FAST Channels evolved from Streaming TV becoming a household

FAST Channel Distribution is a crucial part of broadcaster success.

View TV has developed Kapang

Many things in life are cyclical. As the past few years have shown us, this includes how we watch TV.

Not too long ago, streaming services were lauded as the future of television because of their on-demand, binge-friendly and commercial-free formats. But the recent rise in FAST services takes us full circle back to linear, passive and ad-supported channels. FAST channels are increasing in volume and consumer preference on platforms where they are available.

What Are FAST Channels?

For that unfamiliar, FAST stands for free, ad-supported television played in a linear format with a guide, similar to cable’s or satellite’s layout and guide.

Variety VIP+ cites 2020 as the year FAST took off, and the trajectory since then has been astounding. As an early provider of FAST channels, Plex has sourced data from an internal analytics dashboard analyzing billions of minutes of programming. This data shows just how rapidly it continues to advance. FAST content consumed was just 6% of the total in 2020 versus 30% of all Plex content in 2022. Over a billion minutes have been watched since January 1 of this year—the rough equivalent of 2,500 years of content if consecutively watched.

What is the Consumer Appeal of FAST channels?

FAST channels combine the comfort of traditional broadcast within the streaming landscape. Content is presented in channels where the viewer has no control over programming. In contrast, traditional subscription streaming requires a viewer to actively find and select a program from a streaming platform. There is growing interest in existing content libraries, from 24/7 Friends or Top Gear programming to a channel entirely of TED Talks or a holiday classics channel.

Not only does the viewer get to passively enjoy without paying a monthly subscription fee often associated with streaming, but they also don’t have to pay a monthly cable TV bill. FAST content is free, so viewers willing to sit through ads can save money.

What This Means For The Future Of Television

Industry conversations and developments tell us that many streaming platforms will go the way of CuriosityStream, abandoning the subscription model in favor of FAST across as many platforms as possible, driving revenue on existing content libraries. The unit economics of a $5 to $10 subscription doesn’t make much sense if, on average, you are paying $50 to $75 to acquire a subscriber and they churn out in six to nine months.

The model provides many opportunities for content providers and platforms but also challenges. Platforms are once again having to plan to program rather than letting consumers select on demand. It also assumes that consumers will continue to have an appetite for whatever content is programmed. It’s important to remember that on-demand options surged for a reason.

FAST Channel Conclusion

Consumer viewing habits have continued to develop as streaming options and models have advanced. With the rise of FAST, consumers are getting free content (via ad exposure), content providers are getting new revenue channels, and platforms are getting more content to engage users.

The landscape has undoubtedly changed when factoring in the options and content that now exist in the streaming universe—such as subscriptions that deliver original content and blockbuster movies on demand, live news or sports, and FAST channels. It will continue to do so as the rise of new options like FAST channels aims to offer consumers exactly what they want.