Life in the FAST Lane

FAST continues to defy expectations. A linear viewing format that’s growing? In 2022? Yet the number of available FAST channels in the U.S. is over 1,400, with 22 major providers including Pluto TV, Tubi and Roku Channel. FAST also saw considerable attention in this year’s NewFronts, with the likes of AMC Networks and A+E Networks unveiling plans for a slew of new channels set to release in 2022.

With the FAST environment rapidly evolving, VIP+ is proud to present the third incarnation of its “Life in the FAST Lane” report, following earlier reports in October 2021 and July 2020. This update takes into consideration the changes in the market, utilizing VIP+’s unique data-driven approach to assessment.

For those not yet aware of FAST, the format is essentially no different from watching a TV network. Unlike the other free streaming format — AVOD, which sees viewers select a title on demand and start at the beginning — FAST is a linear stream. This means that a FAST channel is selected via an electronic programming grid, with the title on a channel joined in progress by the viewer.

Some content formats have readily adapted to FAST. News, both national and local, has seen a tremendous uptick in channels over the course of the last year, as content creators realize the best way to reach an audience is to go to them rather than demand that they follow you.

The same cannot be said for sports, which have been stubbornly resistant to embracing FAST. VIP+ isn’t suggesting putting live games on FAST but making better use of overall assets in order to maximize audience reach and engagement as well as monetization.

There’s no reason for the few sports networks to have a FAST channel to program with clips of old talk shows or for big leagues to put little thought into what goes on their channels.

Another content trend to be aware of is what are known as single-show channels. These consist solely of episodes for one show, just like when cable networks would program marathon blocks. The shows best suited to a single-show channel are older hits with a built-in fanbase — think “Cops,” “Baywatch,” “Unsolved Mysteries” and “Fear Factor” — that are audience lightning rods when users browse their available channels.

While FAST was built on older licensed TV shows and movies, the growing competition for audiences is precipitating the use of original content. Roku, Tubi and Freevee began commissioning original content in 2021, upping this in 2022, with channels based on originals already creeping into lineups.

Not every FAST service has the budget or studio setup for originals, though others owned by Big Media companies like Peacock (NBCUniversal) and Pluto TV (Paramount) will be watching this development with an eagle eye.

“Life in the FAST Lane” gives the reader an overview of FAST today. Readers will discover how lucrative the market is poised to be, how a channel is made and how Big Media has embraced the format.

VIP+’s exclusive data and analysis of the market provides new insights for readers with established FAST knowledge and those new to the topic. Should you want to dive deeper into FAST, we invite you to view VIP+’s free, four-part “FAST Forward” webinar series, which mines various perspectives on the format in sit-downs with senior industry executives.

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