VP Product Management, B2B, Agile Content
After millions of people streamed more TV than ever during the pandemic, audience expectations have evolved. In addition to wanting more content to watch, they now expect to have access to an even wider range of online TV services. With decreasing attention spans and the growing popularity of personalised content, audiences want more choice and programming that’s tailored to them.
One of the streaming service models that’s helping TV providers meet audiences’ evolving needs is free, ad-supported streaming TV (FAST). FAST has quickly moved from an area dominated by start-ups and digital brands to the latest avenue for established media and entertainment companies. While it isn’t necessarily an entirely new concept given that ad-supported TV channels have existed for a long time, FAST expands the model into the world of streaming where subscribers can stream ad-funded content for free.
And this isn’t something that audiences mind doing. The vast majority (81%) of consumers would prefer to use a free ad-supported service than subscribe to another paid service, while 83% wish that paid streaming services offered a free, ad-supported option.
FAST enables TV providers to broaden their offering as they compete for audience share, attract new customers and boost revenue. Such a service can provide the lean-back online viewing experience audiences want, all while boosting advertising revenue. But for FAST to succeed, TV providers need to guarantee impressions to attract ad buyers – and the key to this is quantity.Operators can stitch either new live content or existing on-demand assets on top of a linear channel or ‘empty’ baseline and apply them to a variety of use cases – such as ‘fan’ or ‘team’ channels. This approach essentially creates virtual dynamic linear-type channels that provide a lean-back viewing experience while giving viewers access to additional content. In doing so, TV providers can attract new customers by offering a broader range of TV channels and gain new revenue streams by monetizing their existing assets through targeted advertising.
There are a number of benefits that come with increasing the quantity of FAST channels. These include building better relationships with ad buyers, extending reach into highly-segmented audience pools and enticing viewers with a more attractive and diverse offering. This last benefit is particularly important in
today’s extremely competitive landscape, where capturing the attention of new and existing customers is harder than ever.
Unfortunately, producing a large number of live linear channels can be an expensive and resource- intensive task if traditional broadcast technology approaches are used. For example, doing so in the uncompressed broadcast playout domain requires editorial and operational costs, along with a high volume of storage and distribution capacity. That’s why it’s important to leave behind the legacy systems and traditional production processes that exist today to allow for scalability, editorial control, and automation for channel creation.
As such, the approach of creating channels in the compressed OTT/HTTP domain is becoming increasingly attractive. By using an internet-native solution, TV providers can cut costs and capitalise on the internet as a production platform.
For example, the compressed domain enables TV providers to create a variety of thematic and regional channel variants that are targeted to specific audiences while reducing storage and distribution costs.
The ability to create multiple channels that are targeted to specific audiences doesn’t just empower streaming TV providers to extend their reach. It also lets them segment their audiences in ways that benefit advertisers. Functionalities such as playout-driven and server-side ad insertion enable personalised advertising, presenting an inviting investment as advertisers can better reach their desired audiences at scale – all while delivering the cost-efficiency of internet-based operations.
What’s more, TV providers can enhance their relationship with ad buyers by selling ad space in various channels tailored to certain demographics, regions and personal interests. As a result, advertisers are presented with the option to increase the relevancy of their advertising and, in turn, improve their ROI.
With audience expectations and preferences continuing to shift, the rapid launch of new and numerous FAST channels gives providers the ability to elevate their position in an increasingly competitive market. As well as remaining at the forefront of modern TV viewing habits and technology trends, it lets them build a fruitful business model that not only retains viewers but attracts ad buyers too. Channels tailored to specific audiences will be more likely to drive impressions, putting TV providers in the best position to capitalise on today’s viewing trends.