WTF Is FAST (Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV)?

After Connected TV (CTV) outperformed cable in mid-2022, the importance of advertising on streaming services has only continued to grow.

In addition to paid, ad-free streaming subscriptions, there’s a strictly ad-supported way to watch content: free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST). Here, we’ll discuss FAST and explore why it’s critical for marketing strategies. 

What is Free Ad-Supported TV (FAST)?

What is a FAST channel, and how does it work? A FAST channel is a combination of subscription-based streaming and broadcast TV. These platforms are set up like broadcast TV channels but stream over the internet via an Over-the-Top (OTT) or Connected TV (CTV) device, like a Roku TV. And, as the name suggests, these channels are free to viewers thanks to advertising revenue. 

Popular FAST platforms include Tubi, Pluto, Xumo, the Roku Channel, and Plex. Many of these platforms have additional paid options beyond FAST programming. Roku Channel is the most familiar for many people, likely because it’s tied to the popular device used to watch CTV and OTT platforms. 

FAST platforms offer a mix of programming from classic movies and sitcoms to more current programming, but their most popular offerings include movies over five years old and episodes from TV shows that no longer air. Whether you enjoy watching reruns or more recent movies, there are FAST platforms for you! 

Growing Support for Free Streaming Services With Ads

Consumers love the variety and choices paid streaming services give them, but many are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of platforms—and the fees that come with them. According to Statista, many people are shifting toward FAST platforms. In 2022, 30% of respondents said they had removed a paid CTV subscription services, while 25% of respondents also said they added a free service within the same timeframe. 

Statista also found 18.4% of respondents use FAST platforms to gain access to free channels, 15% use the platforms to watch the shows they want, and 13.2% use the channels to pass the time. 

What the Evolution of FAST Means for Marketers

FAST represents a growing segment of the U.S. and global viewing audience, which is open to watching ads. Streaming services recognize this, with Netflix and others introducing ad-supported tiers in addition to their subscription-based platforms. Ad revenue from FAST platforms is projected to reach up to $6 billion by 2025

You might be wondering: why not just advertise on broadcast TV? And, it’s a fair question. The platforms are similar, however FAST—just like other internet-based platforms—uses relevant data to more precisely target your audience. Essentially, FAST combines the best of network TV with the main advantage of CTV, which allows you to fine-tune your campaign and target audiences with precision. 

FAST vs. AVOD: What’s the Difference? 

Anyone navigating the world of OTT and CTV content knows there are many acronyms to master—and we’re about to talk about some of them!

Video on Demand (VOD) refers to any service that allows consumers to watch programming at will, such as OTT, CTV, and content distributed via select cable or satellite services (e.g., DirecTV Cinema or Xfinity On Demand). 

Advertising-based video on demand (AVOD) is VOD supported by ads. It remains on-demand, though—like an ad-supported Hulu or Netflix tier. By watching ads, you can watch your favorite shows and movies when you want for free. By contrast, FAST is linear, like old-fashioned network TV, and delivered via an OTT or CTV platform. For example, the Roku Channel plays different shows and movies all day long, and you can tune in if you like. 

As FAST and AVOD channels continue growing in popularity, both are worth understanding and considering for your video marketing strategy

10 Best Free Streaming Services & Apps

1. Roku Channel

Though it just launched in 2017, Roku Channel is the most well-known FAST platform, likely because of the popularity of the brand’s smart and connected TVs. The platform hosts 350+ live TV channels and has additional offerings, including AVOD and premium subscriptions. 

2. Tubi TV

With over 29 million app downloads in the US in 2022, Tubi is one of the most popular FAST platforms. According to Statista, the platform features over 30,000 hours of movie content and 26,000 hours of TV content in the US. 

3. Pluto TV

Founded in 2013, Pluto TV features ad-supported live TV and movies without requiring you to sign in (seriously—the first link I clicked automatically started playing Mad Max.) In Q3 of 2022, the platform had 72 million global monthly active users (MAUs). 

4. Amazon Freevee (Formerly IMDb TV)

Amazon Freevee (formerly known as IMDb TV) is available on mobile devices, certain streaming media players (including Roku and Apple TV), certain smart TVs, and Amazon Fire TV products. In Q2 of 2022, nearly 7% of U.S.- and Canada-based respondents were familiar with the platform. 

5. Crackle

In Q2 of 2022, Crackle was the 5th most popular platform among other AVOD and FAST channels in the U.S. and Canada. It features on-demand TV shows and movies across a variety of genres. 

6. Xumo

Similar to Pluto TV, Xumo features both FAST and AVOD options for viewers. The platform was created in 2011. One 2022 Statista study found 51% of US respondents were aware of the platform and 14% were familiar with it. 

7. Peacock

Peacock TV’s Free Plan allows viewers to watch movies and TV shows without a subscription. In 2023, the platform is expected to reach 70.7 million viewers in the US. In addition to the Free Plan, the platform has paid subscription options if viewers want to gain access to more content. 

8. Sling Free

Sling Free is another platform featuring both FAST and AVOD options. It features 150+ live TV channels and thousands of on-demand content options. In addition, users can access more content through paid subscription offerings.  

9. Vudu

Vudu is an AVOD platform with free movies and TV shows. Viewers can also rent or buy additional content on the platform. As of May 2021, Statista found 11% of US-based Vudu viewers tuned platform daily, while an additional 18% watched the content multiple times per week. 

10. Plex

First created in 2008, Plex is now a digital video platform. It features over 200 live TV channels and over 50,000 TV shows and movies on demand. Viewers can also upgrade to a Plex Pass, which provides access to additional options, including DVR and downloadable content. 

How Performance TV Connects the Dots

With many new and still emerging platforms, creating video content is more important than ever before. But, creating fresh content to meet the needs of your audience is also more difficult than ever before, as marketers manage new challenges

Thankfully, you don’t have to create performance TV video content by yourself. At QuickFrame, we’ve created an agile end-to-end video production platform to help businesses like yours create custom content for every objective, platform, and audience. Contact us to get started today! 

Final Thoughts on Free Streaming Services & Apps

As digital video continues to evolve, it’s essential to consider the emerging video advertising opportunities that come along with free ad-supported streaming TV platforms. Plus, as channel diversification becomes increasingly vital to reaching your audience, FAST platforms can be an effective addition to your marketing strategy.

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