The free ad-supported television (FAST) space has grown significantly with the prevalence of connected TVs and platforms like Roku, Pluto TV and Xumo. More recently, many of these large streaming platforms have been purchased by major studios and media companies like ViacomCBS, NBCU and Fox. This big media roll-up will likely lead to approximately 80% of all AVOD channels being owned and operated by the parent companies, and the majority of the programming on FAST channels repurposing the vast content libraries they already own. The future of independent television lies in the remaining 20% that is up for grabs.
So how can newer, independent entrants into the FAST space successfully stake their claim in that 20% and set themselves apart in an increasingly crowded landscape? By taking a content-first approach that authentically connects brands to its audiences and advertising partners.
Build from an audience-first, direct-to-consumer approach
First and foremost, understanding how to market and engage audiences to create an improved consumer experience is the key to creating valuable media brands vs. channels that feel more like video playlists. FAST is the evolution of cable and the lines between linear and digital are blurring; however, the more familiar qualities and experiences of watching traditional cable TV are coming back around.
To build a successful media brand, channels need to adopt an audience-first, direct-to-consumer approach while creating premium content that reflects the channel’s point-of-view. Super serving the intended audience will establish a clear connection between audience and brand to ultimately drive repeat viewership.
Lead with content, invest in creating premium programming
As distribution is being democratized in the space, media brands must grab the attention of audiences and advertisers by producing the best, most engaging content.
Noteworthy FAST channels are now measured by their ability to market and create premium content on par with traditional linear cable. Successful channels will keep a keen eye on their amount of content and how much new content they are adding to their line-up. Programming should be created with multiple distributors in mind - AVOD platforms, CTVs and Apps.
It’s also imperative to schedule channels with a variety of both live and binge-able content like marathons, stunts, etc. And investing off-platform media dollars behind these channels to market them effectively will make all the difference in establishing a FAST media brand comparable to traditional ViacomCBS/NBCU cable channels vs. unremarkable AVOD channels.
Providing an engaging advertising experience
As advertising dollars are migrating from linear to streaming and new budgets are allocated to advertising on AVOD platforms, channels must go beyond programmatic to offer interesting packages, producing custom content, branded entertainment, shoppable content and addressable ads.
Publishers can bring advertisers into the mix, working directly with talent for custom content integrations both on platform via live event experiences and on social media. With FAST, advertisers can get closer to the content.
As the category is still building out, there is room for experimentation with advertising. It is the perfect time for brands and advertisers to get involved in the AVOD space, especially with the precision of digital. Improving ad / brand experiences will also help to remove the barrier between linear and digital cable.
Ultimately, it all comes down to creative expertise
Operating a successful FAST channel is a substantial undertaking - expertise in all AVOD facets including distribution, monetization, ad tech, content ops, marketing and licensing is required to create a fully functional channel. The rising expectations in the FAST marketplace are putting more demands on the channel owners to operate at a higher level than ever before, and assume roles traditionally staffed by large departments.
In the present AVOD landscape, tech and distribution are no longer enough; creative expertise will differentiate the library owners, streaming channels and content owners that survive, and determine which media brands will be around in the FAST world for the long haul.
FAST Studios specializes in content creation, marketing, distribution and monetization, creating new premium media brands by investing in and operating free, ad-supported streaming (FAST) television channels.
Stuart McLean, CEO, FAST Studios
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