Stein Erik Sørhaug
July 13, 2022

Top 5 Must-haves for FAST Channels

What is FAST?


FAST stands for free, ad-supported, streaming TV services, which is a rapidly growing OTT monetisation business model. FAST combines advertising and scheduled TV to provide viewers with a subscription-free streaming option. This is essentially linear television presented in a familiar lean-back program guide style, available without a subscription and funded by advertising revenue.

 

In contrast to a subscription model, FAST channels are able to offer linear streaming services for free by dynamically inserting advertisements into the ad breaks.  Typically FAST channels are found on connected televisions (CTVs) or are device agnostic.  Many also aggregate third-party content with their O&O (owned-and-operated statio) content.

 

Most popular FAST Services


 There are many well-known FAST platforms in the market such as Xumo, Pluto, Roku Channel, Peacock, LG TV, and Samsung TV Plus,

The difference between AVOD and FAST


While AVOD refers to streaming services that offer their viewers the option to watch any content in their video library on demand in exchange for watching ads, FAST offers linear channels that are supported by advertisements. In other words, FAST operates like traditional linear TV. Instead of specific content, users choose which channels they'd like to watch. 

Does FAST generate revenue?


According to a June 2022 report released by Omdia, FAST channels generated over $4 billion USD in ad revenue for 2021 in the United States alone.  FAST is less mature in Western Europe but is forecasted to be worth $1 billion USD by 2025.  The Omdia report credits the rise of cord-cutting and CTVs for the increase in revenue.  

So why exactly is FAST on the rise? 

5 Must-haves for launching a FAST channel 


If your organization's aim is to dive into the fast-growing FAST market, there are some core technology and business decisions you'll have to make.

  1. 1. Content:  FAST channels, given their low cost and easily monetizable nature, provide a vehicle for the distribution of all types of content: from news, to sports, and even niche archive or deep library content.  The distribution model allows for the repurposing of content that otherwise may have stood idle.  
  1. 2. FAST Platform: In most cases FAST Channels are delivered to existing platforms that provide a TV-like viewing experience. That means that a FAST channel is added to an existing aggregate of channels for example on Samsung TV Plus, LG TV, Roku Channel, Pluto, Xumi, and more. Generally, channel owners are trying to distribute their FAST Channels broadly across services in a similar model to Cable or Satellite TV.  Not limiting themselves to one destination. However, there is speculation for an uptick in SVOD services adding FAST channels to their own services as well.  And will be served within their existing application envelope.
  1. 3. Scheduling System / Playout: FAST uses a traditional Linear viewing model, and therefore the scheduling system is a key building block of the solution.  This EPG-like output determines what content is played out when.   
  1. 4. SSAI Server side ad insertion: is a main enabling technology to achieve a seamless playout of advertising that allows FAST channels to feel like a Broadcast Playout.  SSAI is built on the same manifest manipulation technologies that allow linear streaming playback from VOD assets, with the added step of fetching ads from the ad network when required for ad insertion. 
  1. 5. Ad Platform: is an amalgamation of multiple functions in a workflow and can be built of multiple piece parts; from Ad Decisioning, Ad Ops, Ad Sales, Campaign Management, Ad Serving, among others. Its role in FAST is to manage the advertising inventory, frequency, and serve the SSAI solution as needed, with the right advertising content creating a seamless experience between VOD assets and the video Ads. 

How to launch a FAST channel with Vimond


Vimond VIA enables the launch of FAST channels by seamlessly integrating a workflow of the critical components. Centered around the VIA video CMS which enables the management and curation of content; both through editorial manipulation and automated creation through SmartLists.Scheduling information is supplied either through EPG ingest, or through an XML based integration to the external scheduling system.Advertising points are inserted through chapter index points which can be inserted through the VIA UI, or fed in as metadata.  SCTI markers can also be used to queue ad points, as inserted into the manifest.  

A mechanism for manifest manipulation then combines the curated assets with the advertising queue points to create a new live manifest. Advertising segments are triggered by the queue point and are inserted into the manifest via SSAI which makes calls to the advertising network to fetch the proper advertising video segments.  The output is a linear HLS channel which can be terminated to an existing FAST Platform or within the application envelope of an existing SVOD service.

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