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Study: FAST Platforms Rapidly Profitable, More Services Expected

Steve Anderson

A new study from Variety shows that FAST platforms are only accelerating in adoption, even as more SVOD services appear in the landscape.

FAST providers have been on the rise since 2015, and have routinely added new entrants. Pluto TV represents the pioneer in the field, as it’s been on the scene since 2015. In 2016, LG Channels and Xumo joined the field. The field remained static once more until 2018, when Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus, and Vizio Watchfree+ joined in. Since then, it’s been a mad scramble for viewers.

Currently, there are 21 FAST options out there. That might seem like an oversaturated market, but based on Variety’s analysis, there are potentially more players yet to take a seat at the table. Perhaps the biggest two as-yet-unreported players are Apple and Google. With reports suggesting that Google is looking to get involved, that would leave Apple out in the cold as the only major player without its own FAST service.

Indeed, the Variety study looks for media brands to get increasingly involved in FAST. The study found that large channels that launched a FAST option saw huge increases in average viewer counts and monthly viewing time after two years. Monthly average viewers were up 208%, while monthly viewing time increased around 280%. With more viewers watching for longer times, that of course means an increase in ad revenues. The Variety study noted that the average large studio running a FAST platform brought in $23.2 million in extra revenue after two years.

That’s sufficient inducement for even a major-scale operation to look to launching a FAST service. However, with that inducement will come a significant problem: content. We’ve already seen how Roku plans to bring out a massive slate of original content. We’ve also seen what happened to Disney+ when its content releases started to slow down. Larger networks like ViacomCBS’ Pluto TV, Fox’s Tubi, and NBCUniversal’s Peacock should do well here. Even Netflix may dip its toes in these waters.

There’s also one other point the Variety study didn’t mention that perhaps it should have: legacy content. For years, studios and networks released DVD box sets—eventually Blu-ray—of old content that people once enjoyed but didn’t see again. Calling it “Comfort Food TV” isn’t too far off the mark, because that’s basically what it is. The value of Comfort Food TV has been proven several times over thanks to shows ranging from “Friends” to “Seinfeld” to “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” These shows have been rebooted and resold, sometimes several times over, but the idea that networks might call them home instead to make them flagship pieces of a FAST network aren’t out of line. Remember here how ViacomCBS looked to post 15 new series’ worth of older content to its Pluto TV label.

FAST platforms still have decades of old TV to pull from. Whether lost to politics, music rights, or just sheer lack of caring, legacy networks are sitting on vast, mostly untapped veins of content that could populate a FAST network readily. The only question is, will the networks crack open the vaults and bring that content out into the light of day?

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