Five Facts about FAST

  1. What is FAST?

FAST stands for free advertising-supported streaming television. What makes FAST different from streaming services such as Netflix, Disney or even BritBox, where a paid subscription is required to gain access to the platform’s programming, is that viewers can watch content, whether in linear format or on-demand, for free via an ad-supported platform. Though FAST programming is scheduled like linear television, the content is streamed rather than broadcast. Like AVODs, FAST channels provide on-demand programming which is delivered with ads. It offers a free option at a time when streaming services are increasing subscription prices, which is pushing more and more users to cut their subscription spend.

  1. Why is it important?

The FAST market has expanded tremendously, driven by the growing penetration of connected TV. Its emergence is given added significance by the decline of audiences across pay TV and linear television. With the shift of television to digital, FAST creates a medium that combines elements of traditional broadcast television with streaming. But it also attracts a new generation of audience, with Omdia reporting that in 2Q22 45% of respondents that claimed to use FAST services in the US were under the age of 35.

With the paid streaming market becoming oversaturated, subscription fatigue becomes inevitable. There is also the rise of decision fatigue. With streaming services like Netflix or Disney+ releasing catalogues of content weekly or even daily, viewers can be overwhelmed with the wealth of options at hand. A study by Simon-Kucher revealed the average number of subscriptions per respondent in the UK is now two; down 10% from last year. FAST provides a more lean-back experience for viewers with scheduled programming within the streaming space.

FAST is also valuable for content right-holders who have the ability to create FAST channels to monetise their content, with lower content delivery costs.

  1. Who are the main players?

FAST channel providers develop and produce the FAST channels and in some cases the content. Channel providers can span broadcasters, studios, streamers and production companies. Some key examples are NBCU’s Peacock, Fox’s Tubi and BBC Earth from UK pubcaster BBC. There are also FAST platform operators where these channels are distributed are managed. These include TV manufacturers’ platforms such as Samsung TV Plus and LG. There are also studio-run platforms like Paramount Global’s Pluto TV or even Amazon’s Freevee, along with independent platforms like Roku, Plex or Rakuten.

According to Omdia, the US is the most developed amongst the FAST markets globally, with as many as 1,500 unique channel brands distributed in the region.

  1. Why is it different from other forms of linear TV?

Unlike linear cable or pay TV channels, FAST channels provide free content. This means there is no subscription cost or broadcast licensing costs for the viewer. Another difference is that while linear channels can offer a diverse range of genres across their programming, FAST channels tend to be genre-based, or even dedicated to specific titles. Genre-based channels can vary from documentary channels such as wedo big stories to the classical music channel Vivaldi or the Turkish drama channel Dizi. FAST channels can also be a destination to get access to archive programming of specific shows or specific IP, as with Fremantle’s The Jamie Oliver Channel or AMC Networks’ The Walking Dead Universe

  1. What does the future hold?

While linear broadcast and pay TV declines, FAST continues to grow, with more and more providers expanding into the market. Omdia analysts forecast that global FAST channel revenues will reach US$13bn by 2028, with the US contributing US$11bn of that total. However, it should be noted that FAST’s growth will vary from market to market, with, for example, stronger growth expected in Western Europe than in central and eastern Europe, where Omdia predicts that FAST will deliver revenues of only US$42 million by 2028.  In markets were linear TV still prevails, where streaming is not as well-developed and where localisation costs are high relative to the size of the market, operators may hesitate to take the plunge. It is also possible that the expansion of FAST will lead to a crowded market with too many players, and success is far from guaranteed for all.

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