Let’s talk about FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channels – a market that’s growing so quickly that it certainly holds a fitting name. Developed in the United States, this format is spreading quickly across the world, with growing appeal. According to research firm Omdia, FAST channels will grow the quickest outside of the US driving the US share of global revenue down to 86% by 2027. Although the US will continue to dominate the market, a $1.6bn revenue opportunity will emerge for FAST channels outside of the US by 2027 with the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, and Brazil driving the growth. The UK and Canada, two of the countries that enjoy an overspill of content from the US, will have FAST markets worth more than US$500 million and US$300 million respectively by 2027. Omdia reports that the total global FAST market is anticipated to reach $12 billion by 2027.
This type of market growth for FAST just reminds us that most things in life are cyclical. Remember ad-supported over-the-air broadcast TV? It wasn’t that long ago that our viewing was mostly linear channel viewing. Then on-demand streaming services arrived, touted as the future of television. Followed by cord-cutting where viewers opt to cancel their traditional cable or satellite services. Now we’ve come full circle, back to ad-supported channels and watching our television content for free again. It’s straightforward really; FAST channels provide us with the benefits of streaming plus the familiarity of TV – uniting both linear channels and on-demand programming. Plus, it caters to an audience that is transitioning from traditional TV viewing to a streaming experience.
Audience engagement is starting to take off outside of the US as FAST channels rights holders, content producers and providers see an obvious opportunity for content monetization and content diversification. Content owners are quickly exploring how they can capitalize on this growing trend, and subscription-fatigued consumers now have an affordable streaming alternative. Plus, given the continued proliferation of mobile devices across the world, FAST channels will likely be further embraced as a next-generation way of watching TV and content.
Competition in the Streaming Market
Content providers are now offering broader viewing options for consumers, diversifying the way people can watch content and sometimes offering a completely new user experience. Offering FAST channels as an option to view content is a way that providers and rights holders can differentiate themselves, maximize audience reach and engagement, as well as enhance their monetization strategies. It’s a way for numerous platforms to compete more effectively, reach a wider audience, and build market share in their region. It also creates an opportunity for distributors to create niche FAST channels with reduced production expenses, thereby expanding their offerings, which could ultimately drive more subscriptions for their premium content.
Tailored Content and Targeted Advertising
Through FAST channels, consumers are becoming more drawn to niche content or discovering new content, thus creating an opportunity for providers to deliver more compelling and unique programming.
The vast amount of data collected about viewers' preferences and viewing habits, behaviors, and demographics provides an opportunity for providers and media companies to deliver highly relevant ads and maximize the return on investment for advertisers. Engaging ad experiences will then align with the platform’s content, format, and viewer expectations, and sophisticated analytics tools can optimize ad inventory and delivery.
Affordable Content to Produce – Free for the Consumer
FAST channel programmers, providers, and aggregators often rely on library content or even short-form or influencer videos that may feature international stories and events, which are typically less expensive to license than the newest high-value shows. Plus, older shows can be fine-tuned into curated viewing events to re-engage past fans who feel nostalgia for a show, genre, or particular time period. Some FAST channels are also offering new programming or making country-specific programming available to new regions.
For example: South Korean media company, NEW ID recently launched its “BINGE Korea” FAST platform in the US, which makes the booming Korean content market available to a larger audience. It also makes sense for media news outlets to capitalize on their existing video libraries with the likes of CNN launching CNN Fast earlier this year, featuring international stories. Guardian, the global news organization launched its branded FAST channel in 43 countries offering viewers a selection of Guardian documentaries and video series reaching more than 110 million households - all via select smart TV devices. New FAST channels are being launched by major distributors and via streaming aggregators around the world at lightning speed, and it’s certainly clear that FAST is an international phenomenon.
Tech Giants Already in the FAST Market
Companies like LG and Samsung operate their own FAST channel streaming services built into their smart televisions, allowing users to access a wide range of live and on-demand content, whether it be children’s programming, music videos, news, sports, or movies and TV shows. Earlier this year (and rumored for some time), Roku announced its entry into the Smart TV market, a move that makes sense considering it’s already a major streaming player. Connected and Smart TV in general is one of the key drivers to FAST adoption around the world.
Connected TV’s and Niche Content Drive Global Growth
FAST platforms including LG, Samsung, Pluto TV, Rakuten TV, as well as several niche platforms have steadily expanded services and increased rollouts throughout Europe. Providers have also had wide-scale rollouts across Latin America and Asia Pacific is also seeing exceptional growth. Many FAST channels drill down deep into specific genres and niches, such as news, cooking, crime, or dedicated re-runs, with favorites depending on the region - a wide array of unique content from around the world. Economic factors of stability and disposable income levels in countries influence the adoption of streaming services, with FAST channels benefiting cost-conscious viewers. There are also new opportunities for non-US broadcasters to export their content and offer more international exposure to their country’s indies. There are also ample opportunities for social media content programming on FAST channels, appealing to a younger audience. Couple all of this with ad optimization and content differentiation, international broadcasters can tailor programming to changing consumer behavior and take advantage of emerging technologies.
There’s a massive global audience for FAST channels, especially considering the continued cord-cutting of cable and satellite subscriptions, the saturated subscription streaming market, and the crackdown on password sharing.
Automated Localization for the Success of FAST Channels
As the FAST market surges, it’s coupled with the need for affordable content localization strategies. It’s often hard to predict the ROI for localizing content in a business model that isn’t like traditional licensing models i.e., FAST channels often work on a revenue-sharing model. Manual localization processes can often be time and cost-prohibitive, and the localization industry is continuing to experience bottlenecks due to a limited pool of qualified linguists. As with many new market opportunities, FAST requires new tools to support the massive content volume that is being produced or re-introduced. This is where AI-powered translation and dubbing provide a cost-effective complement to high-quality, affordable translation services. With the FAST channel advantages of more affordable channel creation and management, and overall lower production budgets, it makes sense to use emerging and practical automation tools that simplify and expedite the localization dubbing/subtitling process – at a price-point that makes sense. XL8’s AI translation engine is revolutionizing global reach and unlocking monetization opportunities for regions and channels that ordinarily could not be monetized in the more traditional ways.
As streaming platforms continue to evolve, the availability and popularity of FAST channels will certainly continue to expand internationally creating a stream of content that can be localized and monetized. The proliferation of internet-connected devices and smart TVs ensures consumers can effortlessly access a variety of content. AI machine translation as well as hybrid models that use AI functions along with the human element, offer an affordable and viable way to distribute localized content to new audiences.