How to boost your marketing strategy with FAST TV
The future is FAST — and we don’t mean in terms of speed. Free ad-supported streaming TV, or FAST TV, is revolutionizing media-based advertising.
In fact, free ad-supported streaming revenue is almost equal to traditional TV subscription viewership. And the IAB projects every digital channel will continue to grow in 2023 (while traditional channels decline).
Mickey Smith, the Director of Marketing for Cox Media, recently hosted a panel discussion on FAST TV that brought together some of the foremost experts in the industry, including:
Ben Vandegrift, Vice President of Measurement Solutions, VAB
Alan Wolk, Co-Founder and Lead Analyst, TVREV
Luc Dumont, SVP of Business Development, Madhive
Ria Madrid, Head of Publisher Development & Strategic Partnerships, WURL
Let’s take a look at what this panel says about building FAST TV ads into your marketing strategy this year.
What is FAST TV?
The streaming world is full of acronyms — and they can be confusing to parse. Let’s start with a little level setting.
Note: Many content providers that started with one type of distribution model are expanding to offer content through a variety of models. This means the lines are blurring between these categories.
FAST (free, ad-supported streaming television)
FAST video content is streamed over the internet according to a schedule (like the linear TV experience). But unlike linear, FAST platforms are free to viewers and require no subscription.
Pluto TV, Tubi, XUMO, IMDBTV, Freevee, Vudu, The Roku Channel, Peacock (free tier)
AVOD (ad-supported video on demand)
Similar to FAST, AVOD refers to streaming services that allow you to watch shows and movies with ads on-demand (rather than according to a pre-programmed schedule). These services may be free or may still require a subscription fee
Hulu (ad-supported tiers), Netflix (ad-supported tiers), HBO Max (ad-supported tiers)
SVOD (subscription video on demand)
Streaming services that allow you to watch ad-free content by paying a flat-rate subscription fee. Like AVOD, SVOD content is available on demand.
Netflix (ad-free tiers), HBO Max (ad-free tiers), Hulu (ad-free tiers), Disney+, Apple TV+, Prime Video
An umbrella term that refers to any video content streamed over the internet, including any content streamed on a connected TV (CTV). Can include FAST services, AVOD services, and SVOD services.
The growth of streaming and FAST TV
We’ve seen a lot of changes in the media landscape over the past 20 years. By 2025, the industry is expected to exceed $6 billion in annual revenue — a number that continues to grow year over year.
FAST was born in 2014 when Pluto TV first aggregated linear TV and made the content available via streaming over the internet.
At that time, it was pretty challenging to deliver television media online. Slow internet speeds and a lack of access to fiber optic internet connections outside of major cities made buffering a big problem for streaming providers.
But as bandwidth improved, more channels joined in on the FAST movement.
Luc Dumont explains how the FAST format went from birth to about 100 million U.S. households viewing per month:
Even OEMs like Samsung, LG and Vizio have gotten in on the FAST TV game, as Alan Wolk explains:
FAST TV is the fastest-growing market in streaming
According to the panelist Ben Vandegrift of VAB, FAST TV advertising is booming with an average of 40-42% year-over-year (YoY) growth. In the U.S., 4 out of every 10 adults watch FAST TV for upwards of five hours per day.
Consumers love the model because it’s free and easy to access (all you need is an internet connection).
But the FAST model makes sense for publishers too. Keith Valory, CEO of Plex, explains, “The unit economics of a $5 to $10 subscription doesn't make much sense if, on average, you are paying $50 to $75 to acquire a subscriber and they churn out in six to nine months.”
As a result, Valory predicts more platforms will continue to transition subscription-based streaming platforms to the FAST model.
Advertising on FAST TV channels
Not only do consumers and publishers appreciate the FAST model, advertisers see some significant benefits, too — such as incremental reach, improved targeting and measurement, and a premium content environment.
Several of the panelists cited incremental reach over other advertising channels. Ben noted that advertising on FAST channels is an effective way to reach an audience that’s incremental to those viewers seeing the brand’s linear TV ads.
Ben added that FAST viewers are generally younger than traditional linear viewers and comprised largely of the cord-cutter generation, offering advertisers a different audience than linear advertising does.
“It's a great complement to linear, it's a great complement to anything else that you may be doing in the video landscape as a marketer,” Ben explained.
Targeting and measurement
FAST advertising not only allows brands to reach more people, but also to reach specific audiences — and measure performance.
“Plain and simple, it's just more opportunity to reach the audience that matter most to you,” said Ben. “You can also reach them in a targeted way, and you can measure them right, against those exact audiences that you're targeting via that broadband connection.”
FAST also presents opportunities for both local targeting through geolocation and contextual-based targeting, as Alan explains:
Premium content and a positive viewing experience
As Luc noted, FAST advertising “...is almost the best of two worlds between digital advertising and the premium TV screen.”
Bed added that the FAST model offers “...a premium ad environment with premium produced content, which creates greater awareness and attention, leading to greater impact across a sales funnel — from awareness to consideration to sales.”
In addition to that premium content, FAST technology also allows for a premium viewing experience, as Ria Madrid explains here:
The bottom line — free doesn’t mean lower quality advertising opportunities.
Best practices for FAST TV advertising
The panelists also discussed and fielded questions about how to make the most of FAST advertising campaigns, and a few best practices emerged.
1. Budget for FAST ads according to your audience
How much of your budget should go to FAST TV ads? The panelists all seem to agree on one thing — it varies by the audience.
But Alan explained that Samsung offers a general rule of thumb for budgeting for FAST and other streaming channels. They call it their Rule of 40, which suggests that 40% of your budget is a good starting point.
2. Take an audience-based approach to buying
Rather than jumping onto a popular FAST channel and hoping for the best, it’s important to understand where your audience spends their time. Ben elaborates:
3. Improve exposure and experience with frequency capping
Not only should you balance your media channels, you should also balance your ad exposure. You need to deliver your message enough to stick, but if you overexpose your audience, you risk wasted spend — or worse, annoying your viewers.
This is why frequency capping is important. Luc explains some considerations getting your frequency cap just right, such as understanding your campaign objectives and audience demographics:
4. Measure and optimize along the way
With FAST TV advertising, like other forms of digital advertising, there is a lot of opportunity to learn and pivot. Advertisers can lean into what is working, in real-time. “Measurement is happening from beginning to end,” explained Ben. “And the explosions and advancement that we've seen in measurement mean marketers have the ability to receive large amounts of data that is actionable and to use those insights to make better decisions as they continue the marketing campaign.”
This begins with a thorough understanding of what the advertiser is trying to accomplish, choosing the right key performance indicators (KPIs), and following the data by moving ad spending to high-performing campaigns based on what is currently happening.
5. Consider contextual ad placement
How do you make sure that your ads are paired with appropriate content? That’s easier with some types of ad buying than others, but some adtech and OTT platforms are making advancements in this area.
When asked how to make sure ads appear in safe content, Alan explains:
Look for transparency in your FAST ad partner
In the early days of streaming advertising, providers were selling ad space in pods, and it was difficult to get exact answers on when your ads would run. The data could be a week or more behind when the advertisement aired.
Today, our capabilities are much more precise — the expectation should really be real-time transparency.
“It's important to note it's not just about receiving large amounts of data, but it's receiving the right data. There should be transparency in how that data is collected, and what methodological practices are being implemented. That transparency should exist from targeting to in-flight to post-campaign measurement happening all throughout.
FAST advertising isn’t going anywhere
Luc put it well when he explained that FAST is a new paradigm, and it’s here to stay. His final advice on understanding and operating in the FAST environment — there’s more benefit than risk: