Ad-supported streaming tiers have been on the rise lately, and more users than ever are now watching Free Ad-Supported Television (FAST) channels in response to increasing economic pressures and the so-called “subscription fatigue” of managing too many paid OTT options. With many new FAST channels launched, what’s now emerging is “FAST 2.0.” How will it differ from the current FAST models, and is it related to Web3? Jonathon Barbato, Co-CEO, Best Ever Channels, discusses this topic with Matthew Durgin, Sr. Director, North American Innovation and Development Team, LG, and Greg Barnard, Director, Content Acquisition, Vizio.
Barbato asks Durgin, “What do you think FAST 2.0 will be about? What are we going to see different in the content, and what technology are we going to introduce?”
Durgin says that exclusive and original programming may define FAST 2.0, and LG is working directly with partners to make this happen. “Last year LG launched a special relationship with the NCAA, where we have an NCAA Channel,” he says. “And then this year, we’ve launched an exclusive channel with David Chang, who’s a world-renowned chef and owner of the majordomo and Momofuku restaurants. He does an exclusive, not just a cooking show, but cooking a channel for LG channels. And so you know, there’s a number of ways that this can go into any category. But I think one of the things that you’ll see now is a dedication from the FAST companies to getting exclusive, original, and differentiated content out there to keep building an audience.”
Barbato asks Greg Barnard of Vizio for his thoughts on FAST 2.0. Barnard emphasizes that branded or sponsor-led programming is another important potential aspect of FAST 2.0, along with ease of discoverability in UX. With branded programming, he says, “That’s where we are finding a lot of opportunity to source and secure exclusive content. But it is an expensive venture as well, right? If you’re producing content and you have an audience that hasn’t yet engaged on a regular basis, and then that becomes a bit of a cost center for you, it becomes very difficult to monetize over time. And that’s why scale is really important, I think, and also by leveraging brands as a part of this opportunity is really critical as well.”
Regarding ease of programming discoverability, Barnard says of Vizio, “We’ve done that, right? We have a platform [and a] home screen that is very valuable.” This is crucial for immediately engaging and retaining viewers. “You can leverage that opportunity by bringing in sponsorships brands to that,” he says. “And that is a really unique and interesting opportunity in this space for how we monetize this space as we continue to grow over time. 2.0 is going to include exclusives and originals…I think that is an engagement tool, but a retention tool is always going to be having great content, having a great experience and great product that keeps people there day after day after day. It’s getting better content and bigger brands, and we’re in the business of doing that as well.”
Barnard stresses that thinking big is the way to go for anyone working on the new FAST 2.0 model. “It’s been reported in the market — we can believe it or not — that 50% of Netflix content is original, but 75% of their viewing is catalog, stuff people know and love that they can put on and let it run. And we’re in the business of selling ads, which means we need people to watch today, tomorrow, next month, and next year all the time. And that’s why I say 2.0 is a continued enhancement on that product. It’s not just put it up and let it run. We actually have to build the new TBS, TNT, USA, and FX of this new world, right? And those are the opportunities.
Learn more about FAST 2.0 at Streaming Media East 2023.
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