Innovating With FAST in a Sea of Change

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Almost half of my conversations nowadays seem to have the word ‘FAST’ in them. Leading media companies are looking to launch FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channels — and they want to do it as quickly as possible. Back when on-demand streaming burst onto the scene over a decade ago, shaking up the status quo of how we consume television, few would have expected that in 2022 investment in a format replicating traditional linear TV would be a top priority for media companies around the world.

The proliferation of on-demand services has led to, for some, ‘choice fatigue’, and consumers are increasingly looking for a ‘lean-back’, passive viewing experience. Consumers also want to manage their home budgets and have a higher tolerance of ads in exchange for free content; more than half of US consumers prefer to use ad-supported video (AVOD) services to reduce or eliminate subscription fees. 

Internet connectivity is almost ubiquitous now, and connected TV devices dominate the US market, with 82% of homes owning at least one internet-connected TV device. Content providers can harness FAST channels to align with evolving consumption habits and deliver an unprecedented scale of video content over IP. Viewers will enjoy access to a greater amount of choice than ever before and a rapidly expanding range of content in an affordable, easy-to-use way.

The FAST market is exploding. Last year there were already 20 US providers offering FAST services, spanning over 1,000 channels. FAST represents a massive opportunity for media companies to explore new revenue streams and reach new audiences across digital platforms, but taking a channel from idea to launch can be a resource-heavy and slow process. 

Spinning up FAST services using traditional TV workflows might mean months of preparation, from defining system requirements to investing in hardware and additional staff, incurring significant capital outlay before the concept proves its worth.

Media organizations looking to launch FAST services quickly and seamlessly must harness IP-powered automation and hybrid architecture to get ahead of the game.

Riding the FAST wave
Today’s media landscape is fragmented. Broadcasters and content owners need to maximize audience reach and deliver premium content across a growing range of connected devices. Faced with declining cable viewership and traditional TV ad revenues, media enterprises are investing in digital distribution strategies to capture eyeballs, especially among younger generations.

Digital platforms are no longer a secondary distribution method for leading media enterprises, with many now streaming more premium live events and exclusive content over streaming than cable. In the face of fierce competition from online video services, broadcasters recognize the trump card in their armory: top content - and lots of it. 

These companies have deep knowledge, heritage, and creativity in premium television creation and unrivaled experience in live news and sports production. They’ve done so for many years, and it’s what they do best, but faced with a seismic shift of how video is consumed, content providers need to ensure they get their best content on new digital platforms. FAST is a great opportunity to do that.

Enhanced ad targeting capabilities baked into CTV viewing mean that advertisers also see great value in FAST channels. Content providers that can harness advanced ad signaling technology to curate more personalized viewing experiences can help keep viewers tuned in and drive ad value.

IP-powered innovation
Traditional hardware and staff-intensive workflows based on fiber and satellite transport don’t offer the flexibility to spin up FAST channels quickly. With inherent two-way data transfer capabilities and near-infinite scalability, the shift to IP provides the bedrock for media organizations to unlock new digital opportunities.

Broadcasters can look to technology partners with an omni-platform model to streamline distribution and processing workflows, including the development of open APIs, continual updates for support of different protocols, standards and platforms, and smart automation to eliminate manual tasks. 

A streamlined model keeps content providers free of technical headaches and helps them overcome disjointed systems while ensuring media leaders have access to the latest technology at the forefront of digital innovation.

Automation to unlock unprecedented scale
Shifting to virtualized and cloud-based workflows is not an overnight process, but it can be critical in helping media companies deliver more content across the digital platforms viewers are expecting. Providers launching FAST channels can use cloud-based storage and fulfillment services, as well as integrated media asset management systems, to easily repurpose content from existing libraries and create new types of programming for online and mobile SVOD, AVOD, or linear consumption. 

Software-centric, tightly integrated platforms are natively designed to intelligently manage and distribute ad-supported video content, including dynamically inserted ads, closed captioning, language support, and interactive program elements.

To save time and effort, media organizations can harness automation of critical workflows like transcoding, captioning, and multiplatform distribution, while taking control of monetization with advanced signaling capabilities to help seamlessly insert commercials or programs within a channel. Automation of signaling workflows can also ensure content rights agreements, compliance and security requirements are met flawlessly.

Launching fast and innovating faster
FAST is becoming a popular consumption format for many U.S. consumers and can be a revenue game-changer for media companies ready to act now. With an ever-expanding amount of choice for viewers, media organizations need to stake their claim for eyeballs today or risk missing out to more agile competitors.

Navigating a sea of channel delivery options requires operational ingenuity. Bold media leaders looking to seize emerging opportunities need to act fast, trusting omni-platform technology partners and managed IP transmission to reduce risk, complexities, and fuel experimentation while significantly reducing time to market. Start the conversation with a provider that understands FAST and the unique challenges that broadcasters are facing adding digital to their linear line up for the most robust offering.

Rick Young
SVP, Head of Global Products, LTN Global

Rick Young is SVP, Head of Global Products for LTN Global