What Is FAST and Why Does It Matter?

No downloads, no apps, no set up.

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May 11, 2022

As advances in broadband communications, screen technology and video production arrive in the marketplace at an unprecedented rate, the evolution of entertainment continues at a pace that can be difficult to track. With every leap or breakthrough, visual media consumption changes in turn.

Sometimes, however, a new model has a familiar look. That’s the case with FAST (Free Ad-Supported Television), which provides users with the modern digital quality and on-demand features they have come to rely on. FAST services also deliver a linear channel or “lean back” experience and a no-charge service that has been the default living-room viewing experience the world over for decades.

Still, FAST is no nostalgia grab. The rise of the format can’t be explained as easily as “what’s old is new again.” As TV manufacturers get on board with the format and more providers deliver FAST services to the public, users are learning that free ad-supported TV is combining the best of their traditional streaming and linear entertainment experiences.

For context, a quick review of the distinctions between SVOD (subscription video on demand), terrestrial TV and FAST:

  • SVOD: Subscription-only, on-demand streaming video
  • Terrestrial TV: Linear channels programmed by a combination of free, ad-supported and subscription-based network and cable providers
  • FAST: Free ad-supported television featuring live linear channels and on-demand programming and features

Not only does FAST offer many of the anytime-playback benefits of SVOD and the free, linear format of traditional television, but it is now being designed by TV manufacturers directly into their screen technology. No downloads, no apps, no set up. FAST offers out-of-the-box, free entertainment viewing with many of the modern digital features users have grown accustomed to while enjoying Netflix, YouTube and programming from other streaming providers.

The growing popularity of FAST is indisputable. But how did we arrive at this moment? It began with the decline of traditional TV, which became outmoded when spiraling costs coincided with the rise of alternative content options.Then came the boom of SVOD (subscription video on demand) services, with Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and an abundance of others entering the space. The fierce competition drove up content costs — and consumers started needing four or five services. Watching content suddenly became very expensive for consumers. And over time, the operating costs of streaming providers and other content providers have made subscription-only models similarly unsustainable. Viewers are learning that The Great Cord-Cutting isn’t saving them money – only funneling their cable dollars to another group of splintered media holdings.

The goal of FAST is to provide viewers with a free linear-viewing experience featuring a wide variety of content and on-demand attributes. Research shows viewers still enjoy the always-on experience of traditional television, which FAST delivers. But now they can enjoy end-to-end digital entertainment, a greater volume and diversity of content, streaming-like features and easy access to all of it via connected TV (CTV) technology that builds the services into screen hardware.

 

Sports, entertainment and news programmers are rapidly embracing FAST – and based on the projections, this trend will strengthen as the quality of content improves and legacy brands buy into the tech. It is just the tip of the iceberg for FAST. The best news? FAST will be a win-win for both content providers and consumers alike.

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