This is Class 5 where we will learn about Distribution Partners. 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. 


Distribution partners connect the ad inventory owners who run the programming you are most interested in, getting your advertisement from point A to point B. Unlike media types, which are the ways distribution partners can transfer information, or delivery devices & methods, which are the tools that enable viewing, distribution partners are the companies that manage how content reaches screens. Basically – distribution partners are the pipes that get TV shows and ads in front of audiences.  

The reason you need to know the distinct types of distribution partners is so that you better understand the complete TV advertising workflow. To provide a clearer picture of the TV landscape, we have broken down each type of distribution partner.  

Types of Distribution Partners 

Broadcasters & Local Broadcast Affiliates 

Broadcasters and local broadcast affiliates are syndicated media organizations that distribute audio and video content to mass audiences. This type of television is transmitted “over the air” by radio waves and then received by a television antenna. Modern broadcast TV is often bundled with cable and therefore does not require customers to have an antenna to receive a signal. Major broadcasters include ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, and PBS. Programming on these networks varies, from national and local news to primetime dramas and comedies, to educational series – often available to anyone who can receive the signal on their TV set.  

MVPDs & Cable Networks 

MVPDs (Multichannel Video Programming Distributors) and cable networks are entities that distribute multiple television channels. Cable providers include companies like AT&T, Comcast, DirecTV, DISH, and Verizon and they deliver their content by satellite, cable, or linear broadcast systems using signals transmitted through coaxial or fiber-optic cables. Typically, cable providers package several channels that they then offer to customers who pay to subscribe to their service.  

Streaming Services, vMVPDs, TVE, & Streaming Apps + Channels 

OTT and CTV are available through streaming services, vMVPDs (Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributors), TVE (TV Everywhere, also known as authenticated streaming or authenticated video on-demand), and streaming apps or channels. Distributors in this category include SVODs (Subscription Video-On-Demand) like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, AVODs (Ad-Supported Video-On-Demand) like YouTube TV, Roku, Tubi, and Crackle, and vMVPDs like DirecTV Now, fuboTV, PlayStation Vue, Pluto TV, Sling TV, and Xumo. These distributors are the content solution of choice for many “cord-cutters” who prefer to use digital, on-the-go services. Notably, these services can be available to consumers with or without advertising and include options to watch live TV, as well as video on demand. 

Why It Matters 

The fragmented TV landscape has become a significant challenge for advertisers. However, by knowing the differences between types of distribution partners and leveraging premium data solutions, advertisers are empowered to make the best decisions for their campaigns. And with tools like Cadent’s Aperture Viewer Graph, advertisers can easily and effectively reach their target audiences – across both media types and distribution partners.  

For a full rundown of the TV Landscape, download our new infographic.

Be sure to come back next week for Class 6 of TV Ad Tech 101, where you’ll learn all about Delivery Devices & Methods.   

Posted by Cadent

Cadent powers the evolution of TV brand advertising by providing data-driven solutions for buying and selling TV advertising.