In recent years, the rise of streaming services and consumer demand have disrupted traditional TV broadcasting models. Cord cutting has accelerated and shows no signs of abating, but if you’re a local broadcaster, you still need to reach these viewers. You might be wondering if you should invest more in streaming or look elsewhere.
The Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV (FAST) model is a remarkable area of growth with revenue expected to triple by 2027. FOX just turned down an offer of $2 billion for their FAST platform (Tubi) after buying it for $440 million in 2020. 61 million monthly viewers are a pretty good reason why.
Investing in FAST can help local TV stations not only reach wider audiences but also provide better and more personalized content to their viewers. Here are five reasons every local station group should consider FAST:
1. It’s where the audience is moving.
While the big Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) services like Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon have been grabbing most of the headlines, it’s free platforms that have been pulling in the viewers. According to Horowitz Research, nearly 7 in 10 TV viewers in the US use free streaming services at least monthly. That’s up from 42% in 2019.
2. Don’t Leave Money on the Table.
As viewers grapple with “subscription fatigue” many are going retro by installing digital antennas, but millions are also moving to FAST because it closely resembles the cable or broadcast experience they’re used to…and it’s free!
If you’re a broadcaster with an over-the-air signal, you’re already delivering free, ad-supported television. Adding the “streaming” part only makes your content available to more eyeballs.
Connected TV “is huge and getting bigger fast,” says the Local Media Association, and advertisers are taking notice. Even in a year where prognosticators predict that overall ad spending may drop, the forecast is still for a 20%+ increase in OTT/FAST ad spending.
The industry saw incredible growth in political spending on CTV in 2022. Now, as we gear up for a presidential election that many believe will result in the highest political ad spend ever, a new study suggests that “even more political spending is likely to shift to CTV in 2024.”
As Guy Tasaka from the LMA puts it, “As a TV broadcaster, it’s important to move fast to get into the streaming ecosystem. Get your content over there, monetized and measured.”
3. Creating a 24/7 programming schedule is easier than you think.
Even if you only have 6-8 hours of news per day, that’s more than enough fresh content every day to build a compelling FAST channel.
Instead of just replaying earlier newscasts, consider how you might use your archive to create evergreen content that fills out your daily schedule. Imagine compiling coverage of restaurants, parks, or local attractions to create weekend activity guides. And then get a sponsor. Now your FAST channel is helping you monetize your idle archive!
Or consider how you could use this new 24x7 format to expand your coverage of local news. Instead of confining your coverage to the traditional news conference, take the whole police press conference live, or candidate debate, or political stump speech.
4. Live news makes your content “Google-proof.”
A news director once told me that “live” makes his content “Google-proof.” In a world where information is just a search away, the main advantage of local news is the ability to cover events as they happen.
5. Local content is the biggest area of growth for FAST platforms.
With modern Cloud Playout technology, you can use your FAST channel to break into live coverage any time of day, even if you’ve already got a schedule full of pre-recorded programming.
Or if you’re in pre-recorded content mode, a news ticker with the latest headlines or a logo bug with the current time and temperature (not the old one burned into your most recent newscast) can make the channel feel live even if the content is not.
Finally, if you’re wondering whether the large Smart TV and FAST services are interested in local news, the answer is an emphatic YES! Across these platforms, there are a combined 1,356 local news FAST channels!
According to Variety’s Life in the FAST Lane report, “Local news has been a boom area for FAST.” Access to local channels is often a key consideration when consumers are choosing a video service, and, as a result, FAST services are increasingly embracing local news as crucial for their own success.
In summary, if you’re a local broadcaster looking to reach a wider audience, grow revenue, and expand your local coverage, consider a 24x7 FAST channel with a mix of live, VOD, and advanced graphics. It’s simpler than you think, and the ROI speaks for itself.