Three Good Reasons For Local TV Stations To Go FAST

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Free Ad-Supported Television, or simply FAST, channels are garnering a lot of attention these days, and there seems to be at least three good reasons local TV broadcasters should seriously consider launching their own.

First, the lift might not be as heavy as it looks at first. From a technology and workflow perspective, broadcasters know the infrastructure necessary, may already have excess capacity to support a FAST channel launch and are well-versed in the sales, traffic and master control processes to support a new channel effort.

Programming might prove to be somewhat of a challenge. However, most all broadcasters programming a local FAST channel likely have an abundance of locally produced content in the can. There may also be no shortage of local talent, educators, experts and others with something to offer. Look no further than YouTube for examples of these sorts of people. Think local versions of James Stephen Donaldson, otherwise known as “Mr. Beast,” or Elizabeth Zharoff and her channel “The Charismatic Voice.”

Given the massive geographic footprint of many station groups, how unreasonable is it to think local talent in markets around the country could coalesce in a program schedule for one or more FAST channels?

Second, interest in and booking of ads delivered via video streaming/OTT channels is climbing on a local basis. During a Borrell Associates webinar in July laying out the findings of recent research on local ad buying, Borrell CEO Gordon Borrell and executive vice president Corey Elliot revealed 21% of nearly 2,000 local ad buyer respondents annually purchase streaming video/OTT, spending an average of $39,000. 

That’s about 40% of what they spend each year on broadcast TV. Based on the growing popularity of streaming video/OTT among these buyers over the past few years, Borrell said he can see a day when there will be high adoption and high spending on this delivery path.

(One caveat: Borrell used the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) definition of “streaming video/OTT” in the research, a broader term that includes FAST, but also many other subsets, like social media platforms, such as YouTube, streaming sVOD and aVOD channels and others.)

The pair also referenced Borrell research into local ad agencies, which found that among the 380 agency respondents, streaming video/OTT was No. 1 when it came to where agencies are seeing the most interest from clients across the wide array of media available.

Third, there may be a snug fit for FAST channels into the game plans of some broadcasters for ATSC 3.0. Both FAST and NextGen TV can be targeted to meet the interests of smaller audiences than a broadcast audience—even if the latter is delivered over the air by leveraging strategies and technologies like single frequency networks (SFNs) and Layered Division Multiplexing (LDM).

Both can also be offered to local advertisers on rate cards with pricing far lower than the price of broadcast TV simply because of this targeting. Think of a restaurant serving a clientele from a given neighborhood that could never afford the market reach of a TV broadcaster but would be willing to pay lower rates to reach viewers living nearby. 

While there may be other good reasons for local broadcasters to consider FAST channel launches, these three are a good place to start for stations looking at this emerging opportunity.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.