Free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels are now in six out of 10 US households as consumers realize the value of having a TV-like viewing experience without the costs required for pay-TV or SVOD.
In the age of streaming, a new report from Comcast’s advertising division, “Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV: Why More Advertisers (and Consumers) are Going F.A.S.T.” underlines the value consumers continue to place on the lean-back experience traditionally associated with linear TV.
Although FAST is technically an OTT option, what makes it unique is the ability to stream both linear channels and on demand content (linear streaming channels are created using specific technology that stitches video on demand together to create the linear playout).
This sets FAST apart from typical AVOD services. FAST gives viewers a familiar linear experience of choosing and scrolling through channels, rather than simply choosing individual videos on-demand.
As a result, when a user is channel surfing on their connected device, it’s easy for them to land on a FAST channel without even knowing it. Comcast finds this especially true of cord-cutters, who do not have a cable program guide.
Streaming experts gathered for a round table discussion hosted by The Wrap said they expect the looming recession will push consumers into FAST, “long stereotyped as a haven for a financially struggling Gen Z audience.” As premium services pivot to include ad-supported tiers to offset subscriber churn and slower-than-predicted growth, FAST services like Pluto, Tubi and Amazon’s Freevee are well-positioned to begin including premium content into the mix. Watch the entire conversation in the video below:
FAST providers like Tubi and Pluto are reaching consumers with news, entertainment, sports and more in an environment that mimics linear TV and is often built right into a TV manufacturer’s interface (including smart TVs from Samsung, LG, TCL, Roku, Sony). Such services are also distributed on major OTT devices (Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, TiVo and more), and even multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) like Xfinity.
Despite the range of viewing options, Comcast finds more than 80% of time spent with FAST services is on the biggest screen in the house.
“Many consumers may be unaware that the channels they access through their TV are FAST channels programmed directly into the channel guide by the manufacturer,” Comcast says.
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These characteristics are also why, when the average US streaming household has 4.2 streaming services, FAST channels are seen as a free and easy alternative to supplement paid streaming — with no login required. Penetration has doubled in a year.
The industry does not yet track FAST viewership in a broad and consistent way, but Comcast has revealed facts and figures about consumption of its platform XUMO.
The average XUMO user spends about 104 minutes within the platform once they have entered. Some 70 percent of XUMO users are cord cutters, using it alongside SVOD services. Of those, 77% also subscribe to Netflix, 80% subscribe to Hulu and 65% subscribe to Prime Video.
The report recommends FAST advertising as a complement to traditional TV and streaming advertising. It suggests that streaming advertising (including FAST and other forms like AVOD which offers non-linear content) should make up about 20-30% of the overall investment for multi-screen campaigns.
“For advertisers, FAST provides a unique opportunity to reach cord-cutters while they are ‘scrolling,’ ‘channel surfing’ and discovering new content — a prospect not possible through ad-free services like Netflix, or even from ad-supported on-demand services like Crackle.”
Consumers also appreciate that FAST providers typically do not crowd their content with too much advertising, it states.
“As advertisers look to efficiently maximize their reach in an increasingly fragmented viewing landscape, FAST services are a valuable complement to traditional TV and other AVOD streaming options as part of a holistic multi-screen media plan,” James Rooke, president of Comcast Advertising, said in a prepared statement.
Also quoted is Amanda Garcia, Senior Director of Partnerships at Paramount+: “As customers find more ways to watch the content they love across a mix of services, FAST channels have become a key part of our media mix for acquisition and awareness, as well as targeted campaigns to super-serve key audiences.”