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Think for a moment: How many streaming services are you subscribed to? Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Paramount+, Apple TV … the list seemingly goes on and on with more streaming services entering the space every year.
Initially, opting into streaming was a way for consumers to save money, an alternative to cable. Now, with so many services out there, and each one offering its own can’t-miss content, consumers are subscribed to a plethora of services, with a plethora of viewing choices.
This has led to “subscription fatigue,” the sense of being overwhelmed by the amount of content available. In fact, competition for attention is at an all-time high. According to Deloitte’s Annual Digital Media Trends survey, nearly 47% of U.S. consumers are frustrated by the growing number of subscriptions required to watch what they want.
On top of this, the U.S. currently faces a potential looming recession. With this comes the possibility of rapidly changing consumer behavior and buying habits around subscriptions. Many consumers may soon have even more choices to make around which subscriptions they want to keep and which they want to remove, leading to further subscription fatigue.
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So how can streaming platforms address this feeling of overwhelm and help consumers manage their wallets during an economic downturn while still discovering the content they want to see? It’s all about delivering the right content, at the right time, in the right channel to the right consumer — and the key is free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST).
Today’s audiences are craving a seamless “lean back” experience
As streaming and connected TV has grown in popularity, so too has subscription fatigue. Ironically, the more choices we have, the harder it can be to find something we actually want to watch.
The list of over-the-top (OTT) video options continues to grow as consumers are growing weary of the increasing cost of streaming, while also facing increased barriers to content discovery. As they are being forced to tighten their wallets, consumers demand more suitable services that align with their preferences.
More and more, audiences crave a comfortable “lean back” experience — an easier, more passive way to access content, without the stress caused by an overabundance of choices. This is where FAST can answer this need. As free ad-supported content becomes more desirable and innovative, these immersive “lean back” experiences are sure to follow.
FAST vs. video on demand
We’re all familiar with the big players in the subscription video-on-demand market — dominating forces like Netflix and Amazon. But while these companies may be the established goliaths of the streaming world, new contenders are emerging in the form of free ad-supported models. And they are, in many cases, pulling ahead in the race for consumer attention and loyalty, as well as ad revenue.
Recognizing this, Netflix has recently announced a new lower-cost ad-supported subscription offering. This indicates that Netflix is learning that to win the streaming wars they need to balance the high costs of content and subscriber growth by opening up new lines of revenue.
While most on-demand platforms are ad-free — a perk many viewers appreciate — they do often come with a heftier price tag. On the other hand, free ad-supported TV can be an attractive prospect to customers who are tired of paying for a plethora of streaming services. What’s more, FAST platforms can serve up highly targeted ads to viewers, presenting them with relevant, personalized ad content that may be more engaging — or at least, non-abrasive — for them to watch.
In addition, with on-demand streaming services, there is the problem of content discovery. When consumers enter a platform like Netflix, the first thing they are faced with is a screen full of content options. Finding the right show or movie to watch can feel overwhelming — especially when consumers have multiple subscriptions to choose from. With so many services and great content, people are starting to filter what services they want versus need, and the added pressures of the economy is making FAST a clear winner.
FAST channels offer a more linear, passive experience for viewers. Consumers can simply turn on a channel they like, lean back and enjoy, no choices necessary. In some ways, it’s more like the traditional cable viewing experience of the past. And, because there is a wide range of genres available, including news, sports, documentaries, movies, food and music, designed specifically around a consumer’s interests and personal tastes, consumers can now access the content they want in a simpler, more direct way.
Why FAST is the future for content producers and advertisers
Not only is FAST a viable consumer alternative to on-demand streaming platforms, consumers are clearly shifting their time and attention toward this model as well. And, good news, so are advertisers. According to a new report from PWC, the shift toward hybrid monetization methods, connected TV and FAST channels will cement video’s role as the main driver of revenue between 2021 and 2026.
In fact, 200 million global viewers and 47% of U.S. consumers are watching ad-supported platforms like Samsung TV Plus, The Roku Channel, Pluto, STIRR and Amazon IMDb TV — and as new FAST services launch, this trend will only accelerate. Meanwhile, marketers are betting big on FAST, as they are estimated to spend over $25 billion on advertising-supported video by 2025.
For content owners, this means there is a golden opportunity to monetize premium content through ad-only streaming models. And advertisers would do well to follow suit, shifting a greater portion of their spend toward FAST models to deploy targeted ad campaigns based on consumer data and viewing preferences. The time is now for advertisers to go digital to capitalize on the shifting advertising landscape and appeal to today’s modern consumers.
Ultimately, FAST TV is here to stay, offering consumers both the price point and viewing experience they crave. With consumers making strategic decisions about where they spend their entertainment budget today, companies who adopt these models are poised to win over consumers.
Additionally, linear OTT channels, available through ad-supported platforms, make it easier for viewers to access content, and minimize the attrition caused by an overabundance of choices. This not only makes getting discovered much easier for the content owner — and creates more effective marketing opportunities for the advertiser — it also builds much stronger engagement and loyalty among consumers.
Srini KA is cofounder of Amagi.
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