06/29/23

Free Ad-Supported TV: Everything Old is New Again

The lowdown on FASTs.

Free Ad-Supported TV: Everything Old is New Again 1

Streaming video services like Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube have changed the way people consume media. The ability to press a button and have access to a vast library of content is what many of us dreamed about when stuck in the days of fussy bunny ear antennae, expensive cable packages, and out-of-stocks at Blockbuster Video.

But the sheer volume of content and the rising costs of stacking multiple services to access all the content you crave has left many looking for a way to consolidate and reduce their monthly media bills. Enter free ad-supported TV, or FASTs.

What are FASTs?

FAST stands for free, ad-supported television, played in a linear format. Sound familiar? If you came of age in the cable days, it should. FAST channels mimic the experience of linear TV via free services like Xumo, Pluto, Tubi, and many, many more. Ads are interspersed throughout the viewing experience, similar to traditional TV.

Did you know: there are more than 1,400 FAST services are available in the US.

What’s the appeal?

Are people really clamoring to go back to the time of linear TV? Actually, yes.. More than half of US TV viewers watched free ad-supported platforms in 2022, an increase over the 48% of TV viewers who watched FAST channels in 2021.

It turns out people miss the ease of turning on the TV and choosing a channel that appeals to them, vs. the choice paralysis that comes with scrolling endlessly through a sea of content on a PVOD (Premium Video On Demand) platform like Netflix. FASTs deliver a linear TV experience combined with the stability of accessing programming through your favorite Connected TV platform or device (like a Smart TV or video game console). 

Decision-fatigued users don’t have to feel pressured about making the “right” decision about what to watch. On FASTs the channels are pre-programmed and arranged by theme; viewers just need to pick one and come along for the ride.

Plus, it’s free, and most services don’t require you to sign up for an account.

What kind of content is available?

FASTs serve up both original and licensed content, with an emphasis on the latter. FAST content is varied and includes game shows, movies, reality TV, true crime shows, childrens’ programming, scripted TV and more. Some FASTs even offer original content. 

How many people are using FASTs?

In a recent study conducted by PCH Consumer Insights, FAST streamers Tubi and Pluto captured 13.6% and 9% of all streaming viewership, respectively. That puts Tubi in the top ten with heavy-hitter PVOD streamers Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. 

A Hub Entertainment Research study found that 55% of consumers said they use at least one free ad-supported streaming TV service. For consumers under 45, streaming options are outpacing broadcast and pay-TV options, with 71% combined saying they stream daily or weekly through paid or free platforms. In fact, free streaming is now the top choice, at 38% to paid streaming’s 33%.

In addition to just volume, FASTs are appealing in that they allow marketers to serve ads to increasingly elusive younger viewers and cord-cutters.

How do I advertise on FASTs?

Advertising on FASTs works similarly to other CTV placements, and the pricing is comparable. Spots can be placed programmatically or direct from the platform, and the targeting capabilities include demo, purchaser data, geography, income, interests, and more. 

As audiences continue to fragment and linear TV viewership declines, FASTs are a great place to serve your ads to an engaged and relevant audience. 

Charlton Marketing can help you create, place, and measure the success of your video ads. Contact us today to find out how.