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Niche Streaming, FAST Channels Best Options to Push Streaming Profits, Satisfaction

Joshua Thiede

The pandemic did a lot for the streaming industry, forcing people to stay at home and rely on digital content as their primary means of entertainment. As restrictions lift across the globe, streamers are looking for new ways to draw in subscribers while maintaining, or even boosting, their profits. It turns out the obvious answer, according to a new Variety ViP+ report, is giving consumers the content they want at a price they can afford.

The big streamers on the block, Disney+, Hulu, [Netfix], Peacock, Prime Video, and HBO Max all pride themselves on their vast libraries of content and use their catalogs as the major drivers for their individual services. However, all of that content comes at a premium. Monthly subscriptions cost close to $10 for each, save Peacock which hovers at a respectable $5, and Disney+ at $7, at least for now. HBO Max offers an ad-supported tier at a lower price point for budget-conscious consumers, and Disney+ and Netflix are both moving in that direction as well.

Finding the Niche

These streamers now face a new issue as inflation puts pressure on households to limit non-essentials from their budgets. That includes costly subscriptions to services with giant libraries that will never be seen. Having options for subscribers is nice, but consumers are far more interested in media that they enjoy viewing instead of catalogs of content that will essentially be ignored.

Niche streaming is one answer for consumers to get the programming that they want for a relatively lower price. This group of services comes with lower costs while focusing their content on specific forms and genres. For example, Shudder promotes exclusively horror-related content with a $5.99 monthly fee (which is discounted to $4.75 per month with a year-long subscription). The AMC Networks brand features not only classic and contemporary films in the genre, but also hosts a wealth of original movies and documentaries as well.

Crunchyroll offers another unique product in the form of anime while making its 120 million users exceptionally happy when it reduced its pricing structure in almost 100 countries earlier this summer.

In the second half of 2021, 10 of the more specialized subscription-based video-on-demand (SVOD) services grew at a rate that nearly doubled their larger-library counterparts. In an attempt to reach the widest audience possible, many of these big streamers seem to be losing touch with viewers more interested in watching very specific content.

Meanwhile, smaller streamers such as BET+ have a pre-existing audience with management that best understands their content. This not only lets them streamline their libraries but also allows them to aim their advertising in much more focused, economical ways, lowering overhead in the process.

Moving FAST

The other alternative for cable-cutters longing to lessen the loads on their wallets is free ad-supported TV (FAST) channels. Like traditional linear TV (broadcast, cable, satellite), FAST channels run content on a continuous schedule. However, because it is ad-supported, there is no charge to watch it. This makes FAST a great choice for those more familiar with the traditional TV setup or who are unconcerned with streaming and watching content at the exact moment they want to.

As the premium, subscription streaming world has exploded in recent years, FAST channels have become an important counterbalance to the more expensive services, with the proliferation of these free channels continuing to grow, even as SVOD customer counts recede.

It may seem like this style of viewing is becoming obsolete, but premium streamers Prime Video and Disney+ still rely on traditional, weekly schedules for their original programs. This trend suggests that FAST channels aren’t too far off the mark with how comfortable subscribers are the non-binge viewing options that streaming provides.

In fact, more viewers are shifting to FAST options as the marketing model becomes more common. FAST options are also great for companies as their ad revenue is generally more lucrative than standard subscription profits.

The Way Forward

As the streaming industry continues to adjust to a post-pandemic market, services need to make more moves to retain their audiences. Current trends seem to support a shift away from a group of larger, catch-all subscription services toward lower-priced niche streamers offering content that is specifically appealing to individual households. Coupled with FAST channels, these less-expensive streaming options may ultimately better offer content that viewers are excited to engage than the “everything-to-everyone” model of the streaming wars.

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