The success of FAST channels proves that viewers still enjoy a ‘lean back’ viewing experience in the streaming age.
That was one of the conclusions of an IBC2022 Conference session on FAST channels, titled Transitioning Linear and VOD and Introducing the Simplicity of FAST.
Session Moderator Nathalie Lethbridge, Founder and Managing Director of Atonik Digital, described FAST channels as a hybrid of traditional viewing and streaming. She cited figures from analysts Omdia showing that the FAST market will generate $4 billion in revenue in the US market this year.
The session heard from Robert Gelick, Chief Product Officer at Paramount, which is home to the AVOD service Pluto TV, which offers multiple FAST channels. These range from channels devoted to a specific franchise, like the SpongeBob SquarePants FAST service to curated genre channels, focused on themes such as true crime.
“Pluto TV at the time of launch was a contrarian service. People thought linear as a format is going away,” said Gelick. “Clearly, it is not and the FAST market has proven that people still like this lean back viewing paradigm. And that’s where we’ve seen a lot of success. It’s balanced with other things that streaming brings, which is broad VOD catalogues that [viewers] can consume.”
Pluto TV, Gelick said, has over 1000 channels around the world that are programmed by its editorial teams. It has aggregated over 380,000 hours of content to build the Pluto TV service.
Anil Jain, Managing Director of Media & Entertainment at Google Cloud, said that a “mix of experiences” including FAST channels now make up the portfolio that a media company needs to offer to viewers.
“The reality is a mix of subscriptions, ads, transactions at a minimum, I think, will coexist on multiple platforms. If you want to engage an audience and build affinity with your content and your brand, you’re going to need to kind of employ that model,” said Jain.
Referring to FAST, Jain stressed that the passive, linear viewing, lean back experience still exists. “Curation matters, editorial matters.”