What Do You Do When the CTV Inventory Well Runs Dry?

Ad supported inventory for some connected TV streaming services is almost gone for the last quarter of 2020.  Despite growing by 330% last year, in 2020 CTV inventory demand has outweighed supply.1 Why? Because the reach of the ad-supported streaming providers simply cannot meet the demand.  

CTV Inventory Is An Issue

As we move into a stay-at-home, digital-first holiday shopping season, advertisers should consider moving their CTV dollars into YouTube. It’s the largest ad supported CTV provider globally. The platform offers much more scale than any of the other ad-supported CTV services. It also offers better targeting, unique non-ad supported and incremental broadcast reach opportunities. Not to mention brand suitability advantages.

Despite accounting for 83% of all streaming hours, of the “Big 5” streaming players – Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu and Disney+ – only Hulu is ad supported. The remainder of CTV streaming happens through a growing ecosystem of ad-supported platforms: Hulu, Roku, Tubi, PlutoTV and Peacock, as well as a handful of other smaller services such as TiVo+ and Redbox.

According to a report by Innovid and the ANA, these platforms are “still in the beginning stages of adopting inventory and building the infrastructure needed to support CTV buys at scale.”2   Most CTV ad buys take place directly, and are bought quickly.  

The bigger problem isn’t how you buy it, but rather the scale of the platforms themselves. 

YouTube Offers Greater Scale Than CTV Competitors

YouTube is the largest CTV app. It out-scales its competitors by almost a factor of 2.  Over 100 million watch it on the big screen every month3, while Hulu comes in second at 58 million total subscribers4. The other players trail off in the distance: Roku (43 million subscribers)5, Tubi (33 million subscribers)6, Pluto TV (26.5 million subscribers)7 and Peacock (15 million subscribers)8.

On YouTube, the content never dries up. YouTube creators publish 500 hours every minute. In April 2020 during lockdown, almost two-thirds of viewers had watched a video on CTV published in the previous 7 days.9 Viewership grew 80% year-over-year in 2020, and the platform saw an 800% growth in ad-supported and purchased movie consumption on CTV devices.10 

YouTube streams things like Major League Baseball and has captured more than 600 million views on the main U.S. late-night talk shows. The platform also nurtures huge fandoms for broadcast TV shows.  Views on the official YouTube channels for the NFL and WWE as well as on content created by YouTube creators about both sports were about 22 times higher than driven by the broadcasts themselves.11 

Even non-ad supported shows are accessible on YouTube. Netflix’s Stranger Things pulls in about 25+million viewers per season. On YouTube Stranger Things related content pulls in over 300 million views.12

YouTube Offers Brand Suitable, Contextually Aligned Ad Performance

On YouTube CTV, and with the right partner, advertisers can run 6,15 and 30 second ads opposite contextually customized, brand suitable YouTube videos and channels. 

Non-YouTube CTV inventory is mostly non-skippable 30second spots and targeting is much less specific. Advertisers have a limited variety of demographic, geographic, content viewer habit and linear TV household mimicking targeting options, with contextual options still in their infancy and no real brand safety or brand suitability controls.13 

YouTube’s targeting advantage also helps drive performance. As we’ve seen not only can contextual alignment drive up to 93% better brand awareness 14, but YouTube ads consumed on CTV devices can deliver up to 47% lift in ad recall and 35% in purchase intent.15

As we move into the final stretch of 2020, advertisers who want more contextual control over the living room experience should look no further than YouTube which. Unlike the other streaming services, it’s always open for business.


  1. Programmatic OTT/CTV Ad Volume Up 300%+ In 2019; Roku Devices Lose Share To Amazon, MedaPost
  2. The State of Connected TV Report, 2020 (Innovid, ANA)
  3. Special Feature: YouTube’s Evolution in the OTT Streaming Landscape”, Comscore 
  4. Hulu Reports 58 Million Ad-Supported Viewers, With Median Age Of 31 – NewFronts”, Deadline, May 2019
  5. Roku Sees 42% Revenue Growth, Monthly Accounts Now Total 43 Million”, MediaPost, August 2020
  6. “Tubi Hits New Record At 33M Monthly Users, Debuts Spanish-Language Offering”, Deadline, September 2020
  7. “Comcast’s Xumo Touts Explosive Growth, Topping 24 Million Monthly Users for Free Streaming Service”, Variety, October 2020
  8. “NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service has 15 million sign-ups, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts says”, CNBC, September 2020 
  9. “New YouTube features to help you navigate the streaming boom”, Google, May 2020
  10. Special Feature: YouTube’s Evolution in the OTT Streaming Landscape”, Comscore 
  11.  Channel Factory, Internal Data 2019
  12. Channel Factory, Internal Data 2019
  13. “OTT Streaming Video Playbook for Advanced Marketers”, IAB, December 2019
  14. Contextual Alignment in Video Advertising, Channel Factory and USC, May 2020
  15. “YouTube advertisers can now target audiences watching on TV screens”, October 2018