The Free Ad-supported Streaming TV (FAST) market revenue hit the $7 billion mark in 2023 – and it's set to reach $9 billion in 2024. With decreasing Pay TV subscriber numbers, higher penetration of connected TV (CTV), and declining Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) viewership, more eyeballs are gravitating toward FAST. But there are almost 2,000 FAST channels in the US alone. So, as a content owner, how do you make sure you’re placing the right content in front of the right audience, creating scale, and hitting your bottom line?
At Amagi's LA FAST Conference last fall, we heard from industry experts Katherine Pond (Vizio), Julio Sobral (Blue Ant Media) and Jennifer Vaux (Roku) on the most effective distribution strategies for FAST. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Keep the IP
For content owners and platforms who have been in the broadcast and Pay TV business, keeping their Intellectual Property Rights (IPR/IP) gives a helpful kickstart and cushioning for spinning off FAST channels. The access to an extensive content library with at least 80% exclusive content offers an edge. It also allows them to identify the whitespace (an opportunity where the business can innovate, upsell, or cross-sell) on the FAST platform and roll out channels accordingly. For the remaining 20%, strategic partnerships with content partners help. Ideally, these partners own the IP and are ready to make it available on FAST, contributing to the exclusivity of content.
A good example is the addition of Mike Holmes' content library to the Homeful FAST channel, which is owned and operated by Blue Ant Media. This deal gave Blue Ant Media ownership of 200 hours of programming from the past two decades. This included a vast catalog comprising Holmes on Homes, Holmes Makes it Right, HolmesInspection, and more – bringing Blue Ant Media audiences platform-exclusive content viewers can't find anywhere else. Blue Ant Media and World of Wonder's launch of Drag Race Universeon Amazon Freevee is another example.
Content takes the top priority, and exclusivity creates the differentiation. Differentiation then becomes your value proposition to customers.
Content windowing is a media distribution strategy that aims to maximize revenue by creating exclusive availability windows across diverse distribution channels and platforms. Creating multiple windows for a piece of content – through partnerships between FAST platforms and content owners with exclusive IPs – can be a very effective strategy. The IP could be as simple as a stunt that's never been aired before, and partnering with a platform like Vizio, for example, helps put together a programming block that would window ahead of where the content would be available. This delivers a premium – and free – experience to consumers.
For example, Vizio's WatchFree Fall Fest featured a programming lineup dedicated to the fall season that consisted of exclusive world premieres, new TV series, and stunts. Pond said this approach was incredibly successful for Vizio, driving a massive lift on the platform.
Advertising on FAST has given content owners and platforms access to viewership data that Pay TV never offered. This data is generated either from machine learning algorithms native to the platform or ad insertion and analytics platforms like Amagi THUNDERSTORM and Amagi ANALYTICS. This data is a goldmine for building 1:1 relationships with customers. It helps platforms and content owners understand what customers want to watch, when they want to watch, and the types (personas) of customers. Ads are then catered to customers’ viewing habits, keeping viewers engaged.
For example, Roku's machine learning algorithm makes sure viewers see show genres that interest them at the top of the Electronic Program Guide (EPG), improving the chances of those same viewers watching more shows.
Personalized EPG will soon become commonplace, too. Viewers get an end-to-end personalized experience from channel lineups and personalized programming blocks to an entire channel that includes their favorite shows and movies.
Knowing where to begin when you are just getting started with FAST can be overwhelming. You should start by researching the space and genres where your content is relevant.
Try answering simple questions like:
What is the content?
Do we have enough content to operate a 24/7 channel with a significant refresh?
What's the addressable viewing market for this content?
What are our competitors offering?
Is our content unique?
These questions help build your own value proposition you can pitch to platforms.
Platforms also look for data points that help differentiate you from your competitors. This could range from the number of loyal social media followers willing to watch your content on platforms like Vizio or Roku to the depth of your content and the refresh rate your channel can offer.
Additionally, if your library needs to be more extensive to operate as a standalone channel, platforms like Blue Ant Media help integrate your content with an existing channel in the genre, making your content relevant and viable.
"Premium is everything. Programming is everything. And when I say programming, I don't think we have to reinvent things that are already done well. So broadcast has done programming well for many years, they understand that the lead-ins, blocks, and stunts are successful things, and we can continue to replicate those." – Katherine Pond, Group Vice President, Vizio
5. Create a compelling title and key art
We're all familiar with doom scrolling. So, amidst a crowded catalog, how do you make sure your channel stands out? A clear title and clear key art can make a significant impact, helping viewers decide to stop scrolling at your channel and spend the next few hours consuming your content. Blue Ant's Love Nature channel, for example, conveys what it offers in just two words.
At Vizio and Blue Ant Media, platforms can also help refine your title and artwork once the channel is live. The partner management team scouts for patterns (not confidential information) on what works and what doesn't based on the data of other channels on their platform, helping you stay relevant.
For example, Vizio had a channel called "Kickback," but they didn't think it clearly represented what the channel actually featured. So they changed the name to "Action," which better represented a channel with action sequences and saw immediate results.
“We rebranded that channel to "Action," and let me tell you, the lift that we saw overnight was significant,” said Pond, the Vizio VP.
With the FAST ecosystem growing significantly, more players are entering the market, promising to deliver the best experience to viewers. However, FAST is no longer a dumping ground for content that initially thrived on reruns of popular shows and movies. Today, customers expect premium content and experiences. Though free, consumers pay you with their time. Curated experiences, exclusivity and original content make it worthwhile.
Want to learn more about FAST?
If you are exploring opportunities to refine your FAST distribution strategy, explore Amagi CONNECT. It's a self-service solution for content owners and platforms, enabling content owners to easily manage their content distribution and platforms to discover new content partnerships – through a single centralized location. To learn more about how Amagi can help, get in touch with us.