In a world where change is the only constant, the film and television industry has been undergoing a seismic shift over the past decade. The rise of streaming services has transformed how we consume content, challenging the traditional cable and broadcast models.
Amidst this transformation, a new player has emerged onto the scene, poised to disrupt the streaming landscape further: Free Ad-Supported Streaming Television, or FAST.
The FAST Phenomenon
Unlike the early ’90s cable and broadcast systems, where you had to shell out a hefty monthly fee to access a limited selection of channels, FAST provides a treasure trove of content, all underpinned by advertisements. It’s the streaming revolution 2.0.
There are now three services in the United States, Local Now, Plex and Roku Channel, that boasts 400 or more channels, compared with zero just 18 months ago. In January 2022, only Pluto TV offered over 300 channels. Now there are more than a half dozen with more likely in the coming months.
FAST’s appeal lies not only in its cost-free access but also in its reduced commercial load. While traditional cable television bombards viewers with 15 to 17 minutes of commercials per hour, FAST channels typically feature a more viewer-friendly 8 to 9 minutes per hour. This alone enhances the overall viewing experience, making it more enjoyable and less intrusive.
The Financial Landscape of FAST
From a financial perspective, FAST is no small player. In 2022, it raked in a staggering $4 billion in revenue in the United States alone, and experts predict it will soar to $10 billion by 2028. On a global scale, FAST is projected to mushroom from a $6 billion market in 2022 to a colossal $18 billion by 2028. These numbers speak volumes about the industry’s growth potential.
Channel Growth as a Percentage Since January 2022
The Need for Specialization
However, the fast-growing FAST industry isn’t without its challenges. The two primary issues it faces can be summed up as “just more of the same” and “just not enough content.” While the number of FAST channels has exploded in recent years, as referenced in the chart above, a significant portion offers repetitive content—more news channels, reruns of crime and reality shows, and an overload of channels with limited, repetitive programming. This redundancy threatens the format’s long-term viability.
To thrive, FAST channels must diversify their content and offer extensive libraries to keep viewers engaged over extended periods. The key is specialization—offering content tailored to specific themes or interests. Specialized channels, rather than niche ones, have a higher chance of success. These channels cater to large but focused audiences who share a common interest.
Worldwide Film & Television Distribution Intelligence
Get unparalleled access to market intelligence reports that draw on financial data and insights from dozens of content distribution deals worldwide between key industry participants, including — Distributors, Producers, Broadcasters, MPVDs, Pay Television Providers, and Streaming Exhibitors.
Film and Series distribution rates and terms deriving from dozens of agreements for rights to transmit films and episodic television via PayTV and SVOD.
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Licensing Terms & Included Programs:
Pay-1 & SVOD Rate Cards for Motion Pictures and Series Exhibited Worldwide in Multiple Availability Windows
- Motion Pictures: Pay-1, First Run, Second Window Features, Recent Library Features (Tiers AAA,A,B,C), Library Features (Tiers AAA,A,B,C), Current and Premium Made-For-TV Films and Direct-To-Video Films, covering many license periods over the last decade
- Episodic TV: Current, Premium, Premium Catalog (1HR & 1/2HR), Catalog Series (1HR & 1/2HR), and Catalog Miniseries + Case Studies on Current Mega Hit, Catalog Mega Hit, and Premium Catalog, covering many licensing terms from 2012-2024
- Because most-favored-nation rates operate in practice, the rates and terms apply to a diverse range of content and distributors worldwide in multiple availability windows.
FilmTake Away: The FAST Lane Ahead
As the entertainment landscape undergoes unprecedented shifts, established norms are giving way to new paradigms. The question that resonates through this transition is, “What content truly ignites your passion and that of a worldwide audience?” FAST, with its unique blend of affordability and reduced advertising load, offers an exciting avenue for filmmakers and television professionals to explore.
For film and television professionals, FAST represents both a challenge and an opportunity. Embracing this format requires a shift in mindset and content strategy. The industry must adapt to cater to specialized tastes and provide a diverse array of engaging content.
The evolution of free ad-supported streaming television is a testament to the ever-changing landscape of the film and television industry. Its growth potential, financial allure, and the need for specialized content make it a force to reckon with in the coming years.
As the world of entertainment continues to transform, FAST paves the way for filmmakers and television professionals to captivate audiences worldwide. The future of streaming television has arrived, and it’s free, ad-supported, and specialized—the perfect blend of innovation for an ever-evolving industry.
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