Samsung Ads Decode FAST, Points To Local News As Turning Point

Free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channels and services featuring linear programmed content where viewers join television shows in progress are seeing a transformative shift -- challenging the misconception that they serve as a repository for older, less valuable content, according to a study from Samsung Ads.

Sports attracts all types of viewers, but Justin Fromm, head of insights at Samsung Ads, believes one of the fastest-growing segments is local news and opinion.

He said the company worked with Gavin Bridge, vice president of media research at CRG Global, a boutique market research firm, to create a study defining FAST that helps advertisers gain insight into the type of content that viewers watch, want, discover -- and how advertisers can reach them.

“It’s not easy for people buying media to stay on top of everything available to them,” Fromm says as he rattles off numbers to show there are about 18 FAST services with nearly 2,000 channels in all. “We also want to show advertisers why people adopt FAST and what promotes consumer demand.”



Samsung Ads’ industry report -- Decoding FAST: A comprehensive guide to the Free Ad-Supported Streaming Landscape -- found that the number of FAST services like Fox’s Tubi, Vizio’s WatchFree+, The Roku Channel, Paramount’s Pluto TV, and Samsung TV Plus have tripled during the past four years.

Local news and opinion have become more popular, creating a community and keeping people informed as well as giving local advertisers another opportunity to reach residents.

Shows produced by newsrooms from ABC News, CNN, and Fox News — or feeds from local news channels — now account for 69% of all FAST news channels. News and Opinions channels make up 18% of the U.S. channel marketplace, about 333 individual channels. There are 231 FAST channels devoted to live feeds across specific national markets. International News has 51 channels.

About 14.5% of FAST channels are in Spanish — comprising about 280 channels — and about 6.5% of channels are in a language other than Spanish. It has helped local stations maintain their relevance and helped Spanish-markets enter the space.

The challenge for advertisers is that more viewers spend time watching streaming content. On Samsung Smart TVs, about 66% of all viewing time is spent with streaming content, and 60% of the households spend all of their time with streaming.

“The question becomes how to advertisers reach their audience when so many viewers have moved to streaming,” Fromm said.

Single-IP channel — a channel that is based on a single TV show or franchise — is a concept that defines FAST. These channels offer an experience to where viewers can binge content, for both casual and hardcore fans. Single-IP channels are popular with viewers and have increased considerably in recent years from 86 in 2020 to 340 in 2023. Single-IP channels include "Unsolved Mysteries" and "Forensic Files," "Hell’s Kitchen," "The Walking Dead," and Conan O’Brien TV. 

The study estimates that by 2025, big media brands will embrace FAST channels similar to the way NBCUniversal in the summer of 2023 released 50 new FAST channels. Companies will create content libraries to create both genre-curated channels such as Universal Crime and many more single-IP channels like Lassie, E! Keeping Up, or Conan O’Brien TV.

FAST in 2030 will rely on AI, the convergence of TV with FAST and freemium content.

The study suggests that in the next few years, many FAST services will offer 1,000 channels or more. AI will make that possible by ensuring users only see the most relevant 200 to 300 offerings in a grid.

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