What Are Free Ad Supported TV (FAST) Services?
Learn why more performance marketers are paying attention to free ad supported tv services (FAST services).
The future of TV is free, and that’s great news for advertisers.
Between 2019 and 2022, 39.9 million households in the US cut cable. Many of these households were hoping to save by switching to streaming services. Now they’re finding that all those individual subscriptions add up fast. The average American spent $114 a month on streaming fees in 2021. To combat the rising costs, many are turning to free ad supported TV services (also called FAST services). Viewers want free TV back, ads and all. But they don’t want to stop streaming, and free ad supported TV fits that slot perfectly. For performance marketers, this trend is opening a world of unprecedented opportunities. Let’s take a closer look at how FAST services work and how they can benefit advertisers.
What Are Free Ad Supported TV Services?
Free ad supported (FAST) services are no-cost streaming platforms offering both licensed and original content. People who use FAST services get to watch their favorite films and TV shows for free. And in turn, the platform generates income by running ads.
FAST services often offer both on-demand and live programming, such as news, sports, and children’s entertainment. Unlike subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services, there are no pricing tiers; the service remains free for all viewers across the board.
Why Are FAST Services Becoming More Popular?
Fifty-three percent of TV viewers reported using a FAST service at the end of 2021, and free ad supported TV is the fastest-growing tier in the streaming industry. The reasons for this FAST takeoff are varied. In part, viewers are growing weary of paying for different subscriptions, and the free model has an incredibly low barrier to entry. There is no need to add a credit card, and some services, like Pluto TV, don’t even require an account.
Platforms offering live programming also provide an experience that’s more familiar for viewers accustomed to linear television. Free ad supported TV services also tend to have more classic shows and children’s programming, making them popular with families and anyone looking for comfort TV. In other words, viewers get access to convenient, free streaming with zero strings attached, all in return for watching some ads (26% of users report that they actually don’t mind the targeted ads on streaming services).
FAST Services and Performance Marketing
Traditionally, TV ads were broadcast to a wide audience, were prohibitively expensive, and the results were impossible to measure. The advent of streaming and over-the-top (OTT) content changed the game. Ads on connected TVs (CTVs) can be targeted, improved, and measured with the same precision as a search or social campaign, and scheduling advertising programmatically eliminates the need for lengthy contract negotiations with networks.
FAST services are uniquely positioned to serve performance marketers since their business model is built around generating revenue from ads. Running ad campaigns on free ad supported TV services offers many benefits to performance marketers:
- Diverse Audience: Ad-supported TV attracts more diverse audiences than premium video-on-demand services. For example, Black audiences account for 36% of all minutes watched on Pluto TV and 39% of minutes watched on Tubi. In contrast, the percentages for SVOD services like Disney+ and Netflix are 10% and 15% respectively.
- Engaged Viewers: Streaming audiences are more engaged with the content they watch and are thus more likely to finish and remember an ad. In fact, video completion rate was as high as 97% in 2021.
- Clear Attribution: Ads run via FAST services can be analyzed to give you a clear picture of when and how a conversion as a result of the ad takes place.
- Advanced Targeting: Precision targeting via CTV ads allows you to send intentional ads to a specific device or household.
- Measurable ROAS: Performance marketers using a CTV advertising platform can analyze campaign performance in as much detail as they would for paid search.
In a recent survey, advertisers reported that they saw 22% higher conversion rates for paid search and 9% for paid social after a CTV ad. If you’re a performance marketer looking for more ways to improve brand recall and expand your reach without increasing costs, you may find this primer on CTV marketing a useful resource.
FAST Services with the Most Audience Reach
The number of FAST channels is growing, but established players attract the biggest audiences — and are therefore the most valuable as advertising platforms. Here are some of the most watched free ad supported TV channels.
In addition to an OTT device that allows users to stream other services, Roku offers the Roku Channel, with a vast live and on-demand video library, including original content. Viewers can watch live news, classic TV shows, and feature films. Roku also offers extensive children’s programming and family-friendly movies. As of January 2022, Roku had 70 million active accounts and a 33% market share in the OTT space.
Tubi, which is owned by Fox, is the second most popular FAST service after Roku, with 64 million active users. It offers a large film catalog spanning all genres from sci-fi to horror to romantic comedies to action thrillers. Viewers also have access to live TV streaming, including Fox Sports, plus a broad selection of international movies and shows.
A freemium, ad-supported streaming service, Peacock (from NBC) features binge-able heavy-hitters like The Office and Parks and Recreation. The free tier also offers a number of live streaming options, like sports and reality TV, along with a handful of feature films. At 20 million subscribers, Peacock still has some growing to do before it can catch up to Roku and Tubi. However, NBC is investing in original series (including the hits Poker Face and Bel-Air) to attract new audiences.
Previously known as IMDb Freedive and IMDb TV, Freevee is Amazon’s FAST service with hundreds of TV shows, including exclusive and original series and programs. Viewers without an Amazon Prime subscription can stream high-quality on-demand content. The tech giant hasn’t released specific data on the number of Freevee users, but combined with Twitch, live sports, and other streaming channels, Amazon has 120 million monthly active users.
Pluto TV is Paramount’s answer to FAST services, with a wide selection of classic shows, children’s programming, reality TV, and even some music channels. Paramount reported that Pluto TV had almost 79 million active monthly users at the end of 2022, which would put it at the top of the FAST services food chain, but, compared to other services on the list, the content offerings on Pluto TV are not as robust — at least for now.
Simplify and Automate CTV Ad Buying
AlphaDigital makes creating, optimizing, targeting, and buying CTV ads easy for all businesses. Our platform allows advertisers to test and analyze their creative to ensure the highest ROAS, and because we help you buy ads programmatically, you’ll never have to negotiate contracts with streaming services. Want to learn about what we do? Reach out to schedule a demo.