Streaming

CTV Specs & Ad Format Guidelines for Digital TV Marketers

By Liz Krupa
woman watching ctv with specs overlaid

The rise of Connected TV (CTV) has not only transformed the way we consume media, but also revolutionized television advertising. Now, marketers can target and deliver messaging to consumers with precision, maximizing engagement and return on investment. But attaining that level of precision is often easier said than done.

Due to the increasing fragmentation of the CTV landscape, marketers must navigate a myriad of platforms, each with its own unique specifications and ad formats. This complexity can be daunting, especially if you’re new to streaming advertising.

In this guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of video and audio ad specs, recommended dimensions, file formats, and best practices for platforms like Tubi, Hulu, Netflix, and more.

Tubi

Tubi is an ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) service, meaning it provides content for free in exchange for a few commercial ad breaks. Here’s a few specs and best practices to help you reach audiences on this CTV platform:

Tubi Video Specs

On top of those specs, keep the following in mind:

Best Practices When Advertising on Tubi

For best results, brands should try a few Tubi-specific advertising tactics in addition to typical TV and OTT advertising best practices. First, we recommend that brands try experimenting with Tubi’s ultra-short ad options. Tubi allows advertisers to purchase as little as six seconds of ad space, which can be a great low-cost way to broadcast your brand without demanding too much audience attention. 

Brands should also be familiar with Tubi’s unique audience. Although you can target many different audiences on Tubi, the majority of their audience skews young, female, and multicultural. Catering to this demographic could cause lower CPMs and better ROI for your ad campaigns.

Additionally, if you’d like to use a pixel to collect data, share it with Tubi’s team. They do support pixels, but it needs to be attuned to their custom macro and will require you to accept their data agreement.

Hulu

Hulu allows subscribers to choose between an ad-free version for $17.99 or an ad-supported version for $7.99 – and with those savings, it’s no surprise that 58% of their 50 million subscribers opt to see ads. If you’d like to reach that audience, check out the specs below.

Hulu Ad Specs

Best Practices for Hulu Advertising

Hulu offers many ad options. In particular, brands that advertise on Hulu would be remiss if they didn’t investigate Hulu’s pause ads, binge ads, and interactive overlays. Each of these provide an interactive element that is more likely to grab a viewer’s attention, especially when compared to passively watching a TV ad.

When purchasing ads on Hulu, keep frequency in mind. Advertisers and viewers alike have reported seeing the exact same ad multiple times in a short timeframe, leading to ad fatigue. This can cause wasted ad spend and damage your brand perception. There are two ways to combat this: Either set frequency caps during the bidding process, or provide multiple ad variations to keep your messaging fresh.

YouTube

YouTube has many different ad types, including video ads, display ads, companion banners, in-feed ads, outstream ads, and masthead ads. However, many of those ad types are not available on YouTube TV. In this post, we’ll provide an overview of specs for their skippable and non-skippable video ads – but we previously wrote an exhaustive blog post if you’re interested in all YouTube ad specs.

YouTube Ad Specs

Best Practices for Advertising on YouTube

CTV is often thought of as a branding play – but platforms like YouTube prove that this is an oversimplification. They offer quite a few options to help with bottom-of-funnel initiatives, such as robust remarketing capabilities and compelling CTA overlays. If a brand is interested in drumming up some conversions on YouTube, consider experimenting with Video Action Campaigns.

Additionally, brands should familiarize themselves with YouTube’s built-in analytics capabilities. If you haven’t invested in streaming measurement technology yet, YouTube Analytics may be the next best thing. YouTube clearly outlines how ads contribute to brand lift, measures the impact of creative, and provides all the other bells and whistles that Google Ads offers. While it won’t create a cohesive omnichannel view of your streaming performance, it’s a great free option for ads on Google properties.

Netflix

Until very recently, Netflix was a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service without any options for advertisers. It wasn’t until November 2022 that Netflix released an ad-supported tier, allowing brands to reach their massive audience. Here are the specs:

Netflix Ad Specs & Video Formats

In addition to those specs, keep the following considerations in mind:

Best Practices for Netflix Advertising

At the time of writing, Netflix has only offered their ad-supported tier for a year and a half. Consequently, when compared to the other streaming services in this post, Netflix is still maturing their ad offering. At the moment, brands can use basic targeting options like age, gender, location, content popularity, and content genre. Brands that would like more functionality than that have two options: Either wait until 2025 for Netflix’s own inhouse advertising platform, or leverage marketing partners. 

For our clients, we recommend the latter. If your brand would like to access more precise targeting, Netflix does integrate with data connectivity platforms like Adobe or LiveRamp, enabling more precise targeting using your own first-party data. Brands can also use The Trade Desk to simplify ad delivery and measurement across various CTV platforms. Or, they can use an all-in-one technology solution like Bliss Point to simplify the process.

Disney+

Like Netflix, Disney+ started offering ads in late 2022. Here’s the specs you’ll need to follow when creating your ad:

Disney+ Ad Specs

Best Practices for Disney+ Advertising

Disney+ provides a great opportunity for marketers hoping to reach families, since half of all families with children subscribe to Disney+. Additionally, 62% of subscribers regularly watch with at least one other person, and 25% of all subscribers report regularly watching Disney+ with their children. However, keep in mind their Junior Mode shows no ads – so advertising should always be directed toward the parent.

Brands can use basic targeting options like age, gender, geography, device, or content. But if you’d like to take it a step further, we recommend trying Disney’s 1P Select audience targeting method, where you can leverage Disney’s troves of first-party data to target behaviorally. For example, Disney will know if a viewer is likely to travel to one of their theme parks soon, and you can use that opportunity to promote your travel supplies to that family.

It’s also worth noting that Disney owns more than just Disney+ – you can use Disney’s ad console to also buy media on Hulu and ESPN, as well as premium inventory for National Geographic, ABC, and FX through a service called DisneyXP. When our experts combine DisneyXP with great ad targeting, we’ve found it leads to excellent marketing performance across the entire funnel.

Roku

Roku is one of the original pioneers of CTV and boasts 81.6 million viewers around the globe. While Roku offers a variety of ad types, including static marquee ads, showroom ads, and screensaver ads, here’s the specs for their standard video ads:

Roku Ad Specs

Best Practices for Roku Advertising

On Roku, refining your strategy to only target the most relevant audiences with the most impactful ad type is essential. Roku’s overall demographics are closely representative of the United States population, so failing to establish a well-defined targeting strategy will cause you to cast an impossibly large net.

Start by familiarizing yourself with Roku’s new partnership with The Trade Desk, a centralized demand side platform (DSP).The partnership allows Roku advertisers to tap into The Trade Desk’s advanced ad targeting, helping them target the same audiences across multiple marketing channels in a way that reduces waste while improving revenue. For example, you could retarget people who saw your social media ads on the Roku device, while suppressing those who already saw one of your linear TV ads.

Once you’ve found your target audience, look into the ad formats that will help you guide them through the customer journey. To build awareness, try Roku’s Home Screen Sponsor. Although your brand has limited space to build your value and ask for action, users will become more familiar with your brand since over 75 million people view the Roku home screen each month. For mid funnel, use a perfectly targeted ad spot or content sponsorship to show off your product benefits and encourage a highly relevant audience to take action. 

Then, to secure the purchase, Roku offers retargeting based on purchase intent. This means you can get right in front of customers who have previously seen your ad on any other marketing channel right when they’re primed to purchase. 

Peacock

Peacock is a streaming service from NBC Universal. At the time of writing, their ad supported tier only costs $5.99 per month and grants viewers access to a wide range of well-known shows like Love Island, House, and The Office. Here’s the specs to follow to get your ads on Peacock:

Peacock Ad Specs & Video Formats

Peacock offers two types of video ad formats: Pre-rolls and mid-rolls. Both ad placements have the same spec requirements, but there are two types of specs. Brands that only advertise on Peacock can use NBCU’s own specs, while brands that prefer a more standardized approach can use the VAST 2.0 standard. Let’s look into each.

For NBCU-Served Video:

For Video Served with VAST 2.0

Advertisers need to submit four different files following slightly different spec sheets – Mezz, High, Medium, and Low.

MEZ

HIGH

MED 

LOW

Best Practices for Peacock Advertising

We generally recommend Peacock for brands that would like to influence household-wide buying behavior by reaching women. That’s because the majority of Peacock viewers are women, and the average age of a Peacock viewer is 41. Considering that 78% of women identify as the primary shopper in their household, this makes Peacock a great way to reach high value audiences for a low CPM.

PeacockAX is also available for brands that would like to reach a more general audience – this ad space is evenly utilized by men and women, with a median age of 46. You can easily purchase this ad space through the NBCUniversal platform.

Amazon Fire TV

Fire TV offers a handful of ad types for CTV marketers, including traditional video ad, inline banners, carousel ads, screensavers and sponsored tiles. Let’s look at the ad specs for each.

Amazon Fire TV Ad Specs & Video Formats

Fire TV Video Ads

Inline Banner

Feature Rotator

Sponsored Screensaver

Sponsored Tiles

Best Practices for Amazon Fire TV Advertising

Amazon Fire TV allows marketers to reach over 200 million people through a variety of devices, like FireTV sticks, FireTV Cubes, FireTV Smart TVs, or third-party solutions that run on the FireTV operating system. These devices have minimal user overlap with mainstream CTV providers like Samsung (23%), LG (10%), and Roku (8%), making them a great way to access consumers that haven’t seen your ad yet.

Once they have seen your ad, you can tap into Amazon’s powerful retargeting capabilities. For example, brands can use a video ad to build awareness and demonstrate the product’s value, then begin serving that same customer actionable display ads across Amazon’s network. While your mileage may vary, Amazon claims that this can increase awareness by 153% for retail brains and double your add-to-cart rates year-over-year compared to video only campaigns.

ESPN+

ESPN+ provides viewers with access to both mainstream and niche sporting content. It’s a great way to reach sporting fans without paying the massive CPMs required for major sporting events on major TV channels. Here’s the specs to follow:

ESPN+ Ad Specs

Note that video must be submitted without leaders such as slates and countdowns. Letterboxing and pillar boxing is acceptable on a case-by-case basis. You can only submit one audio track and one video track with each ad.

Best Practices for ESPN+ Advertising

ESPN+ provides an amazing opportunity for brands to get in front of a well-established group of sporting fanatics. After all, 74% of ESPN+ subscribers identify as sports superfans. 

However, don’t just focus on the classic sporting options like football and basketball. Right now, 68% of sports fans – a majority from Gen Z – are using ESPN+ to explore new or emerging types of sports. For example, the popularity of the Drone Racing League has grown by 30% between 2023 and 2024 and the Premier Lacrosse League saw a 23% growth in viewership during the same time period.

When advertising on ESPN+, it helps to think outside the box. It’ll give you a chance to reach untapped and highly relevant audiences without needing to pay exorbitant CPMs for high-profile sporting events.

Paramount+

Paramount+ has over 71 million subscribers — by following the specs below, you can start reaching this massive audience.

Paramount+ Ad Specs

Best Practices for Paramount+ Advertising

If your goal is to boost revenue with Paramount+, look into EyeQ. It’s an aggregation of several major streaming services, including Paramount+, Pluto, and CBS, where advertisers can target by content clusters across each platform. For example, marketers can choose the Culture cluster to target people who watch shows like Bar Rescue, Ink Master, and Jersey Shore. Brands can also choose to target clusters like Sports or Comedy, or choose from Plus and Prime which include some of the most popular programs on the service.

Sling

Sling has three categories of ad specs to keep in mind: Video (HD), Video (Standard), and Audio. Let’s dive into each.

Sling Ad Specs & Video Formats

High Definition Video

Standard Definition Video

Audio (Stereo English)

Additionally, don’t include any color bars or countdowns. Sling will present your videos as is, and will not cut any audio or video.

Best Practices for Sling TV Advertising

Sling gave us the first live TV streaming offering – and to this day, many users prefer to use it to watch live programs. 

Two of Sling’s biggest benefits are its wealth of first-party data and customization capabilities. This helps marketers target their ideal customer in a privacy-compliant way while ensuring that their ads only appear on programs that are appealing to their audience. For example, if you wanted to reach young couples that are looking for their next vacation destination, you could place ads on the Discovery channel while excluding channels with polarizing programming that could put your target audience in a negative headspace.

Conclusion

Now that you know the essential CTV specs and best practices for each platform, you’re ready to move onto the next step of your strategy. 

First, make sure you’ve set tangible goals and have a well-defined target audience, and choose a small list of CTV platforms that align best with your goals and audience. While each business will have a different path to success, we recommend experimenting with a little ad spend on multiple platforms and measuring the outcome of your investment. Don’t be afraid to try out multiple ad formats as well, and try to cover each phase of a full funnel marketing strategy!

If you’d like a little help along the way, Tinuiti can help. We offer CTV advertising services that stand up to modern challenges within the streaming landscape – namely, ensuring that you’ve chosen the right spread of CTV platforms and the right ad types, all while providing easy access to the types of data and strategic insights you need to optimize your campaigns.

Or, if you prefer to take your strategy in house, check out our Bliss Point measurement technology. Bliss Point provides a one-stop-shop for measuring the impact of all your marketing efforts, with the ability to predict the estimated return on each dollar of marketing spend across every one of your marketing channels. If you’re wondering which CTV platform carries the most benefit for your brand, Bliss Point has the answer.