Future of FAST is Specialised. Free ad-supported streaming TV offers consumers an unlimited amount of content and channels. Moreover, it is all available at no cost and this entire model is underpinned by ads.
You might ask “Isn’t this just what broadcast and cable offered in the early 90’s?” And the answer would be no.
What is FAST
Back then, you had to pay your local cable provider (Comcast Xfinity, Time Warner Cable and others) roughly $100 a month for the privilege of watching all of their channels. In today’s media world, where virtually every home in the U.S. has access to high-speed internet and every TV sold is “smart,” you can now click into hundreds of FAST channels without paying a monthly fee.
It’s that simple. Just turn on your Roku TV, and you gain access to all of its FAST channels. Open the Pluto app on any smart TV, and you gain access to all of its FAST channels. Open the Samsung SmartTV+ or Vizio WatchFree+ TV apps (the first app on their respective TVs, BTW), and you gain access to all of the FAST channels they support.
Benefits and Revenues
A big benefit of FAST is that the commercial load — or minutes of commercials per hour — is far less than on traditional broadcast or cable. This makes FAST a more pleasant and acceptable experience. Whereas the commercial load on one hour of viewing on cable ranges from 15 to 17 minutes, FAST ad loads are roughly 8 to 9 minutes per hour. Undoubtebly a substantially better viewing session.
Also, in a landscape where traditional Hollywood businesses are on the decline, FAST is a shining star in the media space. Specifically streaming media, having grown to $4 billion in 2022 and projected to climb to $10 billion by 2028. And these are just U.S. numbers; worldwide, the market for FAST is projected to increase from $6 billion in 2022 to a whopping $18 billion in 2028.
While I am clearly a fan of FAST and its growth potential, I am witnessing a few problems that must get addressed in the near term to keep FAST an interesting experience for both consumers and advertisers. The two main problems I am witnessing can be called “just more of the same” and “just not enough content.”
While the number of FAST channels have exploded over the last few years, almost all of it is indeed more of the same: more news channels; more channels showing reruns of crime shows; more channels showing reruns of reality shows; more channels showing the same show repeatedly 24/7; and way too many channels with a finite amount of content that just repeats the same programming month after month, thus exhibiting the “just not enough content” problem.
These two factors are not good for the format. To address this, there needs to be new content — and a vast library of that new content. This is to allow FAST channels to achieve engaged viewers over a long period of time.
FAST channels that offer something new, with a large catalogue, will have long-term success. As measured by attracting large audiences and the largest amount of the ad dollars that will be flowing into FAST over the next several years. I believe this content exists and that it is “specialized” around a particular theme or interest.
Some FAST channels are doing this to great success. Tastemade, for example, produces three English-language FAST channels and one in Spanish, all of which are successful. One is based around food, one around home and one around travel. I purposefully use the term “specialized” and not “niche” because these are not niche categories. In fact, they are all quite large but specialized around a topic of interest and a community that provides a wealth of new content for anyone interested in that topic.
The entertainment landscape is undeniably shifting. Established norms are getting upended, and new paradigms are emerging. But amidst these transitions, a central, timeless query persists: What content truly ignites your passion and that of a worldwide audience?