Over the past decade, subscription streaming services disrupted traditional (linear) TV by offering an alternative way of consuming video content—namely, in an on-demand, ad-free manner, without the constraints of traditional broadcast infrastructure. Some even heralded the impending death of linear TV, but it turns out consumers still crave the format. Now, a new disruptor has emerged—FAST channels.
FAST stands for free, ad-supported television. FAST channels are played in a linear format—that is, they’re broadcasted as live telecasts with pre-scheduled programming, not on demand. FAST streaming has risen meteorically over the past few years, with revenue growing by a factor of 20 between 2019 and 2022. Going forward, FAST revenue stands to reach $12 billion by 2027. FAST services like Pluto TV and Xumo provide a viewing experience that combines the convenience of anywhere access with low cost and the appeal of real-time viewing.
Now, new FAST services are developing in the European market, and a growing list of offerings is already available. Samsung TV Plus, Rakuten TV, Pluto TV, and several others are already carving out a niche in European markets, but they’re still behind the US when it comes to revenue and the number of providers. This means there’s still opportunity in Europe, but companies looking to offer FAST channels in Europe need to hop on board quickly.
FAST is experiencing impressive growth in Europe, with a 99.97% increase in ad impressions in Q3 2020 compared to the same period the previous year. This surge in popularity has been driven by changing consumer behavior, content fragmentation, and the rise of ad-supported streaming.
Major players like Samsung TV Plus, LG TV, and Pluto TV have been at the forefront of this trend. These platforms are offering more channels than ever before, providing viewers with access to a wide range of content from around the world. The availability of connected TVs (CTV) is one key to FAST adoption in a market. Western Europe has seen particularly high levels of CTV and digital video penetration, which has helped drive FAST’s uptake.
Content fragmentation is another major factor driving FAST’s European success. Consumers are increasingly seeking out niche content tailored to their interests rather than relying on traditional linear broadcast services. This creates an opportunity for FAST channels to fill the gap and provide viewers access to unique content they can’t find elsewhere.
However, there are challenges facing FAST channels in Europe that need to be addressed for growth to continue. One issue is that linear broadcast services are either free or much cheaper than US equivalents, making it difficult for FAST services to compete on price alone. Additionally, as more consumers move away from traditional linear broadcast services toward streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, it could be difficult for FAST channels to stand out from the crowd.
While there are some obstacles ahead for FAST channels in Europe, recent rapid growth suggests they’ll become an important part of the European media landscape. With more platforms offering free ad-supported television channels than ever before and increasing demand for niche content from viewers across Europe, now is the perfect time for broadcasters and content owners to explore how they can capitalize on this growing trend.
Several trends and innovations will likely shape the future of FAST channels in Europe, including the rise of smart TVs, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and voice technology, and the emergence of new content formats.
The rise of smart TVs is likely to significantly impact FAST channels going forward. As more consumers upgrade their televisions to smart models, it will become easier for viewers to access FAST services directly from their living rooms. This could lead to faster adoption of FAST channels across Europe as they become more mainstream and accessible.
Another trend set to transform the FAST channel market is the integration of AI and voice technology. These technologies will enable viewers to search for specific content, control playback, and even receive personalized recommendations based on viewing history. This could lead to a more seamless user experience and make it easier for viewers to discover new content.
The emergence of new content formats will also likely shape the future of FAST channels in Europe. For example, short-form video content has exploded in popularity over recent years thanks to platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels. As these formats continue to gain traction with younger audiences, there may be opportunities for creators and broadcasters to offer short-form programming specifically designed for distribution on FAST channels.
Innovations like this stand to impact user experiences and the advertising landscape alike. For example, with more sophisticated search capabilities and personalized recommendations available through AI and voice technology, viewers may be more likely to engage with ads tailored specifically to their interests. Additionally, as new content formats emerge, advertisers may have opportunities to experiment with different types of ads that are better suited for these platforms.
FAST channels in Europe will still face challenges, such as competition from traditional linear TV or subscription-based streaming, but there is enormous potential for growth thanks to ongoing innovation. FAST broadcasters can stay ahead of the curve by delivering compelling programming tailored towards changing consumer behavior patterns while offering unique value propositions compared to other players in the space.
With a growing number of viewers turning to FAST services over traditional linear TV, Europe is ripe with opportunity, even considering challenges to growth. However, companies must differentiate offerings, optimize ad strategies, and navigate complex regulatory landscapes to succeed.
With so many players entering the market, it will be essential to stand out by offering unique programming or features that appeal to specific audiences. This could include niche content aimed at particular demographics or innovative advertising strategies that make use of new technologies like AI and voice recognition. Further, as viewers turn to ad-supported streaming, there will be more demand for tightly targeted advertising. By leveraging data analytics and other tools, companies can better understand audience preferences and tailor ads accordingly.
Beyond competition, one major challenge is the complex regulatory landscapes across different European markets. For example, regulations around data privacy, content licensing, and advertising standards vary widely between countries, making it difficult for broadcasters to operate effectively across borders without violating local laws.
Of course, the main challenge is effective monetization. While ad-supported models are gaining popularity among viewers, they may not always be profitable for broadcasters unless they can attract large audiences, so offering unique value propositions versus competitors is crucial.
The challenges ahead shouldn’t deter intrepid companies, though. By focusing on competitive differentiation and ad optimization, broadcasters can compete and offer compelling programming tailored toward changing consumer behavior, creating sustainable growth in an emerging ecosystem.
Now is the time to take advantage of a burgeoning upward trend and launch a FAST channel in Europe. Of course, challenges are ahead, but with innovative thinking, bold, targeted content offerings, and optimized ad strategies, you stand to succeed profoundly in this relatively young space. But the space is evolving quickly, so it’s important to stay up-to-date with trends and innovations in the growing FAST channels industry.
To remain up to speed and learn how to set up a FAST channel in Europe, check out our complete FAST channels guide for 2023.