The TV landscape is constantly changing. In recent years we've seen a strong focus on subscription viewing services with the rise of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. However, as people become tired of paying for multiple subscriptions, they are increasingly interested in free streaming services like FAST channels.
According to Omdia, FAST (Free Ad-Support Television) channel revenue grew almost 20 times between 2019 and 2022 and is set to triple and reach $12bn by 2027. Admittedly, the vast majority of this revenue comes from the US market at the moment, where over 1,400 channels are provided across 22 networks.
What is FAST TV?
The essence of FAST channels lies in their cost-free and ad-supported model. They provide both on-demand and live-streaming services delivered over the internet. Recent research from Rogers shows that Canadians are becoming more accepting of seeing ads in their streaming services. Two-thirds of respondents agreed they would be willing to see ads if the content was free.
The live streaming element of these FAST services sets them apart from other AVOD services such as ad-supported Netflix, Discovery Plus and YouTube. These platforms are fully on-demand whereas FAST channels can also offer a curated schedule.
This provides viewers with the lean-back experience that was always seen as an important part of traditional viewing. As viewers are faced with an ever-growing range of content options this may be seen as a more attractive proposition.
Users can also easily access these services on websites or connected TV apps without needing to create an account first.
In Canada, there are not as many FAST TV channels as in the US, but the number is increasing quickly. Pluto TV, Roku, CBC, and Samsung TV Plus currently offer over 150 channels. These can contain programming from broad genres such as crime, comedy, and reality to whole channels devoted to popular shows such as Wipeout, Top Gear and CSI.
The FAST channel audience
Here in Canada, we are fortunate to have access to both the Numeris VAM dataset and the MTM survey*. These both give us insights into the audience growth and profile of various streaming services in Canada.
The VAM data allows us to analyze the viewers of Pluto TV, Roku Channel, and Samsung TV Plus. This dataset includes both on-demand and live-streaming elements.
First, it's important to see viewing of these channels in the context of all video consumption. By using InstarVAM** we analyzed the VAM data from March 27 to June 25th. We can see that Linear and BVOD viewing is still important and makes up just under 70% of all viewing in the reported markets of Ontario and Quebec Franco. (Our previous blog on the importance of linear TV examines this in more detail.)
Share of total viewing
When we remove the linear channels and analyze streaming only, the combined share of the four FAST channels listed above would account for 0.4%
Although the share of viewing to these stations is very small, it appears that they are generating interest with Canadian viewers. Over the past 6 months, 3.5m Canadians in the reported markets have watched at least one minute across the three services. This represents almost 16% of the Total Sample. This figure rises to almost 19% if we only look at the viewing in the Ontario market.
The latest MTM survey also gives some insights into the viewers of FAST channels. It shows that they appeal to those who don't subscribe to any SVOD services. One in five Canadians belongs to this group. Among them, 8% reported watching FAST content in the last month. As this latest MTM survey shows, the percentage of SVOD subscribers is beginning to dip. If this decline continues, it will be interesting to see whether there is a corresponding growth in viewing of FAST channels.
Percentage of SVOD subscribers
The importance to advertisers
Firstly, the niche nature of the content on these channels allows for highly targeted advertising and integration opportunities. Also, FAST channels have the potential to experiment with fresh advertising formats. Interactive elements such as adding a QR code to the ad allow viewers to request more information about products and services. In addition to this, the shorter ad slots mean that ads have more chance to stand out in a less cluttered environment
The emergence of FAST channels signifies yet another shift in the way audiences consume video, as well as how advertisers connect with viewers. Although they are still in the early stages here in Canada, it will be interesting to monitor their progress using the datasets available to us.
*The Media Technology Monitor (MTM) is Canada’s leading survey in technology ownership and use containing a wealth of information on audio and video streaming habits.
**InstarVAM is our hosted application which allows users to analyze both linear and digital video content across all platforms.
Please contact us if you’d like more information on either InstarVAM or the Media Technology Monitor.