One of the most successful forms of connected television (CTV) is FAST — Free-Ad Supported TV, which is very similar to live TV but with no subscription and on a different platform. In the United States alone there are over 20 major FAST platforms and channels, with more than 1,000 channels available. The most famous FAST platforms include Samsung TV+, Peacock by NBCU, and the Roku Channel.
However, despite its popularity, FAST is still poorly understood by media consumers and creators alike. So let’s find out why exactly this format has taken off, its various sub-types, channels and specifics and how you can capitalize on its growth by setting up your own FAST channel.
What is a FAST channel?
FAST channels are placed on CTV platforms and constitute an evolution of the static, low-choice offerings provided by traditional linear TV. That’s because FAST channels include all the hallmarks of high-quality CTV, e.g. content that is personalized, and organic, targeted advertisements, etc. while creating a similar viewing experience to conventional TV. This is thanks to ads being placed during breaks in programmed schedules.
On average, out of every hour of content on FAST CTV channels, there are up to 13-15 minutes of total ad time. Ad breaks follow the American model with frequent short intervals every 6 – 9 minutes, with 3 – 6 ads appearing during each period. With the average media consumer spending 1 hour 44 minutes watching CTV content in 2022 per day, that’s around 20 – 30 minutes of time spent watching ads.
There are a lot of acronyms you have to contend with in the CTV business, and one that FAST is often associated with is VOD, which stands for video on demand. This means that video content is available for users to access on channels either for free or by subscribing, via an account on a streaming platform. If it’s free to view and the platform supports itself with ads, it’s also described as advertising video-on-demand (AVOD).
Sounds Similar, but How Are Fast & AVOD Different?
In terms of format, the FAST model has many similarities with AVOD as both support paid advertisements on their channels, but there is a crucial difference that both consumers and creators should be aware of.
AVOD platforms like YouTube monetize content on-demand with advertising formats like ads on banners, interactive ads, sponsored content, etc. FAST channels, however, are more similar to those on traditional linear TV and therefore ads are interspersed during live TV, which may be pre-recorded or conventionally live (like the British ITV player-ITVX).
Both concepts are focused on ad monetization; where they differ is the type of content they offer on their specific channels or platforms. However, they’re also available on the same devices used by viewers which means that audiences can consume content via FAST and AVOD in tandem, and not at the expense of the other.
Types of FAST Services
FAST should not be thought of as a monolithic bloc as there are differences in both the scalability of the content offered and the condition of access via different channels. This can be seen in two different categories.
1. Scalability of service
Non-Exclusive: Content is available across multiple platforms and channels at the same time. One of the most prominent examples of this would be Roku.
Exclusive: Content is only available on a specific platform or channel exclusively. Samsung TV+ is a good example of this.
2. Access conditions
Classic free: This is the most common example and represents ‘classic’ FAST, where the CTV platform is supported via AVOD and/or linear TV advertising.
Premium available: Some platforms offer a premium service in addition to their free FAST options, including SVOD and pay-per-view channels.
According to the polling agency YouGov, in the U.S. 42% of viewers who have non-smart TV consume FAST channels every week, while 53% of smart TV owners use FAST services each week. So far, the most famous platforms include Peacock, Roku, Pluto TV, and Tubi, and while these services are well known, one should not assume that the FAST market is saturated. In fact, there’s considerable potential for growth.
According to the latest data from TVision’s ‘State of CTV Advertising’ survey, users of FAST apps and platforms like Roku are increasing the average time they spend viewing and consumers are dropping subscriptions in favor of those same FAST apps. With more viewers come opportunities for media developers to expand into a format that is proving to be successful.
I’m a Content Distributor — Why Should I Care About FAST?
FAST channels allow consumers to stream content in the same linear fashion as conventional TV while also accessing CTV content that can be watched on demand. Therefore, FAST balances the best of both the linear and CTV media spheres, providing greater scope for new content. That’s why FAST platforms like The Roku Channel, Tubi, and Pluto TV are growing faster: they have significantly increased their reach compared with their competitors.
Let’s take a closer look at one of these companies: Pluto TV. Over the last five years, it has gone from humble beginnings to achieving a total audience of 15 million monthly users and generated over $1 billion in revenue last year. This is due, in no small part, to an attractive cost per thousand impressions (CPM) rate which measures advertising spending against impressions made by viewers with ad content on its channels.
Advertising using this format is far more accurate compared to that on linear TV channels, even if it is slightly more expensive (ranging from $30 – $65 for CTV compared with $10 – $15). However, given that in 2022 CTV ad household reach achieved 92% and that the total number of CTV viewers reached 110 million among Gen Z and Millennials, its cost-effectiveness as a platform for monetization becomes obvious.
Which Genres Perform the Best on FAST streaming?
Thanks to all of that, the FAST market is growing considerably, and while a lot of the data we have available is on American viewers, there’s good reason to look to the international arena too. Countries in Latin America are now attracting the attention of investors looking to expand into the FAST channel industry, as are markets in South-East Asia like Vietnam. They’re a great launching pad for your platform.
What’s particularly interesting to note about the popularity of services in various geographical regions is how different topics and subjects predominate in different regions on different channels. That’s because distributors as well as ad content creators are able to quickly identify and exploit genre preferences in different areas. This means that they’re able to rapidly identify if one form of content works in Vietnam and then, if it does, attempt to popularize it in similar countries and areas such as the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos.
When you look at what’s popular in different countries and regions you can also see just how varied the options for FAST streaming TV are. In the United States, news and current affairs channels are by far the most popular genre amongst FAST consumers, whereas in Latin American countries like Colombia and Mexico, films and TV serials are in vogue thanks to the popularity of telenovelas. Viewers in the Middle East are notable for enjoying FAST-based documentaries, and coming back to the Asia-Pacific region again, consumers in countries like Vietnam have proven that music content can work too. For every user, one could say, there is a platform.
And these results aren’t set in stone; there’s good research to indicate that other genre types and channels can find niche audiences amongst FAST media consumers. Some of these include gaming and esports, paranormal activities, and kids’ content. The latter is relatively simple to produce for first-time media creators. All you need is a solid amount of research about your intended audience and your unique offerings.
With such a range of genre options, it’s no wonder that over half of all households currently include a FAST format platform in their ‘CTV’ ecosystem. Smart TV manufacturers have already taken note of that, so major international TV manufacturers like Samsung now offer their own FAST channels. Corporations are not known for risky moves on the market, but FAST is popular and they expect to take advantage of it.
Let’s Break it Down
When combining the following factors, one can see that the future development and growth of the FAST market are looking positive.
- High demand
FAST channels are popular with consumers for a number of reasons. One of these is that they are free during an economic period characterized by decreased disposable income. They also give a more immersive experience compared with other CTV output and can provide that ‘old school’ television atmosphere that many media consumers miss.
- Lucrative CPM
The high CPM rate that characterizes FAST channels means they are highly lucrative for advertisers. They also offer a good chance of a high return on investment as the concept is proven to work, meaning that any FAST project can be predicted to run seamlessly.
- Content variability
As FAST platforms can offer conventional live TV on the same platform as streamed CTV content, the audience can enjoy a wide array of media alternatives. This in turn offers marketers more advertising opportunities.
How Do You Go About Launching a FAST Channel?
The FAST platform market is looking favorable and there’s a clear demand for its channels, which makes it a good time for content distributors to consider investing in their own channel. But how do you actually go about this?
There are a number of key steps you and your organization need to consider before setting up your own FAST platform and/or channel. That’s why we’ve researched what you need to do, how to do it, and how you can make an overall success of the process.
1. Decide on your content
The amount of content that can be published via a FAST channel can be vast, given that it can mix linear/live TV with more progressive CTV channel output. So, it’s important to understand exactly what you want to show and how. It’s worth remembering that major SVOD content platforms like Netflix and Amazon have experienced a drop in subscriptions attributed to limited content and high subscription costs at a time when many consumers are affected by higher costs. Being able to offer a service that appeals to a specific audience with good quality content that’s free, will likely prove successful.
2. Consider what streaming software you need
There are certainly a lot of options out there when it comes up to choosing streaming software for your channel, and we’ll be honest; we really like our own! VlogBox offers content distributors and creators a number of attractive benefits including easy integration and cross-marketing capabilities, full transparency with beneficial revenue share conditions, and attractive CPM rates that are intrinsically linked with reliable demand partners. You can learn more about VlogBox’s solutions and our success stories by browsing through our website.
3. Create an advertising strategy
One of the main attractions of FAST is its high CPM rate, so it’s important to draw up a strategy that will help you maximize your returns. Do as much research as you can to consider what your minimum CPM rate will be for your FAST channel and then analyze how it performs; if the price doesn’t attract as many advertisers as you’d like, then consider lowering it and then raise it if it performs beyond expectations. You can use major advertiser services like Google Ad Manager or opt for more niche options, it’s up to you.
4. Don’t skimp on data & analytics
A FAST format channel is made or broken depending on the quality of data analysis that its owner is able to perform, so make sure that you have a good infrastructure in place to achieve this. VlogBox includes a robust analytic system that will ensure your channel performs at the highest level possible by identifying the best advertising spots, top-performing content formats, and key demographic and audience groups. Remember, higher engagement means higher returns.
The FAST channel format is taking off, and that means there are plenty of opportunities for content distributors ready to create their own services. As long as you follow the points outlined above and keep an eye on the latest market developments, you should be able to create a channel that successfully meets consumer demand.
VlogBox can help you explore this exciting area of content development, so if you want to learn more about how to set up your very own FAST channel, get in touch. We’ve led a wide range of projects towards capitalizing on the ever-dynamic CTV ecosystem, and FAST is rapidly becoming one of its most exciting components.
One of our experts will respond promptly and help you to create a unique content offering for the FAST market that will likely prove to be highly lucrative for your business.