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This is Class 6 where we will learn about Delivery Device & Method. In case you missed it, catch up on previous classes. 

The TV landscape is complex and constantly evolving. From the days of only broadcast and cable to today’s variety of advanced TV offerings, it is a challenge to keep up with the latest terminology. With a growing interest in ways technology can bring brands and audiences closer together, media buyers are left to figure out how it all works. To help you navigate this complex ecosystem, we’ve broken out the core elements of the TV landscape into a six-part series we’re calling TV Ad Tech 101. 

The method and device used to deliver TV content continues to be a hot topic among advertisers. Whether your audience is watching terrestrial broadcast, digital cable, or advanced TV on a television set, computer, or mobile device, you need to know how your media is getting from the distribution partners to the viewers’ screens. What’s important to note is that many viewers use multiple delivery devices and methods. It’s possible that an individual could watch the nightly news on a cable set-top box, then switch to a smart TV to stream their favorite show. With the growth of consumer TV services, advertisers must be careful not to confuse or misunderstand how and where their advertisement will be displayed. Below, we explain the differences between types of delivery devices and methods.  

Types of TV Delivery Devices & Methods 


OTA (over-the-air) is how television broadcasts from national networks and local TV stations reach your home. The simplest delivery method, all you need to watch is a television and a digital antenna. For many years, the only means of watching TV was OTA, via rooftop and rabbit-ear antennas. Today’s digital TV antennas allow consumers in rural areas to receive high-definition TV for free. Given the nature of this delivery, OTA is only used by broadcast.  


QAM is a type of digital TV that uses quadrature amplitude modulation. This delivery method is used by cable distribution partners for Wi-Fi and dialup modems. While OTA delivery requires an ATSC turner to receive the channels broadcast to an antenna, QAM-based delivery uses QAM turner to transmit service to a household’s cable connection. QAM delivery is used by broadcast, cable, indexed and addressable STB.  

To review all of our previous classes, visit the TV Ad Tech 101 hub.

Set-Top Box 

Set-top boxes, often called “cable boxes,” are pieces of hardware that use analog or digital TV turners to input an external signal and output TV on a television set. This device converts video content to analog or digital TV signals through a wired connection. Like QAM-based delivery, set-top box can be used by broadcast, cable, indexed and addressable STB. 

Smart TVs, Connected Devices & Sticks, Gaming Consoles & Mobile  

Smart TVs, connected devices & sticks, gaming consoles and mobile phones are all options when it comes to watching CTV and OTT. These devices vary in size and capabilities, but all share the ability to connect to the internet and support a range of streaming apps.  

Why It Matters 

The delivery device and method in which TV is transmitted determines how your ad is encoded so it plays correctly, no matter how you audience is watching. However, different types of TV delivery require different advertising strategies. If your campaign objective is to reach a mass audience, you may want to focus on networks and programs delivered OTA. But if your campaign objective is to reach a specific audience and lift foot traffic to your brand’s brick-and-mortar stores, you could consider activating through OTT services that are available on mobile devices. Ultimately, delivery device and method are factors that should be considered from the start in order to drive the intended results.