Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV (FAST)
What is FAST?
Free Ad-Supported Streaming Television (FAST) is an OTT content distribution model where users get free access to linear television channels via the Internet and revenue is generated by delivering targeted advertisements to users as part of the viewing experience.
Why is FAST Important?
Free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) is a relatively new distribution model for content. While early movers in the established SVOD market got their start in the mid-2000s (Think Netflix and Hulu, who both launched their first SVOD streaming services in 2007), FAST is a much more recent OTT trend. Today’s well-established FAST platforms launched in the mid-2010s (e.g. Pluto TV est. 2014 or Sling TV est. 2015).
But despite their newcomer status, FAST platforms are growing in popularity and adding millions of new viewers every month.
Take Pluto TV for example. The platform grew rapidly in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, from 12 million unique monthly viewers in January 2019 to 24.2 million in January 2020. By January 2022, Pluto TV reported a total of 64 million unique monthly users on its FAST service.
And other FAST platforms are growing too – in fact, a 2021 report found that 28% of households in the US are already using a FAST service at least monthly.
As FAST platforms continue to grow their viewership, they represent an increasingly attractive revenue opportunity for content licensors and distributors to monetize their content assets.
How Does FAST Work?
FAST Content Streams Over The Top (OTT)
FAST services are OTT media services, delivering content directly to consumers via the Internet and bypassing traditional media distribution channels like broadcast, cable, and satellite TV.
FAST = Linear Content + Advertising Revenue
FAST platforms offer linear programming and monetize their content by displaying advertisements. A linear programming model means that FAST users tune in to “Virtual Channels” where content is presented on a set schedule determined by the service provider. Users can pick a channel, but they can’t choose which content will be presented next.
Platforms that offer OTT linear television in a subscription model are better described as virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDS), while ad-funded platforms with on-demand video content are better described as advertising video-on-demand (AVOD).
Because of its linear format, some experts say FAST may eventually replace cable and satellite programming.
FAST platforms license media from content owners
FAST platforms offer many different types of content for users, including:
- Live cable television channels,
- Niche sports channels and news shows,
- Digital-first video content from popular YouTube channels,
- Older TV shows and movies that may not be available on leading SVOD platforms, and
- Themed channels
FAST platforms must license television, film, and video content from the owner/creator before it can be monetized on their platform. In exchange for these rights, content owners receive either a flat buy-out fee or an ongoing share of advertising revenue generated by their content.
The terms of licensing agreements can vary substantially based on the perceived value of a content asset and the relative negotiation positions of the content owner and the distributor. If a content asset is expected to attract a large viewership, the content owner can negotiate a greater share of the benefits. Content owners can better prepare for these negotiations by leveraging their data with AI-driven platforms like Revedia to accurately value content assets.
FAST platform optimization is data-driven
Just like SVOD and AVOD service providers, free ad-supported television providers have the ability to capture data from their platforms and use it to improve the customer experience and drive revenue. However, right now many platforms are finding it difficult to increase FAST engagement.
Content data, including popularity, consumption, and engagement data (filtered by user segment, genre, platform, etc.) can help FAST platforms identify which types of content have the strongest impact on increasing viewership, and in turn, advertising revenue.
Customer data, including demographics, behaviors, and preferences, can help FAST platforms understand their audiences, identify the most engaged and profitable user segments, and make licensing decisions that help maximize platform revenue.
5 FAST Examples You Should Know
One of the early movers in the FAST streaming space, Pluto TV launched in 2013 and released the beta version of its website in 2014. Pluto TV offers more than 250 virtual streaming channels across categories that include Entertainment, News, Comedy, Sports, and Classic TV. Some content is streamed live from live broadcast playouts, while other channels consist entirely of licensed media.
Notable themed channels include “Cats 24/7” and “Totally Turtles”, which continuously streams old episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Founded in 2011 and later acquired by Comcast, Xumo is one of the largest FAST services available exclusively in the United States. The platform offers live OTT streams of traditional broadcast channels like NBC, CBS, and ABC, digital-first video content from publishers like Fail Army, free movie channels, and dedicated channels for popular shows like Midsomer Murders, Family Feud, and Degrassi.
Sling TV, a subsidiary of Dish Network, is a hybrid streaming platform that’s leveraging multiple distribution models for content.
There’s a free version of Sling (Sling TV Free), as well as subscription-based plans (Sling Orange and Sling Blue) that offer more channels for a monthly fee.
Sling TV offers a mix of linear and on-demand content, so users can tune in to their favorite virtual channel or watch television and movies from Sling TV’s rich content library.
All versions of Sling TV are monetized with unskippable advertisements.
Comcast’s second FAST streaming service, Peacock Channels offers a mix of live and on-demand programming, featuring content from studios like Nickelodeon, Showtime, The History Channel, and ABC, and CBS. The platform offers new episodes of NBC current season shows, one week after they air on traditional broadcast, cable, and satellite television.
Just like Sling TV, Peacock Channels offers a free ad-supported version of its platform, and a premium subscription-based version with no more than 5 minutes per hour of advertisements.
The Roku Channel
The Roku Channel is Roku’s own FAST media service that’s available in-browser, as an app for Android and iOS, or on your Roku streaming device.
Like other FAST services, The Roku Channel offers live streams of traditional cable channels, along with licensed on-demand content and curated theme channels delivering 24/7 streams of favorite shows like Bob the Builder, Ice Road Truckers, and The Price Is Right.
Optimize FAST Licensing Revenue with Revedia
SymphonyAI Media helps content owners and FAST platform providers harness their data to better monetize television and video content assets in the competitive OTT streaming marketplace.
Our Revedia platform offers data intelligence and AI-driven capabilities for media and entertainment companies. Features like revenue management, forecasting, and auditing help content licensors and FAST platform providers leverage their data to accurately valuate content and maximize the revenue potential of their content libraries.
Learn more by watching our on-demand webinar, Revedia Digital FAST Workflows. Our product team explores common challenges for content sellers and demonstrates how Revedia Digital radically optimizes FAST workflows.