#MythBusters: The FAST Track to TV's Future

#MythBusters: The FAST Track to TV's Future


By now there’s little question that streaming TV is the future of television. However, just how we get there remains an ongoing debate. 


Currently, there are two, parallel paths to the streaming future. One is through subscription-based TV services, both on-demand (SVOD) and paid services like Netflix and others. The other path is represented by a growing number of free, ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) platforms. 


While paid services were quick to take the lead out of the gate, FASTs are coming on strong.  A recent report we conducted with Adelaide also showed that FAST apps outperform overall CTV attention benchmarks by 20-25%, and outperform Linear TV by 35-40%. 


To delve deeper into the dynamics of this shift and the role FASTs will play in the future of TV advertising, we sat down with VIZIO’s Senior Director of Media Insights & Analytics, Devin Fallon


Q: Were you surprised by the results from VIZIO’s recent study with Adelaide?


The results definitely took some people by surprise, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it from a user experience standpoint. The type of content that is prevailing across large swaths of linear, particularly cable, is increasingly similar to the types of legacy content that often feature on FAST channels. 


For example, reruns of long-running, beloved TV series of the past can be engaging for first-time viewers and act as “comfort food” for repeat viewers. A recent article from the NYT also highlights how Linear TV is seeing a rise in what they refer to as “Zombie TV”, with a sharp decrease in new original programming, and long stretches of re-runs filling schedules. So already, there’s less daylight between these two viewing modalities than there used to be.


Q: What role does data play in optimizing FAST programming?


FAST channels, particularly ones run by OEMs like VIZIO, are programmed around both economics and what’s engaging to consumers. This includes everything from the number of channels to the specific types of content behind those channels. And if a channel is not performing up to expectations, it’s much easier for us to sunset it and focus resources on other channels. 


At VIZIO, we have an entire content team dedicated to curating, sourcing, and programming, with our 1P ACR viewership data serving as an important input for insights. This ensures that whether the content is new or old, mainstream or niche, we see strong engagement because we make our programming decisions based on the actual engagement within our O&O environments.


Q: How do attention benchmarks reflect the shifting landscape of television consumption?


Another important bit of context from our recent study with Adelaide is that Linear TV benchmarks encompass all dayparts and content types. This means there’s probably some diversity of attention scores between prime-time network shows, live sports/news, daytime soaps, and overnight programming. 


Linear networks need to find the best mix of new, syndicated, and re-run content to fill an entire slate, which means there will naturally be peaks and valleys in engagement. With that in mind, while these attention benchmarks may seem counterintuitive based on historical preconceptions, we see them as an endorsement of the growing value FASTs holds for viewers in an increasingly fragmented environment.

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