Because consumers won’t pay for all of their TV content, free ad-supported TV (FAST) is rapidly becoming more popular in the race to replace conventional cable with over-the-top (OTT) and connected TV (CTV) services.

Today, FAST enables rightsholders to more broadly distribute content and open up more possibilities for ad revenue while still giving consumers a familiar linear viewing experience. Many rights holders use FAST as a practical means to monetize a pertinent portion of their catalog material in order to increase audience reach. The expanding streaming model is equally alluring to marketers because it gives them a highly targeted way to reach large numbers of viewers.

The number of RAPID viewing hours more than doubled in 2021. The FAST market in the United States is anticipated to hit 216 million monthly active users in 2023 thanks to an influx of new premium content, expanding audiences, and new advertising funding, per a study from nScreenMedia.

CTV is a scarce and sought-after ad positioning for marketers in the market today because it can reach 92% of U.S. homes through open programmatic CTV advertising. In a 2022 CTV/OTT Advertiser Study conducted by Advertiser Perceptions and Premion, 25% of participants rated CTV/OTT as the most valuable media category in 2021, and 84% said the inventory is at least as valuable as primetime TV. In light of this, CTV ad spending is anticipated to rise by 22% in 2022.

In order to maximize the advantages of the platform and raise their value to advertisers, content owners and rights holders must be strategic in expanding their FAST company. Three components make up an effective FAST strategy:

  1. Outline your content plan in detail. When providing users with a content package through FAST services, be strategic. Why in FAST? Why this content? If you’re a sports league, for instance, it’s probably not a good idea to post your best live games on FAST right now, but you can plan how to use your catalog of material to give viewers an engaging linear experience.
  2. Encourage discovery. The premise that “if you create it, they will come” is not one that FAST channels subscribe to. It can be difficult to close deals and promote your FAST channel. Think carefully about how you collaborate with FAST service partners to gain recognition and advantageous positioning in their programming guide and on the screen. To let your audience know about your FAST offerings, you should also use your own platforms, like social media. You won’t succeed if you don’t concentrate on growing a following throughout your FAST ecosystem.
  3. 3.) If you haven’t already, participate right away. The current state of FAST is similar to the early days of YouTube; there is still a ton of opportunity to grow your following and establish your brand without being constantly challenged. Content owners and rights managers should have a plan in place for the next 12 to 18 months to include FAST alongside social, licensing, and OTT plays in their media mix. As the FAST market is anticipated to undergo seismic change over the next 24 months, content owners who enter the fray too late risk running out of FAST inventory and being forced to submit their content to the demands of FAST platforms rather than setting their own channel placement and scheduling.

The Future of FAST

Unprecedented transformation is taking place in the TV ecosystem. Will a mix of FAST services, a few custom SVOD/AVOD applications, and aggregation/bundled services make up the future of TV? Perhaps. It will probably resemble what we have now in some ways, albeit with a more practical means of content delivery. It requires the major content owners and rights holders to step in and secure that model’s viability and positioning in the market, as is the case with any entertainment model moving from the fringe to the mainstream. With FAST, we are witnessing this develop very rapidly.

Rights holders will swarm to involve viewers with more contemporary, premium content as FAST offerings continue to take up more entertainment time than they currently do. In the not-too-distant future, it’s conceivable that premium content like live sporting events will start to appear on FAST channels, similar to a free-to-air partner today. FAST is a great opportunity for rights holders and advertisers alike, and it should be investigated as a crucial component of your direct-to-consumer company.


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