Over the last two years in Australia there has been a quiet explosion in the number of free ad-supported streaming TV channels (FAST) on offer to Australian television viewers.
The three commercial free to air broadcasters — 7, 9 & 10 — and the two government funded broadcasters ABC & SBS, have all launched FAST channels with 7 leading the way with now more than 50 FAST channels on 7Plus.
10Play has more than 20 FAST channels and 9Now more than 10.
All up, including ABC & SBS FAST channels, there are now over 100 FAST channels available on Australian free-to-air TV.
So what exactly are FAST channels?
FAST channels are linear channels, playing out a continuous stream of content, 24 hours a day, which are either specific to a single program or play programs that are all related to a specific genre of content.
For instance, on 7Plus, there are numerous channels dedicated to specific programs including, for example, a Bondi Vet channel that continuously streams episodes of Bondi Vet and nothing else other than Bondi Vet 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
There are also genre-based FAST channels such as Blue Light which continuously streams TV shows about the police stopping or chasing vehicles on the road like Highway Patrol and Motorbike Cops.
These genre based FAST channels continuously stream shows that fit their specific genre and are scheduled on a daily basis like any other free-to-air channel.
Popular genres are cooking, movies, documentaries, music, crime, travel and sport.
And why have they become popular?
According to a leading commentator in the US; “Consumers are exhausted by the cost and overwhelming choices of subscription services.
Increasingly, they are clamouring for linear, ‘lean back’ viewing experiences across a wide range of genres and this is what the FAST channels provide — it is the ultimate in lazy TV viewing.”
In the US, FAST channels are expected to generate more advertising revenue than either Free-to-Air, Pay TV or Subscription streaming services by 2025 and it’s a pattern that will likely repeat itself in Australia in a few years after the US and also in the UK.
One of the most attractive features of FAST channels to advertisers is that as the channels are linear broadcasts, the ads that are played out cannot be skipped like on Pay and On Demand channels.
So the viewers of FAST channels get to passively sit back and watch for free past episodes of their favourite TV shows without paying a monthly TV subscription fee but only on the basis that they are prepared to sit through the ads that are paying for the content being free.
And will FAST Channels have any impact on kids TV viewing?
Yes and no: it will mean that there will be some dedicated program specific FAST kids’ channels on the commercial free-to-airs such as what is already on 10Play with channels specific to Paw Patrol, SpongeBob Square Pants, Ryan’s World and Dora the Explorer.
However, the kids TV offerings on 7Play & 9Now are very spartan and mirror the similar lack of interest in broadcasting children’s TV programs shown on their main channels.
But as part of an overall broadcast strategy to give longevity to a kid’s brand in Australia, a dedicated FAST channel will become another essential part of the mix and one that is especially important for those kid’s TV shows not broadcast on the ABC.
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This article originally appeared in The Bugg Report Magazine Edition 44