Nielsen estimates that 82.0% of U.S. TV households are Traditional Cable or Over The Air. How do campaigns reach the other 18.0%?

While broadcast, cable and satellite TV reach millions of Americans every day, voters are increasingly accessing video content (movies, scripted shows, as well as live news and sports) via non-traditional media formats. Campaigns need to reach voters where they are consuming content.

According to Nielsen, there are 121 million TV homes in the U.S. for the 2020-21 TV season. As of July 2020, Nielsen estimates that 68.6% of U.S. TV households are Traditional Cable and 13.4% are Over The Air.

Here is a breakdown to help you understand the rest of the fragmented landscape:

Connected TV (CTV) simply refers to a television set that is connected to the Internet. CTV includes smart TV’s, as well as home entertainment devices like Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire, plus gaming consoles like Xbox and PlayStation. Many TV households with CTV have access to traditional media formats, too.

Over the top (OTT) refers to content providers that distribute media via the Internet. This is done via a Connected TV device. The first thing that comes to mind for most people is probably Disney+, HBO Max, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. These are subscription on demand (SOD) services. They are popular, but many don’t offer advertising opportunities for campaigns. There are some – including Hulu and Peacock – that do. As of July 2020, Nielsen estimates that 10.3% of U.S. TV households are Broadband Only.

Virtual multichannel video programming distributor (vMVPD) refers to a subset of OTT services that provide multiple TV channels through the Internet. They are often marketed as “skinny bundle” products (less channels and less expensive than traditional cable). Examples include AT&T TV Now, FuboTV, Hulu with Live TV, SlingTV and YouTube TV. All of these services have advertising opportunities for campaigns. As of July 2020, Nielsen estimates that 7.7% of U.S. TV households are vMVPD.

In addition, most traditional cable providers (as well as non-traditional providers) offer video on demand (VOD) services. Advertising can be sold into VOD.

And, of course, campaigns must engage voters with premium video on digital platforms. Many platforms, including Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter and Reddit, don’t allow political ads.

Facebook and YouTube are the most widely used online platforms among adults.

Use of digital platforms varies widely among age groups. Among adults age 65+, 38% use YouTube and 46% use Facebook. But, among younger adults, use of the platforms is near universal.

Updated: March 3, 2021