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.
Survey: Most Popular FAST and AVOD Services in the U.S.: Exclusive data on which services consumers are using to watch free streaming channels
Local News Is Driving FAST Growth: How regional news channels have embraced FAST as a distribution format
Sports TV Is Slow to Embrace FAST: Which sports are on FAST and why traditional sports channels and big leagues don’t make the most of it
Are African Americans Underserved by FAST? Differences in FAST usage for African American content versus Spanish-language channels
The Latest Trends in Kids FAST Channels: Data on key patterns within this growing FAST space
FAST Music Trends: The state of music’s FAST channels, featuring key genres and the major players
How the FAST Streaming Experience Can Improve: Areas where free ad-supported streaming TV can be even better
What to Expect Next in FAST: The trends that will be impacting the format in the months ahead
Webinar: Data for Winning in FAST: Replay our sit-down with industry experts on why data points matter
NewFronts Recap: 2022 Key Trends: What to expect for CTV advertising and announced FAST content
Netflix Needs to Embrace FAST: Why utilizing the format would allow the streamer to monetize older content
Webinar: How to FAST Replay our visit with industry insiders, who share just what’s needed to launch a channel
Exclusive Data Dive Into FAST Performance Metrics: A divide-and-conquer approach that pierces the format’s measurement veil
State of the FAST Ad Market: Estimating the value of the format’s advertising climate
FAST Marketplace: Inside FAST’s opportunities for content providers
FAST Forward Webinar: What Is FAST? Industry leaders join VIP+ for an intro to the format and a look at why it’s growing
Special Report: The A to Z of Free Streaming: Exclusive data on consumer usage and drivers and barriers to FAST and AVOD
What the Boom in FAST Channels and Services Means: Why FAST is exploding
Big Media Slow on FAST Opportunities: Identifying which media companies are yet to embrace the format
Solving the ‘Unsolved Mystery’ of U.S. AVOD Commercial Time: How time devoted to ads varies by FAST and AVOD service
Self-Reported FAST & AVOD Measurement Has to Change: Why a unified measurement variable across services is good — and self-reporting isn’t
The Business of Entertainment
FAST Programming Data Reveals Two Top Trends – Variety