At a time when digital content providers are battling subscription fatigue and struggling to balance cost and expectations, FAST is zipping into the fast lane. If anything, FAST, or Free-Ad Supported Streaming TV, has played a pivotal role in sustaining an industry that had almost hit the ceiling in terms of subscription rates.
It has accelerated the industry’s growth as the number of FAST channels in the US has boomed from 550 in 2020 to 1,000 in 2021 to 1,400 in 2022! These numbers speak for themselves.
Read on to learn more about all things FAST.
What is FAST?
FAST is an acronym for Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV. As the name suggests, this OTT content delivery model has two primary characteristics – it is free content for the user to consume, and the streaming is ad-supported.
Most FAST channels follow a linear form of content delivery, with the shows following a pre-defined schedule for broadcast interspersed with ads. As such, FAST has a greater resemblance to traditional cable TV than video-on-demand platforms.
However, the greatest FAST vs. linear difference is that the former belongs to the connected TV (CTV) category. That being said, on-demand FAST channels are not unheard of either. Essentially, as long as the streaming channel follows an ad-based revenue generation model and does not require any subscription costs, it comes under the ambit of FAST.
Some of the most popular FAST platforms around the world include Pluto TV (Paramount), Xumo (Comcast), Tubi (Fox), Peacock (NBCUniversal), The Roku Channel (Roku), IMDbTV (Amazon), Freevee (Amazon), LG Channels+ (LG), Samsung TV+ (Samsung), WatchFree+ (Vizio).
Types of FAST Platforms
Most of the examples of the FAST platforms can be categorized into two types: Syndicated channels and Brand channels.
Syndicated channels, also known as niche channels, are jointly broadcast by media houses and catalog holders. The channels under this category are clubbed based on a common theme, such as lifestyle, reality TV, sports, movies, etc. – kind of like how cable and satellite packages curate their content. For example, we have Roku, a platform-independent streaming platform that is accessible over various operating systems and devices.
Brands or companies publish brand channels, and the content pushed over these channels is related to the product, service, or value proposition they offer. Some brand channels may even launch premium or gated content or link the content streaming platform to a branded operating system. Samsung TV+ is a brand channel supported by Samsung.
Why are Brands Inching Toward FAST?
The surge in the number of FAST channels in the US alone indicates a fundamental switch in OTT trends. Such a change can be attributed to the following factors:
- FAST allows audiences to enjoy and consume content without any upfront commitment. As a result, it grants businesses an opportunity to overcome barriers like subscription fatigue or The Great Unsubscribe.
- With FAST, operators can focus more on audience building than lose their hair over subscriber churn. This approach alleviates the pressure of creating new and original content, which can be achieved by pushing idle content.
- Publishing existing content inventory through FAST can also be a lucrative medium for monetizing existing content.
- Offering content viewership for free enables brands to earn a higher number of impressions than their subscription-based counterparts. Such a model also enjoys greater exposure led by content accessibility and availability.
- Seeing how advertisers are willing to pay more than $25 million on ad-supported television by 2025, content publishers and distributors can truly cash in on such an opportunity.
- FAST sets the stage for the personalization of ads and targeted advertising, further enhancing its revenue potential.
FAST vs. AVOD: Key Differences
At first glance, FAST and AVOD (Ad-based Video-On-Demand) may appear rather similar. However, the differences between them are rather nuanced.
The differences between FAST and AVOD are tabulated below:
|Viewer Experience||The viewer typically has no control over the content on display||The viewer chooses the content they wish to consume|
|Revenue Generation||With FAST, advertisements are the only revenue-generating element||While ads contribute to revenue generation in AVOD, it may also include other forms of content monetization, such as subscription fees that is a hybrid of SVOD (for example, YouTube and YouTube Premium)|
|Cost to Viewer||FAST is absolutely free for viewers||AVOD may come with subscription costs|
|Content Delivery||FAST follows a linear, electronic programming grid similar to traditional cable TV||AVOD offers video-on-demand that calls for personalized content delivery|
|Platform Development||FAST channels can be developed (or acquired – as is the trend) quickly and cost-effectively||AVOD streaming platforms would require greater investment and technical expertise|
FAST platforms may be viewed as an evolutionary form of content streaming. They essentially offer businesses the best of linear and on-demand content while balancing traditional and modern-day TV as we know it. Planning strategically can help you hit the sweet spot between optimized revenue generation through ads and a stellar viewer experience.
The fact that 55% of consumers use at least one FAST service highlights that it is a ripe business opportunity. With the verdict tipping in favor of FAST channels, it is only a matter of time when FAST becomes a part of the “new normal.”
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