Free Ad Supported TV (FAST) – A Comprehensive Guide to Free Streaming Services
ViewLift Team | December 8, 2022

Free Ad Supported TV (FAST): FAST channels are becoming a promising revenue model for broadcasters and advertising channel for brands. Explore how traditional linear TV can regain its hold among OTT viewers with FAST model.

Are you a broadcaster looking to launch your very own video streaming services? Then, FAST must be in your consideration set because this is what market trends of the content streaming industry look like:

  • Post the pandemic, 47% of American consumers watch free ad-supported video services like The Roku Channel, Pluto TV, and Tubi, among others.
  • Viewership for FAST platforms is set to increase to 58% by 2023.
  • 35% of OTT subscribers are planning to cancel their subscriptions by mid-2023.

An average American household subscribes to an average of 4.7 streaming services. However, with subscription fatigue and an economic downturn causing financial uncertainties, more and more subscribers are turning to free entertainment and are willing to watch content with ads. At the same time, viewers are also weary of too much screen engagement and want the immersive viewing experiences of traditional linear TV. All of these factors are contributing to the unprecedented popularity of FAST channels.

It’s the right time for broadcasters, content owners, and advertisers to understand FAST channels and how the FAST model help with video content monetization.

What is a FAST channel?

A FAST or Free ad-supported TV channel is an extended version of the good old traditional cable TV. The only difference is that FAST streams free content to viewers through over-the-top (OTT) and internet-connected devices like CTV and generates revenue by serving ads – before, during, and after each piece of content.

Many confuse FAST with AVOD — another ad-supported content delivery mechanism. While both have some similarities, there are a few significant differences too.

FAST Vs AVOD: What’s the difference?

FAST TV channel AVOD
FAST channel TV is entirely free for viewers. Broadcasters monetize their content through advertisement. AVOD is partially free. Although advertisements are the primary source of earnings, AVOD does not exclude other monetization methods like subscriptions.
FAST channel TV does not maintain a content library. Instead, it follows linear and scheduled programming. As a result, a viewer watches whatever is streamed at that moment. AVOD maintains a video content library. As a result, viewers can select and watch any video-on-demand content.
FAST channel examples: Samsung Live TV, Xumo, IMDBTV AVOD platform examples: Hotstar, MX Player

How does FAST compare with traditional OTT monetization models?

Traditional OTT monetization models include:

  • AVOD
  • SVOD
  • Hybrid (a combination of one or more of the above)

AVOD: Advertisement-based video on demand

The ad-based video-on-demand model monetizes OTT content through ads. It serves free video content to registered users or subscribers but with ads. As a result, broadcasters earn revenue through ads, sponsor screens, and sponsored content, among others.

We have already compared FAST channel TV with AVOD. Now, let us explore how Free ad-supported streaming services (FAST) hold grounds against other OTT monetization models.

SVOD: Subscription-based video on demand

Subscription-based video on demand, or SVOD, relies on a subscription-based monetization model. The OTT provider provides access to OTT content by charging a recurring subscription fee, typically per month, quarter, or year. Netflix was one of the first proponents of the SVOD model. Since then, SVOD has dominated OTT monetization models.

Hybrid monetization

As the name suggests, in the hybrid model, OTT providers use a combination of other methods to monetize their content. For example, Netflix now offers both AVOD and SVOD options to viewers.

Why FAST channel TV is winning over content owners, viewers, and advertisers

A Deloitte survey confirms that 65 percent of respondents prefer watching ads to eliminate or reduce subscription costs. FAST channel TV offers viewers an incredibly immersive viewing experience in a world of growing subscription fatigue. It also works for advertisers because people have more mind space to see and comprehend ads, unlike just waiting to skip them. In addition, with its linear, fixed-schedule programming, FAST removes the problem of “too much choice” for viewers, resulting in more engaged viewers watching any piece of content. Being free of cost also means a lower entry barrier for new OTT viewers, bringing more viewers into the fold of streaming content.

For content owners and broadcasters, Free Ad Supported TV (FAST) offers the opportunity to monetize even archived content or offer seasonal content channels with monetization. Popular TV shows and movies, Christmas and holiday season content, old games for sports channels – you name it!

This is why FAST or virtual linear channels are set to touch a staggering US$ 4.1 billion in 2023.

Consumer preferences are redefining the streaming industry. Unsurprisingly, the growing popularity of FAST distribution channels is opening new revenue opportunities for content owners and traditional broadcasters. Let’s see the impact of FAST on them.

How the growing popularity of FAST affects traditional broadcasters and OTT platforms

Cost. Immersive experiences. And The Great Unsubscribe Movement. These factors are collectively affecting the content ecosystem. Broadcasters and OTT platforms are at the forefront of these shifts.

  • With FAST integration, OTT platforms can offer free scheduled content to viewers. This strategy can retain a portion of the audience that would have otherwise unsubscribed. In addition, OTT platforms can attract a new audience that was never keen on paying for streaming content subscriptions in the first place.
  • For traditional broadcasters, the benefits are even more. Free Ad Supported TV (FAST) allows them to monetize their content in new ways, enabling them to use even archived content for revenue.

There are over 1400 FAST TV channels in the US alone. The growth of FAST TV channels and the reduced number of subscriptions are surefire indicators of changes in viewer preferences. Whether traditional broadcasters and OTT platforms like this change or not, their target audience will keep exploring content channels that address their needs. Now, it is up to broadcasters and OTT platforms to adopt FAST content delivery or fall through the cracks and eventually be wiped out.

How to launch a FAST channel?

Launching your own FAST TV channel is a challenging task. But with the right set of tools and OTT platform providers, it can be up and running quickly. The following blueprint will be helpful.

Step 1: Choose your FAST content strategy

Content owners must understand what kind of content will work well on FAST TV. For example,broadcasters should refrain from airing premium or high-stakes content on free ad-supported TV. However, old and archived content, thematic (think outdoor, pet videos, or travel), or even seasonal content (Christmas, summer, holiday season, etc.) are good options to keep your audiences engaged on your FAST channel.

Single-show FAST channel is another effective strategy. Most traditional broadcasters or OTT platforms have successful shows in their content library. These can be brought back and monetized for free ad-supported streaming services. This would mean streaming episodes of just one show, like program marathon blocks. The older hits with a ready fan base are best suited to a single-show FAST TV channel. Think “Cops,” “Friends,” “How I Met Your Mother,” and “Fear Factor” — shows that had a robust fan base among boomers and millennials. Your target audience will not mind ad breaks. Instead, they will enjoy the value and entertainment your FAST TV channel adds to their life.

Step 2: Choose the right tech partner

  • Launching and sustaining your Free Ad Supported TV (FAST) will rely on the competence of your tech stack. A FAST strategy often means maintaining channels and content to keep your viewers engaged while also allowing you to dynamically insert relevant ads for relevant viewers. Ensure that your FAST platform partner makes it easy to curate, program, insert ads and publish content in a matter of minutes.
  • When selecting an OTT platform provider for your FAST TV channels, make sure they offer a lightweight, customizable, easy-to-use video player, ready-to-use templates, a dashboard for high viewability, and the flexibility of curating content both manually or programmatically.
  • Viewing experience is another crucial area that influences the selection criteria of your tech partner. OTT viewers are already used to excellent viewing experiences with brands like Netflix. New OTT viewers shifting from linear TV will also expect lag-free viewing over the internet. Ensure your tech partner has all the tools to offer a top-notch viewing experience to acquire and sustain viewership for your FAST channels.

Launch FAST streaming service with ViewLift

Are you a content owner, producer or creator? Or a broadcaster looking for a platform partner to launch your own FAST TV channel. You have reached the right place!

All you have to do is bring great content and let ViewLift do the rest. ViewLift’s FAST platform is designed to offer a pleasant Free Ad Supported TV (FAST) viewing experience. Our ready-to-use templates, dashboard and content curation, and ad insertion flexibility make FAST TV launch and maintenance seamless and cost-effective.

Request a demo to start your FAST channel journey today.

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