The lean-back experience still has a lot of power for consumers, an expert panel agreed on the recent IBC webinar, Launching OTT and FAST services. While FAST has seen considerable industry interest of late, the fact that viewers are turning into FAST channels in large numbers does not necessarily result in soaring ROI, as both commentators agreed strongly
Marion Ranchet, Founder & Managing Director, The Local Act Consultancy, opened her comments by being clear that runaway popularity doesn’t necessarily equate to effortless monetisation.
“It’s amazing that we’re spending almost half an hour every night deciding what we’re going to watch next. With the pandemic, what came out was the power of a leanback experience. I think that’s one of the big appeals of FAST - you tune in. There’s something some programming team has chosen for you to watch next, and in some cases, it’s incredibly insightful and others you may not like it.
“The fact that it’s free as well [is helpful] - who doesn’t like free content? It so happens that people are actually not particularly annoyed by advertising, which to me was a bit of a shock. I thought that after so many years of SVOD, content offerings would not go back to this experience that we had before [in the days of linear]. However, while overall growth is tremendous [when you look at it broadly] across the globe, monetization is very different from one region to the other…”
Definitions and diversification
The panel moved on to touch on the true definition of FAST, as Haymi Behar, CMO & CDO at SPI International (a Canal+ company) set out: “I think the acronym is very accurate, meaning we monetise advertising based streaming TV. It’s basically linear TV tailored or programmed for a specific platform or platforms, and it could go very vertical, because it’s linear TV, but we see that there’s a tendency to go very vertical in a certain area.
“For example, you could have a FAST channel just about boats, or just about boxing, and this is where it’s going, because a lot of platforms are getting hundreds of channels together. It’s basically linear TV, but it actually points out that people do need somebody else who is a professional at content programming to do the job for them, because we face 1000s of choices every day. So these are FAST channels. It’s a channel that broadcasts digitally on a platform and is monetized through advertising so you don’t have to pay in order to access.”
Channel diversification has become both a key asset in FAST and a strategic imperative, as Ranchet continued to point out: “I’m seeing a lot of companies who didn’t necessarily have a [DTC] brand that was known to the public are going into the FAST market with a very interesting proposition. I think that’s what’s great about FAST because as long as you have great content and you have a great video library, there’s a way for you to get into that business, whereas before you were shut out.”
Discoverability and new demographics
Discoverability clearly plays a key role here, as both panellists agreed, with Behar leading the charge. “Marketing is key. If you want to go into the FAST space and you don’t have a strong social media following, if you don’t already have a community or an audience and [you plan to] build your audience from scratch, well, good luck. It’s not going to be easy!
“In the technological sense, in order to build the channel, there is less of a barrier, but if you don’t have your existing marketing ecosystem, your regular connections with your audience and your existing community, it will be harder for you to launch and not get lost in the hundreds of other channels. So marketing should be planned very carefully, very long term.”
Targeting new demographics via FAST was a key topic of discussion, as well as being able to tap into very engaged audiences via topics such as hobbies. Ranchet was keen to make the point that accessing a younger demographic via FAST channels is a highly attractive prospect for rights owners of all kinds.
“Like any new innovation, there’s always the hope that you’ll be able to reach both the widest demographic as possible, but also that demographic that maybe you’re no longer seeing on traditional TV. That’s also why advertisers are getting interested in FAST they see that Gen Z’s are leaving traditional linear TV. Could they be found in FAST? I think time will tell.”
Market data - a key FAST challenge
Ranchet also highlighted some of the key challenges for FAST from a wider perspective, pointing out that a lack of consumer visibility creates something of a chicken and egg scenario for advertisers and rights holders.
“The problem is that we don’t have the data at industry level, meaning that it’s not yet in Nielsen or [similar]. Therefore it’s very difficult to know who the FAST audience is at a market level. But we have some pointers from pure players in the space but there’s no definitive answer just yet. Also platforms are keeping their data very close to them, which I understand at this point in time, but I think that if they want to do ecosystem to grow, they’ll need to open up a bit more because the minute there’s advertising, you’re going to need to give data, because otherwise no one will buy advertising if they’re just spending in the dark.
“Advertisers are going to expect to understand exactly the audience and be able to segment and offer an ad experience that matches the audience they’re trying to reach. I think we’ll see a lot more of that coming in the next few months…
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