The New Streaming Format Moving FAST in 2020

FAST (Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV)
Cheyne Gateley/VIP

Linear-free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) is booming. Four new services have been or will be, introduced since 2019. Big media giants ViacomCBS and Comcast have bought Pluto TV and Xumo, respectively, and Comcast is also launching Peacock which features a FAST element. The audience is also growing: Pluto added 10.4 million monthly viewers over 2019, with an additional 1.8 million added in Q1 2020, and Xumo increased by 4.5 million monthly users, with services reporting boosts in the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic.

When Peacock hits the market, there will be over 550 available channels to watch via FAST services. The content that is available on FAST can fall broadly into three buckets: older TV shows or movies that SVOD isn’t interested in; packaged digital-first video clips, often from YouTube channels; and big media utilizing library content in an effort to make their FAST services stand out. There are some minor categories too, such as live-stream from smaller cable, diginet and online channels, news clips, and niche sports.

Following Viacom’s purchase of Pluto TV in January 2019, Pluto created over 40 Viacom branded channels. In the era of peak TV, with Netflix alone making more content than the entire TV industry used to, this is a smart strategy to attract viewers. Pluto’s audience grew from 12 million monthly users in January 2019 to 20 million by October after the purchase and netted Viacom a billion dollars in domestic ad sales. Comcast is launching Peacock with a similar strategy, with their non-live FAST channels based entirely on NBCUniversal content.

Now Amazon is planning to enter the FAST market in the coming months. One reason for more and more media giants buying into the format is the reach these services offer. A high proportion of viewers do not have cable; in other words, they are unreachable by linear TV. Linear streaming allows brands to still serve ads to the typically younger demos advertisers covet, and with cord-cutting rates expected to keep increasing, FAST will grow in importance as part of the marketer’s toolkit.

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