Content is King, and FAST is annoying it; if you blinked your eyes, you might have missed it.
Free ad-supported television (FAST) has transformed from an alternative platform enabling cord-cutters to watch linear television to a complementary platform operating alongside traditional TV.
For the uninitiated, FAST content is available free of charge to consumers via an ad-supported streaming platform. The advertising is integrated into the content, with content owners and distribution platforms either sharing ad revenue or splitting up the inventory, with each retaining the profits generated from its share. The top FAST services reach tens of millions of users each month. Pluto TV, which Paramount Global owns, currently has about 80 million active users, while Tubi, which Fox owns, has about 65 million.
FAST Channels are addictive
Initially viewed as being competitive with traditional forms of television distribution, FAST has proven to be additive, introducing a younger audience to programming they might not otherwise see and promoting the availability of that programming on traditional TV platforms. As a result, FAST distribution is being embraced by studios, expanding their footprints and creating a space for specific content that might otherwise not have a home. For example, Warner Bros. Discovery announced at the beginning of this year that it had reached deals for distributing 2,000 hours of its movies and TV series — including Westworld and The Bachelor — on the Roku and Tubi platforms. This announcement followed the Q4 2022 launches of FAST channels by other entertainment companies such as AMC Networks.
Content owners should note that Ad revenue from FAST distribution is expected to reach $6 billion by 2025, and the industry has been seeing increasingly creative ways of allowing content owners to participate.
Take control of your TV Content in FAST.
Suppose you own an extensive content library, content is king, and you own the country. In that case, FAST distribution is there for the taking, available directly if you have the internal resources to syndicate the content into a channel, license the FAST channel to one or more FAST channel distribution platforms, and arrange for the sale and insertion of advertising into your content. You may not need to go out of pocket to play in this model as most, if not all, of the cost of entry likely will be in the form of advertising inventory. The value of your content will impact the ad inventory split, though negotiations will probably start in the 50/50 or 60/40 range.
Alternatively, if you are a content owner without the wherewithal to syndicate and distribute your content, the FAST industry still allows you to participate. Various services will provide syndication, distribution and ad insertion services for content owners, creating channels out of content libraries, licensing the channels to distribution platforms and inserting advertising into the content. Companies like Amagi and Wurl make these service offerings available on a la carte basis, allowing the content owner to select the service or services it desires on a channel-by-channel basis. A fee will be charged for some of these services (usually manageable), while other services are paid for through a share of net advertising revenue. The financial barrier to entry is low. All you need to get in is enough content to support a 24/7 channel.
How can I get into FAST without content?
There are ways in, even if you don’t have enough content. The FAST market has become so appealing that entrepreneurs, not content owners, are finding ways to participate. This is good news for the entrepreneur and the content owner who might not have enough content to syndicate independently.
Content can be compiled from various sources to create a channel. For example, the owner of a small library of horror films may not have enough content to start a FAST channel but can license that library to a third party for use in a “Horror Channel” comprised of the licensee’s content as well as content from other sources and, if budget permits, original content. As a rule, this license likely would be driven by ad revenue, with at least part of the license fee comprising net advertising revenue. Depending on the value of that content to the channel, the content owner may be able to negotiate an advance against ad revenue or some minimum guarantee.
Create new content for FAST
Depending on the nature of the content, the license could also include a right to create new programming from the licensed content. That programming can then be distributed employing the channel, augmenting the content offering on a quantitative and a qualitative basis. Under this model, a sports league may license games for use in a FAST channel and also have the right to create new programming incorporating game highlights. The FAST channel then becomes not only a destination for watching games but also for original programming.
We are at the tip of the iceberg of FAST distribution, but CONTENT IS KING and will rule the roost. As the market grows, the offerings will become more fulsome, and the ways of participating will become more varied and creative. Good news for platforms, consumers and content owners.