Study: Single-Show Channels, First-Run Episodes Key to Growth of Free Streaming Channels
Free ad-supported TV (FAST) channels are spreading like never before across the streaming media landscape. Sixty percent of American households watch at least one FAST channel, and total advertising across all FAST offerings topped $20 billion in the 2022 fiscal year.
As more FAST channels rise, there is an ever-increasing amount of data available on how companies are using the flexibility that the FAST format offers. According to Variety's reporting of MediaBiz analysis, one trend clearly beginning to emerge is the use of single-show channels to lure viewers in. Single-show channels — like those built aroundmodern procedurals like “CSI” or classic variety series like “The Ed Sullivan Show” — are a growing segment of many FAST services overall offerings.
|Channel||Number of Single Show Channels||Total Number of Channels||% of Channels That Are Single Show|
|Samsung TV Plus||38||254||15%|
Pluto TV offers the most single-show channels of any platform, but Amazon’s Freevee has the highest percentage, with nearly 40% of its content coming via single-show channels. Freevee added channels dedicated to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and everyone's favorite space puppet ALF earlier this year.
Single-show channels offer companies a tantalizing combination of brand recognition and continuous programming that doesn’t force customers to pick what they’re watching next. Single-show channels also offer streamers the opportunity to dust off an older IP that they wouldn’t expect to have much of an impact in a traditional subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) format; allowing the platforms to monetize even more of its archives.
Another trend emerging among FAST providers is that most are keeping content fresh. Overall, the tendency among providers has not been to simply re-run the same episodes of shows or the same movie several times a day. Most FAST platforms use a majority of first-run programming, meaning when they air a show or movie, it’s the first time it has appeared on that platform that day.
|Channel||Hours of First-Run Content||Total Hours of Content||% of Content That’s First-Run|
|Samsung TV Plus||3,048||5,224||58%|
The goal of this strategy is to customers engaged for longer periods of time. It’s not hard to tell when a service is simply re-running the same four or five episodes of a show in a given day, so keeping playlists fresh allows FAST services to make sure that their customers aren’t flipping over to another platform. Pluto is leading again in this regard with 74% of its daily programming counting as first-run.
It’s a good bet that more companies will see the value of single-show FAST channels. They eliminate the often-difficult choices that customers have to make on what to watch next, while still allowing for the channel-flipping experience that audiences are familiar with. The battle for viewers won’t cool down any time soon, but these trends show companies how to best maximize those viewers in the near future.