Free Ad-supported Streaming Television (FAST) has been the hot trend in streaming media for several years, but it has truly come into its own in 2023. With its allure of free content accessible anywhere, particularly on Connected TVs (CTVs), and no subscription fees, FAST is being touted as the future of lean-back television.
In this post, we provide a crash course on FAST and answer seven of the most pressing questions.
1) Who is dominating the FAST landscape?
One recent report indicates that there are approximately 1500 FAST channels distributed across roughly 20 U.S. providers with one company distinguishing itself from the crowd: Paramount Global. The media giant holds more than 20 percent of the channels studied.
When it comes to the top platforms, Paramount-owned Pluto TV holds the lead with over 80 million monthly active users. Close on its heels is The Roku Channel with 73.5 million and Tubi with at least 64 million.
For a full list of the top 20 FAST channel owners and the top platforms, see this article.
2) How much money can content sellers make in FAST?
As viewership on FAST platforms continues to surge, so do the prospects for long-term revenue. Total ad revenue from FAST distribution is expected to reach $6 billion by 2025. But what about the potential earnings for content providers in the FAST ecosystem right now?
Rates can vary widely, largely depending on the popularity of the content and its ability to attract users to the FAST platform. However, this information is typically kept confidential by the platforms.
Nevertheless, one industry insider estimates that the negotiations between providers and platforms usually begin with a revenue split around the 50/50 or 60/40 mark.
3) Why isn’t FAST bringing in more money?
FAST is growing, but revenue for channel creators isn’t growing as quickly. There are four key factors contributing to this relatively slow growth of FAST average revenue per user (ARPU):
A) Lack of Distributor Consolidation: The FAST industry has seen a boom in the number of platforms and service providers, leading to a highly fragmented market. While this provides an abundance of choice, it also dilutes revenue opportunities for content sellers who must manage multiple licensing agreements.
B) Lack of Data Sharing: Platforms often have access to critical content performance and audience engagement data but are reluctant or unable to share it with content sellers. Increased data sharing can help content sellers improve their content creation and distribution strategies, driving engagement and ad impressions.
C) Lack of Advertising Inventory and Brand Trust: FAST platforms currently struggle with providing ad deployment transparency. However, the wealth of user data FAST platforms collect can pave the way for more targeted advertising, enhancing viewer experience and brand trust.
D) Lack of Sophisticated Advertising Technology: Finally, there’s a need for more sophisticated ad tech to ensure better ad placements and a more personalized advertising experience. As ad targeting improves, FAST platforms can offer better returns to advertisers and increase their revenue by charging a higher cost per thousand impressions (CPM) for more targeted ad placements.
For more information, read “The FAST Slow-Down: Four Factors Behind FAST’s Sluggish Revenue.”
4) How can FAST platforms increase viewer engagement?
For FAST platforms to effectively monetize their digital content, they need to do more than just increase user sign-ups. They must generate more hours of viewership. Here are a few of the top six strategies to bolster viewer engagement from the article “How to Increase FAST Viewer Engagement.”
A) Offer Unique, Nostalgic Content: Unlike premium SVOD platforms that focus on high-budget, mass-appeal content, FAST channels have found success by delivering niche and nostalgic content.
B) Release FAST Originals: FAST providers are starting to commission original movies and TV shows. Platforms like Roku, Tubi, and Freevee have already embarked on this journey, signifying a shift in FAST content strategy.
C) Improve Content Recommendations: With expanding content libraries and new FAST channels, personalized content recommendations can help mitigate the difficulty audiences face when searching for appealing content.
D) Experiment with New Features: FAST platforms have the flexibility to test innovative features that engage audiences differently. Continuous UI upgrades, group watching, and interactive live events are just a few ways to create the future of FAST.
5) Are local broadcasters putting their content on FAST channels?
Some local broadcasters have started to distribute their content on Free Ad-Supported TV (FAST) channels to keep up with changing viewership trends. However, the strategy is not without challenges.
In her article “Broadcasters Caught Between Pay TV and CTV FAST Services,” Karin Bleiler explains that broadcasters are caught in a dilemma. While licensing content to FAST services can expand audience reach, it may disrupt their relationships with Pay TV operators and impact retransmission fee revenue – a significant source of their annual income. Moreover, dealing with complex OTT video licensing agreements and data poses additional operational challenges.
As a result, some broadcasters are hesitant to license content to FAST services, aiming to protect the interests of traditional Pay TV operators and maintain their subscribers.
6) What tools can I use to optimize my content distribution on FAST platforms?
Managing content distribution on Free Ad-Supported TV (FAST) platforms involves navigating intricate licensing agreements and handling vast amounts of data. However, Revedia Digital offers a comprehensive solution to these challenges, as highlighted in our webinar, “How Revedia Digital Optimizes FAST Workflows“, and blog post, “5 Ways Revedia Digital Accelerates FAST Distribution Workflows.”
Furthermore, Revedia supports financial reporting, serving as a secure single source of truth. Managing cash flows, modeling future revenue scenarios, and providing month-end reporting becomes a breeze.
Finally, the platform automatically helps ensure licensing agreement compliance, so content sellers are always confident that payments match the agreement terms.
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For a more comprehensive overview of FAST, read our white paper, The FAST Guide: Monetizing Content via Free Ad-supported Streaming TV.