By Preeya Naul*
In the realm of modern television, a notable resurgence is reshaping the landscape — a revival that echoes the days of linear TV’s reign, albeit in a reinvented way known as FAST (Free Ad-Supported Television) channels. These channels have swiftly risen to prominence within the streaming sphere, owing much of their ascent to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) that offer a diverse array of televisions with built-in streaming capabilities. Consequently, FAST platforms and channels have become the principal choice for viewers as they power up their televisions and streaming applications, evoking a reminiscent feel of the past, when channels would greet audiences upon switching on the TV, now enhanced with an Internet-driven user experience.
The popularity of these smart TVs is also contributing to the rise of FAST channels. Viewers are quickly realizing the advantages of instant free access, a growing selection of entertainment and sports choices, and the convenience of accessing FAST channels across various TV devices. This makes FAST an effective mechanism for reaching and engaging audiences.
At Newsflare, a platform for User-Generated Video (UGV), we have amassed over 60,000 “filmers” (or videomakers), all of whom contribute to over 8,000 monthly video uploads to our platforms. It was this, along with Newsflare Studios, our production arm dedicated to crafting short-form content for Social Media platforms that led to the logical progression into episodic long-form programming. The ad-supported model of FAST emerged as a strategic opportunity, enabling us to propel our brand presence and present our portfolio of content to international program buyers. Our success with Newsflare Studios in captivating online audiences (boasting 200 million monthly views) filled us with the confidence to replicate this success within the realm of television audiences.
In the fourth quarter of 2023, we launched our first FAST channel “Woah! That Was Wild!” This round-the-clock linear channel presents viewers with a curated schedule of original User-Generated Videos, thoughtfully categorized into thematic blocks encompassing content such as natural disasters, captivating encounters with wildlife, and heart-warming moments featuring families and pets. The channel is produced by Newsflare Studios, out of our Los Angeles office. We have already forged partnerships with top FAST providers including Amazon’s FIRE TV, FUBO, and Freecast, that all host our “Woah! That Was Wild!” channel.
To cater to different viewing experiences, many FAST providers also deliver AVoD (Advertising Video on Demand) in addition to the linear TV-style playout. Newsflare is working with streaming platforms who enable this to provide both options. Viewers of “Woah! That Was Wild!” in those instances can choose to watch back-to-back episodes of select titles or opt for the linear feed where the content is categorized and scheduled throughout the day. This approach enables the platform’s advertisers to seamlessly embed their advertising across both viewing models, while also providing enhanced exposure for Newsflare’s library and filmers.
A recent ComScore report on the state of streaming in 2023 underscores the rise of free ad-supported services, surging at a rate eclipsing that of subscription-based services in the U.S. This trend isn’t confined solely to the U.S., extending its influence to markets in LatAm and Europe, presenting an even broader picture for expansion of FAST.
FAST channels epitomize the convergence of technology, TV manufacturers, and content enterprises, offering an experience reminiscent of traditional television yet steeped in innovation. For viewers, it’s a gateway to an array of cost-free choices. For advertisers, FAST channels present an additional avenue to target audiences aligned with their brand. It’s for these reasons that we are fully committed to the FAST landscape leveraging our expertise in driving Social Media eyeballs that garner more than 200 million views each month. Furthermore, we are already in the planning stages for the development of a second channel.
*Preeya Naul (pictured above) is EVP Americas & Newsflare Studios