Ad-supported streaming, particularly BVOD, has long been integral to advertisers’ media plans, with its ability to effectively engage audiences via a premium environment.
Now, with the emergence of FAST channels, advertisers have an additional opportunity to expand audience reach and bolster their overall streaming TV strategy. With Australia primed to be one of the top five FAST markets outside of the US, with a projected value surpassing USD $300 million by 2027, the FAST advertising opportunity is quickly scaling. Despite its growing popularity, some advertisers still need to learn more about the unique features and benefits of FAST channels and understand the role it can play in one’s media mix.
Here are some common misconceptions about FAST and predictions for how it will drive video strategy in 2024.
First off — What are FAST channels?
FAST, or Free Ad-Supported Streaming Television are streamed digital channels, which typically have linear style offerings containing a broad range of content that is a mix of live and always-on current and classic content.
Viewing is more ‘lean-back’ where viewers can simply tune in and watch without the need to select individual shows or movies, enhancing immersion and ease of viewing because of its linear scheduling style.
Importantly, FAST channels are free, always on, premium content, offering an antidote to subscription fatigue across paid models.
What differentiates FAST in Australia?
With over 400 channels available in Australia, FAST offers a diverse content range, presenting a premium video buying opportunity.
Since 2020, Samsung has been at the forefront of the local market, which grew quickly. In 2021 Seven introduced over 50 channels, while in 2022, Fetch TV and 10Play launched a combined 35+ channels. Last year, Paramount, in collaboration with Pluto TV, expanded to over 51 FAST channels accessed via 10Play. The industry anticipates a continued upward trend in channels launching this year, with Nine, SBS, and Foxtel all set to join the movement.
What are 3 Common Misconceptions about FAST?
Misconception 1: FAST shows mostly rehashed, old content
FAST channels offer a collection of curated content based on genre or show. These can be streamed via the Live Section of BVOD apps and websites or on FAST channel providers such as Samsung and Fetch.
Many FAST channels are themed, ranging from lifestyle, travel, sports, news, and sitcoms for ease of choice for the viewer. Meanwhile, content can be current — such as AFL and news channels, or repurposed content with a range of premium shows, such as ‘The Bold and Beautiful’ or ‘Survivor.’
The variety of nostalgic content is a big hook for audiences looking to revisit old favourites or catch up on previous episodes. Overall, FAST channels have been founded as an additional choice to video-on-demand due to consumers' desire to watch more content whenever and wherever they want.
Notably, FAST content can engage viewers right away. Samsung Ads research shows that, on average, Australian consumers take nine minutes to decide what to watch. FAST channels provide viewers with a time-saving experience - having the structure of traditional live, linear TV but with curated genre-based content.
Misconception 2: FAST audiences aren’t immersed
Many FAST platforms curate content, creating themed channels or playlists that cater to specific interests or genres. This allows viewers to easily find the content they enjoy, potentially watching their favourite show back-to-back, thus increasing the likelihood of immersion.
FAST channels are structured with user experience (UX) in mind, and each channel appeals to a certain audience, providing a golden opportunity for more contextual targeting for brands.
The best practice for FAST marketers is to be dynamic, tailor your messaging to reach audiences with distinct interests, and complement your brand message. For example, a cooking brand can advertise via the ‘lifestyle’ vertical and reach those watching ‘Hell’s Kitchen,’ zeroing in on audiences who love cooking.
Importantly, FAST channels often stream content continuously, similar to traditional linear TV. This can create a more passive viewing and lean-back experience where viewers can simply tune in and watch without the need to select individual shows or movies, encouraging immersion.
Beyond that, FAST channels draw in audiences with a different viewing habit than on-demand, offering a complimentary layer to your overall BVOD buy.
Misconception 3: FAST channels are not premium
The vast majority of the FAST channels in Australia offer recent or historical programming content housed by premium broadcasters in Australia or across the globe. FAST content has been created by leading global production houses such as NBC, Warner Bros, BBC, Paramount, Fremantle, and local broadcaster-owned content.
With FAST, the proof is in the pudding that content is digestible, with FAST growing exponentially in user penetration from 7.5m to 9.5m users by 2028.
Ultimately, FAST holds a key position in marketers’ media mix. FAST drives brand building and can be used as an always-on approach for continuous engagement at scale. FAST channels should be considered complementary to your BVOD buy to expand reach and contextual depth. FAST plays a role in brand growth and impact, offering a range of premium content at scale, which will continue to fuel the surging video market in Australia.
Maddy Mewing, Lead, Platforms - Australia at Magnite