What’s the Difference Between OTT and Online Video?

Amrita Hemdev
By Amrita Hemdev
September 26, 2018

It's widely known that OTT and online video are systems that deliver video via the internet. So what exactly is the difference between the two? Dig in to find out.


Over-the-top (OTT) advertising has only been around a few short years. But even in this brief time span, it’s already having a profound impact on the advertising industry as a whole. Today’s advertisers and marketers are recognizing a growing need for more targeted, more data-driven, and more creative advertising experiences within the OTT environment. That’s helping to push the entire industry forward and creating better experiences for advertisers, marketers, media agencies, and consumers as a result.

OTT services have been a boon for consumers, allowing them to watch their favorite content whenever and wherever they want. Advertisers and media agencies now know that OTT is where their potential customers are increasingly spending their time.

 What Is OTT Advertising?

The term over-the-top refers to content accessed online without the involvement of a television service provider via any device or service that is used to stream digital content to a TV or similar device. The IAB defines OTT devices as those that “can connect to a TV (or functionality within the TV itself) to facilitate the delivery of internet-based video content (i.e., streaming boxes, media streaming devices, smart TVs, and gaming consoles).”

OTT advertising is much like advertising on TV, but delivered through streaming media on OTT platforms. With OTT ad revenue set to increase from 45% to 60% over the next decade, Ad tech pioneers, advertisers, media agencies, and early adopters of OTT advertising can reap its benefits in the near future.

Even though OTT content and ads are delivered over the internet, the format often feels very much like a TV-style experience.  But while the viewing experience is similar, OTT is taking TV one step further, allowing advertisers to more precisely target (and re-target) their most important customers.


Online Video Is Not OTT

Online video advertising refers to advertising that occurs before, during, and/or after a video stream on the internet.

OTT advertising is not the same as online video advertising.

OTT ads are shown on a television screen through a smart or a connected TV, or streaming device, whereas online video ads are played before user-initiated content online and viewed primarily on desktop or mobile. In-stream videos, out-stream videos, and webpage videos are a few examples of online video ads.


Lean-Forward vs. Lean-Back Behavior

In simple terms, lean-forward behavior in media is a type of behavior where the content consumers interact and control the flow of information more actively, while lean-back behavior means that content viewers receive information more passively.

Online video content is viewed by consumers on their mobiles or desktops by leaning forward. The viewers are not very relaxed, and they are usually looking to see shorter- length content. Viewers tend to skip the ad if they are watching content that is going to be played for a shorter period or may stop the video altogether to avoid seeing the ad.

OTT content is viewed by cord-cutters generally on their television sets by leaning back as the content is usually longer format, like a movie. To digest so much information or content, viewers lean back. They relax into the experience and let it wash over them.

The ads played in between the streaming content is mostly viewed entirely as the ads can’t be skipped and the viewer doesn’t want to stop seeing the movie because of a short ad. Thus, the completion rate of OTT ads is usually much higher than online video ads.




Appeal to your audience as they lean back.

Leaning in with online video might work for some messaging, but leaning back works for others, especially brands that wish to inspire. Let OTT ads play the role of an inspirer and thought-provoker. Here are four considerations when selecting OTT ads over online video ads:

  1. Build an emotional connection with your audience
  2. Fully engage with your audience
  3. Help your target audience retain your brand
  4. Spread brand awareness and Inspire your audience


OTT Ads Earn a Higher Engagement Rate Than Online Video Ads

The average Video Completion Rate (VCR) of an online video ad is between 60-80%.

FreeWheel found that OTT viewers, on average, complete 98% of video ads as compared to ad completion rates on other devices.


Reach More Viewers 

With OTT ads, you can make the critical distinction that more than one person is watching the program as the content is usually watched on TV with friends and family, whereas online video is capturing an audience of just one as the viewer is watching the video usually on a mobile device.


In short, OTT is used to consume content rather than browse content on the web.

Advertisers will naturally go where their audience is. And as consumers increasingly move to OTT for their content fix, it’s critical for service providers to be able to target, manage, and run OTT ads.

The future of OTT is quickly creating an environment in which advertisers are looking to the expertise of OTT advertising solution providers to gain access to audience insights.

By adopting OTT as an ad delivery platform, you have the power to better segment the market, build your user base, reach a new set of customers, and offer them a more diverse experience than ever before.

The world of digital video and entertainment is always changing. Follow us to stay on top of all the digital advertising jargons and terms. We cover OTT vs. VOD in another blog post here. 

ZypMedia specializes in local OTT digital video advertising. We can help you place your OTT ads in front of your audience while helping you drive sales and generate a positive ROI.


Picture of Amrita Hemdev

Amrita Hemdev

Amrita is an inbound marketer. She studied marketing and project management at UC Berkeley and proceeded to work in a fast-paced, digital advertising tech startup, with a goal of increasing brand awareness. She is currently the Content Marketing Specialist at ZypMedia. Passionate about digital marketing and having six years of experience in this field, she also started her digital marketing and creative agency, Sociato, based in India.