What Is CTV? Top CTV Platforms, CTV Publishers, & CTV Apps

In this article we answer the question: “What Is CTV?” We also discuss the CTV landscape, including the top CTV platforms, CTV publishers, and CTV apps. Finally we introduce our intelligence solutions for tracking CTV with analytics, statistics, and data!

As streaming apps like Netflix, Disney+, and YouTube continue to transform the way consumers engage with content, connected TV platforms like Roku and Fire TV have begun to supplant linear TV in millions of households globally. This has triggered massive changes in everything from entertainment to technology and advertising.

In this article, we define CTV and use our CTV app intelligence solutions to identify market leaders across the industry. Here’s what we cover (click the links to jump to the corresponding section):

Want to learn more? Download our report on the CTV landscape in 2023.

What Is CTV? Connected TV and the CTV Landscape

A connected TV, or CTV, is any television capable of streaming video, or facilitating access to other digital content, over the Internet. TVs can be ‘connected’ either via built-in streaming and media platforms, like Roku TV and Samsung Smart TV, or external streaming devices, like the Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, and Google’s Chromecast.

With CTV, users can access content from popular streaming apps like Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, Max, and Hulu, as well as online live streaming and video sharing platforms like YouTube and Twitch. They can even watch live TV channels and play video games. This opens up a vast array of content options and enables functionalities like on-demand viewing, personalization, interactivity, and access to web browsing — all from the comfort of the living room!

In addition, CTV has created new opportunities in advertising, helping brands regain audiences lost to cord cutting. Indeed, due to the “app-ified” nature of CTV, advertisers are able to target highly-segmented audiences with greater precision and access rich campaign performance and engagement metrics.

For more CTV analytics, check out our CTV statistics pages!

What Is Linear TV? The Difference Between Linear TV and CTV

While CTV is the ascendent TV model, linear TV is the prevailing one. Sometimes referred to as simply “traditional television,” linear TV is the old school approach where content is scheduled in advance and viewed by audiences at specific, predetermined times. Driven by broadcasters and cable providers, linear TV is the conventional way most people have consumed television for decades. When you tune into a TV channel at a particular time to watch a show, news broadcast, or live event as it's being aired, you're watching linear TV.

Key characteristics of linear TV include scheduled programming, live events, planned commercial segments, limited viewer control (pause, rewind, etc.), and traditional delivery methods like over-the-air (OTA) broadcasting, cable, and satellite. By contrast, CTV, on-demand television, and other forms of non-linear TV enable viewers to choose what they want to watch and when they want to watch it, with limited network-imposed restrictions.

CTV Types: Smart TVs, OTT Streaming Services, STBs, Etc.

CTV has become a catch-all term for a variety of different Internet-driven streaming techniques, encompassing a range of devices and platforms that allow users to access content from their televisions. At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that there are quite a few blurred lines here. Indeed, many of the CTV devices and methods outlined below offer overlapping functionalities. For example, a gaming console might also function as a set-top box, and a smart TV might have all the capabilities of a streaming stick built-in.

In any case, here are the primary types of CTVs:

1.Smart TVs
2. Over-the-Top (OTT) Streaming Services
3. Set-Top Boxes (STB) and Digital Media Players
4. Streaming Sticks
5. Gaming Consoles

1. Smart TVs

These are televisions with integrated Internet capabilities. They come with pre-installed apps or app stores where users can download apps, games, and, of course, their preferred streaming services. Brands like Samsung, LG, and Sony offer popular lines of smart TVs, while other brands come with third-party operating systems, like Roku OS, preinstalled.

2. Over-the-Top (OTT) Streaming Services

OTT refers to content providers that deliver streaming media as a standalone product directly to viewers over the internet. This bypasses traditional distribution channels like cable, broadcast, or satellite television. The most popular OTT streaming services are brands like Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

3. Set-Top Boxes (STB) and Digital Media Players

A set-top box is a hardware device that essentially turns televisions into smart TVs by making it possible for them to receive and decode digital television (DTV) broadcasts. In addition, they typically come with more intuitive user interfaces for streamlined Internet browsing.

Unfortunately, STBs are sort of a dusty term. One generally imagines them as clunky ISP-provided devices that cause more headaches than other more contemporary solutions. Nevertheless, while they don’t necessarily advertise themselves as such, devices like Apple TV and Google TV are technically just reimagined versions of STBs.

Along the same lines, digital media players like the Nvidia Shield are also reimagined STBs. While Shield runs Android, many of these players come with their own operating systems and app stores.

4. Streaming Sticks

Streaming sticks are basically slimmed-down STBs. They’re compact devices that plug directly into a TV's HDMI port and allow it to connect to the internet for streaming content. Examples include the Google Chromecast and the Roku Streaming Stick.

5. Gaming Consoles

Devices like the PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch not only allow users to play games but also offer apps for streaming content.

Top CTV Platforms

The CTV space is becoming increasingly competitive and the top CTV platforms tend to vary by country and region. For instance, Roku, which has far and away the largest CTV offering on the market, is still relatively contained to the United States and Latin America.

Nevertheless, the most popular CTV platforms globally are as follows:

1.Roku TV
2. Apple TV
3. Amazon Fire TV
4. Google TV

1. Roku TV — The Roku Channel Store

Roku revolutionized the CTV industry. Founded in Los Gatos, California in 2002, they now offer everything from streaming devices to smart TVs and high-end audio solutions.

Driven by Roku OS and the Roku Channel Store, Roku enables users to access their favorite streaming platforms, apps, games, and live TV channels. This includes content from heavy-hitters like Netflix, Disney+, HBO’s Max, and Hulu, as well as that from more niche services like the Food Network, Gaia, and local news broadcasters.

Indeed, by untethering popular channels from bulky cable packages, Roku offers customers improved flexibility, lower costs, more options, and a better, more personalized viewing experience.

Key Roku TV Statistics:

  • Roku Channel Store: 38,095 apps from 10,188 app publishers.
  • Top Roku Categories: Faith-Based, Movies & TV, and Apps.
  • Apps Published Per Day: 17

2. Apple TV — The Apple TV tvOS App Store

Funny enough, Apple TV wasn’t Apple’s first foray into the television space. They’ve actually tried at various times to launch TV and digital entertainment products without much success. For example, in 1993 they launched the short-lived Macintosh TV. In 1994, they launched the Apple TV tuner card and the Apple Interactive Television Box, which was a collaboration venture between Apple, British Telecom, and Belgacom that never made it to market.

However, in 2006, Apple introduced the world to the project that would become Apple TV. At the time it was called iTV, was based on Apple’s now discontinued Front Row software, and could be navigated using the Apple Remote.

By 2007, the market was finally ready for Apple’s digital entertainment revolution and the company was officially poised to shake up the traditional cable TV model, à la Roku, YouTube, Netflix, and other streaming and digital entertainment innovators.

By bringing to market affordable, bespoke offerings, Apple TV and tvOS made it possible for consumers to ditch expensive, thousand-channel cable packages that they neither needed nor wanted. The emergent digital streaming market has provided the company with a fantastic new source of revenue with a bright future ahead of it.

Key Apple TV Statistics:

  • Apple TV tvOS App Store: 22,702 apps from 15,045 publishers.
  • Top Apple TV Categories: Education, Entertainment, and Lifestyle.
  • Apps Published Per Day: 8

3. Amazon Fire TV — The Amazon Fire TV Appstore

The first Fire TV was released in early 2014. It was Amazon’s response to the digital streaming trend that culminated in such products as the Apple TV, Netflix, Hulu, and Roku. According to Amazon, the Fire TV initially bore the codename “Bueller” (after the eponymous character of Ferris Bueller's Day Off) and was designed to outpace its competitors first, and foremost, in performance.

Fire TV, while primarily competing with other streaming devices and platforms, was also developed in response to a significant shift in the way consumers were interacting with entertainment. Indeed, people were – and are still – abandoning traditional cable providers in ever-growing numbers. This phenomenon, known as “cord-cutting,” has led to increasingly poor returns for the cable industry overall. With Fire TV, Amazon followed in Apple’s and Roku’s footsteps, capitalizing on cord-cutting by bringing an affordable, bespoke offering to market.

Key Fire TV Statistics:

  • Amazon Fire TV Appstore: 19,340 apps from 7,935 publishers.
  • Top Fire TV Categories: Lifestyle, Movies & TV, and Games.
  • Apps Published Per Day: 11

4. Google TV — Google TV

Just like Amazon, Apple, and Roku, Google has recently directed a good deal of attention towards the entertainment space. In particular, the Google TV, which is essentially a revamped interface for Android TV, was released in 2020. It unifies all your favorite streaming services in one place and was designed to facilitate optimized user customization and more sophisticated content recommendations.

Key Google TV Statistics:

  • Google TV: 8,178 apps from 5,395 publishers.
  • Top Google TV Categories: Entertainment, Movies & Audio, and Video Players & Editors.
  • Apps Published Per Day: 1

Other popular CTV platforms include: Samsung Smart TV, LG Smart TV, and Vizio SmartCast.

Top CTV Publishers

Let’s turn now to the top CTV publishers by platform. In this case, we identified the top publishers based on the number of apps they’ve published on the respective CTV app stores. We looked at Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and Google TV.

The Top 5 Roku App Publishers:

1. Subsplash Inc — 4,233 apps

2. TVstartup.com — 963 apps

3. VlogBox, Inc. — 955 apps

4. Future Today Inc. — 641 apps

5. Lightcast.com — 562 apps

The Top 5 Apple TV App Publishers:

1. Cross Media Corporation — 183 apps

2. FutureToday Inc — 152 apps

3. TvStartup Inc. — 136 apps

4. Ventura Educational Systems — 126 apps

5. Gray Television Group, Inc. — 116 apps

The Top 5 Fire TV App Publishers:

1. Lightcast.com — 631 apps

2. Future Today Inc — 397 apps

3. tvstartup.com — 320 apps

4. PuzzlePups — 253 apps

5. Streaming Television Inc. — 189 apps

The Top 5 Google TV App Publishers:

1. Gray Television, Inc. — 101 apps

2. BlueFrame Technology — 80 apps

3. MEGASTREAM — 61 apps

4. RadioKing— 59 apps

5. N-Dream — 52 apps

Learn more about the top CTV publishers with our file dumps for CTV analytics.

Top CTV Apps

Next up, the top CTV apps based on ratings. Here, we once again focused on the big four: Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and Google TV.

The Top 10 Roku Apps:

1. Netflix

2. YouTube

3. Hulu

4. Amazon Prime Video

5. The Roku Channel

6. Sling TV

7. Disney+

8. Pandora

9. Spectrum TV

10. Max

The Top 10 Apple TV Apps:

1. Disney Crossy Road

2. Weather Live - Local Forecast

3. Arlo Legacy

4. YouTube

5. Netflix

6. PlayStation Vue

7. Sling

8. Hulu

9. Disney+

10. Amazon Prime Video

The Top 10 Fire TV Apps:

1. YouTube

2. Disney+

3. Pluto TV

4. Downloader

5. Tubi

6. Apple TV

7. Peacock TV

8. Paramount+

9. Max

10. Spotify

The Top 10 Google TV Apps:

1. Hotstar

2. Tubi

3. TuneIn Radio

4. Red Ball 4

5. ZEE5

6. Crossy Road

7. Rally Fury

8. Asphalt 8

9. Twitch

10. Beach Buggy Racing

Get more CTV statistics and insights from the Roku Explorer! Learn more here.

Tracking CTV: CTV Analytics, CTV Statistics, and CTV Data

42matters is a leading provider of mobile and connected TV (CTV) app data and app store intelligence. Our APIs, file dumps, and Roku Explorer offer insight into thousands of CTV apps from thousands of CTV publishers. This includes data, statistics, and analytics from leading CTV app stores like the Roku Channel Store, Apple TV tvOS App Store, Amazon Fire TV, Google TV, Samsung Smart TV Apps, LG Content Store, and Vizio SmartCast Apps.

To learn more about tracking CTV apps and the CTV landscape, be sure to set up a meeting with our team!

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These tools, which you can try free for 14-days, offer a comprehensive look at app market trends and statistics. This includes in-depth, visual insights into downloads, categories, top charts, rating and review analyses, and more. This data can be downloaded as a CSV file and leveraged however you like — in your own algorithms, analyses, products, studies, etc.

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