Over 2 in 5 FAST users (42%) say on-demand content is a major reason they use free ad-supported streaming services, while just 30% cited linear channels as a major reason, Morning Consult’s latest report reveal. The study also notes that this should encourage FAST services to expand on-demand libraries, which will make these platforms feel increasingly similar to paid-based streamers in the coming years.
Kevin Tran, Senior Media & Entertainment Analyst at Morning Consult, considers that free digital channels that play nonstop programming simultaneously help consumers address both decision and subscription fatigue. This makes it easy to grasp why more have been tuning in: four FAST services (counting Peacock) have now been among the most-watched streamers in Nielsen’s monthly rankings, compared to zero this time last year. Meanwhile, Morning Consult data shows that the share of adults who said they used Peacock (which is still free to some who signed up before its hard paywall launch) and The Roku Channel in July were up 7 and 4 percentage points, respectively, from the year-ago period.
Counterintuitively, it is not the attributes unique to FAST services that have consumers most interested in platforms like Pluto TV. Morning Consult data shows FAST users most commonly cite free access as a major reason why they use free ad-supported streaming TV platforms, despite there being notable free ad-supported video streamers without FAST channels. Meanwhile, the share of these users who said on-demand content is a major reason they use FAST platforms is 12 points higher than the share who cite channels with nonstop programming.
“The data suggests FAST platforms would be well-served in applying a greater focus to on-demand expansion. This would be timely as subscription video-on-demand platforms are looking for platforms where they can offload less-viewed shows, and ultimately hints at a future where FAST services and SVODs are less distinguishable, especially as the former group will likely also spend more on originals and live sports (two domains already well-trodden by paid streamers),” Tran said.
● ON-DEMAND PROGRAMMING STILL IS A KEY DRAW
Both monthly and weekly users of major FAST services were more likely to cite on-demand content as a major reason for using FAST services than they were to cite linear feeds. This is unexpected, but not unexplainable: several of the most popular FAST players – such as Tubi, The Roku Channel and Freevee – place users on a static landing page with on-demand titles upon opening their apps, rather than dropping them directly into a channel with a linear feed like Pluto TV does. The dynamic also explains why some within the industry have already called for FAST players to make a greater investment in on-demand programming.
While this does not mean linear-first FAST platforms should reverse course, it does mean they should more regularly update their on-demand libraries and make those easier to browse, the report says. One way to accomplish the latter, according to Morning Consult, would be to embrace a “Top 10” ranking, which is now found in the paid streamer space across platforms such as Netflix, Apple TV+ and Prime Video. This feature is not as prominent on FAST platforms, and would give those who adopt it a leg up on competitors.
● WHERE FAST SERVICES MUST GO FROM HERE
With more robust on-demand libraries that are easier to browse, FAST services stand a better shot at becoming go-to video streaming platforms, rather than delegated to their current status as second-class streamers.
Morning Consult data shows that, minus YouTube, the most-used video streaming services in the United States are paid streamers, similar to last summer’s landscape. But beyond this, the data shows that more FAST users overall view platforms like Pluto TV as destinations to go after they have browsed through paid streamers, rather than before.
"While any engagement is welcome, FAST players should strive to become a primary destination for consumers – streaming sessions would likely be longer if FAST platforms were the first choice instead of the backup," Tran commented.
To achieve that, FAST players should increase investment in sports and original content, on top of acquiring more on-demand rights to classic titles. After all, many consumers turn to FAST platforms after SVOD platforms because they are able to more easily differentiate the value offerings of the latter, which provides consumers with more access to sports and original content production.
This difficulty in differentiating is evidenced by the fact that the share of FAST users who agreed that it is hard to tell free ad-supported streaming platforms apart (55%) is higher than the share of video streaming subscribers who agreed that it is difficult to tell SVOD platforms apart (42%).