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Five Truths for FAST Success

In just a few years, it’s become nearly impossible to have a conversation about digital media without stirring up a debate about free ad-supported streaming television.

Preeya Naul
Preeya Naul
Jun 10, 2024

As a content-first company that has been collaborating with publishers to develop impactful video strategies since day one, VideoElephant is squarely in the pro-FAST camp. We believe there is tremendous opportunity in it, both for companies that have been burned by declines in referral traffic from social media and for advertisers looking for new ways to reach the right audience at the right time.

At the same time, FAST is not a panacea. As the industry matures, we’re seeing far fewer Cinderella stories like those of Jukin Media and Tastemade, which had seemingly instant success with channels derived from established social media properties. Still, that does not mean that the opportunity has passed us by. In fact, FAST success is still possible. You just need to go in with your eyes wide open to these five truths.

1: Launch is just square one.

An entire ecosystem around FAST emerged incredibly quickly, and today, there is absolutely no shortage of vendors ready to help get your channel set up. What they don’t tell you is that’s the easy part.

At VideoElephant, we speak with companies that have dipped their toes into the FAST pool every day. What we hear time and time again is that they had no clue how resource-intensive the initiative would be. Whether you have a channel that isn’t quite performing as well as you’d hoped or you’re planning for a future launch, it’s of paramount importance to realize it’s not “set it and forget it.” A successful FAST implementation requires constant attention.

2: You need a LOT of content

While it’s possible for a channel to launch with 150 hours of programming, it’s ideal to start with about 200 hours of rights-cleared, high-quality content. As if that quantity isn’t challenging enough, you also have to continuously refresh your supply at a rate of about 20% per month-that’s another 40 hours!

Unless you’re sitting on a giant back catalog, this is a significant amount of video that you either need to produce or acquire. For smaller publishers and those without huge teams (and budgets), licensing becomes an attractive option for keeping content fresh and costs manageable.

3: The content has to be differentiated

In the early days, FAST platforms were hungry for nearly any type of content. Content creators like Tastemade had no problem getting distribution for their cooking channel, especially given their existing social media following. Now, however, FAST platforms are awash in that type of content, and anyone launching a cooking channel is facing a very steep uphill climb.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to launch a successful FAST channel today. You just have to be strategic about it. First and foremost, you need to identify the white space in which independent competition is possible. The most obvious choice would be a topic where there is no existing, dominant brand or IP.

You can also uncover opportunities by looking outside the US, where the FAST market is far less saturated. If you’re able to launch a channel that fulfills an international need, you may be able to get distribution elsewhere. Then, after building a relationship, showcasing your capabilities as a partner and establishing a track record of performance, there may be an opportunity for carriage in the US, too.

4: Carriage is contingent on audience

When it comes to FAST, content may be king, but distribution is King Kong. Every carrier has its own set of criteria, but one that’s common across the board is a channel’s ability to drive net new audience. Even if you’re able to get carriage based on your previous track record of success, the need to add viewers is never going away.

Making sure your channel has good discoverability is critical. In the beginning, the platform will help with promotion. After that, the responsibility for marketing is yours. The platforms themselves offer paid opportunities for exposure within their “owned” media including the ability to improve channel placement in the electronic programming guide, which can significantly boost discoverability. Given the “new audience” need, resources should also be allocated to consumer marketing. This includes money as well as time and effort because you will have to figure out where and how to capture the attention of potential viewers.

5: Optimal results require constant optimization

FAST success is a moving target, so it’s critical that you constantly monitor performance and revise strategy to ensure optimal results. This is where data comes in. What devices are viewers using? What times of the day are best, worst? These are things that you need to be constantly aware of, and able to respond to.

When VideoElephant launched our first FAST channel, we set the programming for a month. Now, we gauge performance every single day and shift accordingly. It’s an intense process, but it’s one that has enabled us to drive a 50% increase in average session minutes while more than doubling our unique user sessions.

There’s still tremendous opportunity in FAST but for those who don’t have the resources in-house, just think of it like any other part of your business: doing it right often requires partnering with those who can fill in expertise and resources gaps. Feel free to reach out to us at VideoElephant to discuss how, together, we can put all the pieces together and make your FAST channel a success.

Preeya Naul
Preeya Naul
VP of Streaming Partnerships

Preeya is a Media Executive with 15+ years in news & entertainment revenue generation. Highly experienced in cultivating digital audiences and leading the creation and distribution of long-form channels and partnerships on FAST platforms.

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