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Monday, November 28, 2022

FAST Programming Data Reveals Two Top Trends – Variety

VIP Subscriber
By Gavin Bridge
Senior Media Analyst
Free streaming channels — FAST, to industry heads — as a viewing medium continue to attract attention.
TV biz conferences now dedicate several sessions to the topic, as the success FAST is having in the U.S. attracts international attention and more companies look to enter the space in this country, either by licensing out content or creating a new channel. 
One of the most interesting things about the free streaming channel ecosystem is it is a petri dish of experimentation. The low startup costs for channels remove considerable barriers to entry that would otherwise prohibit channels launching on TV and have led to several innovations in format. 
The single-series channel is a great example of this. An evolution of marathons airing on cable networks, these are channels dedicated either to one title (say, “Unsolved Mysteries” or “Baywatch”) or related titles within the same umbrella (“Top Gear,” “The Walking Dead Universe,” “CSI:” or “Global Got Talent.” 
The benefit to this is it attracts viewers familiar with the content. Given FAST’s rise as a “lean-back” viewing interface, where some of the decision-making for viewers is removed — unlike on-demand content, where viewers must hunt for a title — single-series channels help to provide easy viewing choices. 
That’s why, per data provided to VIP+ from streaming measurement firm MediaBiz, single-series channels make up a strong proportion of offered channels on key FAST services. Pluto has the most, at 92, which accounts for 28% of all available FAST channels in September. This is the most by some distance, with Roku second at 60 channels (18% of all channels) and Freevee third with 45 (37% of the total channel lineup). 
VIP+ expects this trend to continue to grow, especially as bigger brands launch channels as they see how others are monetizing their content libraries. 
Another trend to be aware of is how much content airing on a FAST service is first-run for the day — the first instance of a program (episode or movie) within a 24-hour period from 00:00 a.m. to 23:59 p.m. — and how much is repeated. The inference is that those with content not on a playlist loop and offering up fresh content across the day will likely see prolonged viewing times and/or a greater total volume of viewers. 
Pluto again leads the way here, with MediaBiz finding 74% of the content airing on Pluto in a single day was first-run. The key trend to note is that the industry standard appears to be having over half of the content first-run, with several just edging that threshold, which suggests a 12-hour playlist, repeated for some channels. 
VIP+ has covered how the total number of channels continues to grow within FAST, as well as how there are more and more services offering free streaming channels. Competition for viewers is fierce, as once viewers opt to watch a FAST service over other entertainment options, they still have to select which service and which channel. 
It stands to reason that channels and services will therefore lean toward mediums that make it easier for viewers to select their content. As such, VIP+ strongly anticipates there to be more single-series channels and an emphasis on not repeating content daily as the battle for viewers continues to heat up. 
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