  • On-demand TV: this is a non-linear way to watch the content of your choice at your own pace. It is non-linear as viewers have the choice of streaming content whenever they wish. On-demand TV has been on the rise as more viewers enjoy the power of choice when consuming content.
  • Connected TV: this is a term that includes TVs that are having an Internet connection. It can include smart TVs and gaming consoles that allow you to stream online content. The process of streaming online content without the need for a traditional TV service or subscription is the so-called Over-the-Top service (OTT).
  • Programmatic TV: Programmatic TV is also known as Addressable TV and it refers to the process of allowing advertisers to purchase audiences based on segmentation. Different TV ads are delivered to different households to fit custom profiling and interests. 

All of these definitions remind us how linear TV is changing. It’s useful to know all the different forms of TV broadcasting and consumption to find out what’s best for you and your brand.

Why linear television is here to stay 

There is a misconception that linear TV is dying but nothing is further from the truth.  

According to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, for example, linear broadcasting is still relevant. Although, as the report states: “Time spent with the television set is shifting, with consumers spending more time using TV-connected devices to stream content,” they do so in addition to traditional, linear TV.

What’s important for the evolution of linear TV is to acknowledge the challenges and the opportunities that come along as the broadcasting habits change.

People are still watching linear TV

People of all ages are still watching linear TV despite the competition from streaming on-demand video.

This means that linear TV channels are still useful for your brand. Traditional TV allows people to unwind and focus on content that is broadcasted in a way that does not require further decisions from them.

Beating option paralysis

The rise of online on-demand content and subscription services is opening up a new world of content consumption. It is also creating an option paralysis for viewers who need to decide what to watch. 

Putting the viewer in control is not what all viewers necessarily need. When streaming gets complicated, linear TV reminds us how it can still stay relevant with content that viewers would happily watch.

The need to stay relevant

A challenge that linear TV needs to address is the need to stay relevant. As subscription services and digital content grow, linear TV cannot stay behind. 

There is an indication that traditional TV channels are already exploring new ways to stay relevant to blend the two worlds. 

For example, linear TV has the benefit of delivering content in a way that is still familiar to everyone. It can cover big events in real-time and it can also go hyper-local to help viewers who want to stay up-to-date with everything that’s happening.

The best way to stay relevant is to tap into the opportunities that these advantages offer to look at the future of linear TV.

Understanding consumers 

Linear TV in its traditional format may have limited measurement compared to other forms of broadcasting.

The lack of measurement can lead to the challenge of not knowing your consumers.

Luckily, the growing synergy between programmatic and linear TV brings out new opportunities for using data to learn your audience. 

TV publishers, brands, advertisers are able to bring the two worlds together to make linear TV relevant in a more digital world.

Blending linear TV with OTT 

The biggest opportunity for linear TV is to embrace OTT services to modernize its traditional form.

What linear television can learn from OTT:

  • Video content is more popular than ever
  • Access to multiple devices can make linear television more appealing
  • Linear TV can still benefit from connected TVs

New opportunities open up for brands that jump into linear TV

Most importantly, linear OTT services can future-proof traditional TV broadcasting. 

They are already opening up new opportunities to brands that want to start their own TV channels and they can also improve linear advertising through programmatic TV.

So here’s what you need to know about linear advertising.

Learning more about linear advertising

Linear television advertising had been traditionally about placing ads as part of the broadcasting schedule to run at a specific time.

The model had been successful for decades now but as times change, there is a growing need to keep up.

Programmatic TV can be the answer to this challenge. Media is becoming more digital so as linear TV is trying to adjust, there is an opportunity to improve the ad buying process.

Linear advertising can become even more appealing for businesses with the use of an automated and data-driven approach that comes from programmatic. You can even expand your audience reach to deliver the right ads to the right people. After all, you’re also saving time. No more manual buying and selling for ads that take too long to sort out.

Programmatic linear broadcasting allows instant data access, which makes it easier to get a better return on investment. A data-driven approach can help you optimize and adjust your bids to ensure that your campaign stays successful. 

According to FreeWheel’s report, 74% of advertisers think it’s important or very important to set up integrated linear and digital video TV/data solutions.

As programmatic linear TV advertising becomes more relevant, more agencies will need to work on holistic strategies that consider all channels and forms of broadcasting in their planning. 

So what’s the future of linear TV?

Linear television is still important. What’s more, it’s now easier than ever to create your own linear TV channel with video platforms like linear broadcast. You can even stream your content to other players or smart TV apps like Roku.

Looking at the future and what it means for television broadcasting, we are expecting to see programmatic integrated more into linear inventory