Free Ad-Supported Television (FAST): The Benefits of Advertising Your Business

08.15.2023 Sara Brasfield4 min

As digital streaming services continue to evolve, audiences have more options than ever when it comes to accessing and viewing content.

Additionally, American consumers are balancing out their premium, paid subscription content with publishers that offer ad-supported television free of charge. This is great news for advertisers, who can now reach audiences across a multitude of streaming publishers.

Streaming services like Pluto TV, Tubi and The Roku Channel now provide content that is nationally recognized with strong network brands, and the ad inventories on these platforms can offer excellent value to local businesses seeking cost-effective channels for reaching an engaged, targeted audience.

Find out how your business can benefit from this emerging advertising opportunity as a complement to your existing cable TV and streaming advertising efforts.

What is Free Ad-Supported TV (FAST)?

FAST refers to any streaming TV service that is supported by ads and doesn’t require a subscription. These services function a lot like cable TV or digital video-on-demand, except no subscription is required, and content is available in a streaming library along with live programming and a channel line-up/channel guide.

While streaming services like Netflix offer more affordable ad-supported subscription levels, these services still come at a monthly charge. With FAST programming, ad views allow audiences to access this content entirely free of charge.

In most cases, the advertising format used for FAST streamable content is similar to what’s offered through cable TV. Ad breaks are spaced out throughout the TV episode or movie and can’t be skipped. The amount of total ad time per hour can vary from one service provider to the next, but in many cases the total ad volume is comparable to ad frequency via cable TV ads.

Common Misconceptions About FAST Advertising

If you’ve heard about FAST services in the past, you might have gotten a bad first impression of what kind of value these platforms can offer to your business. But the market for FAST services has changed dramatically in a short span of time, causing many of these platforms to mature quickly.

Some of the most common misconceptions about these services include the following:

  • FAST content is often poor quality and in low demand. It may have been true that earlier versions of FAST services featured older, less-popular shows and content. But today’s FAST services offer a wide range of in-demand content, bringing big brands to the platform, including new original series that have become critical and commercial successes. On Amazon’s FAST service Freevee, for example, the James Marsden-led reality show “Jury Duty” has become one of the most buzzworthy new shows of 2023.
  • Most people don’t watch content on FAST platforms. With improved content libraries and a consumer audience eager to scale back its streaming bills, FAST services are seeing a surge in popularity. Pluto TV, one of the largest streaming services, recently reported a new high of 72 million monthly global users, a year-over-year increase of about 20 million.
  • Consumers shy away from ad-supported streaming content. In reality, the majority of consumers are happy to watch ads if it can save them money: 57 percent of survey respondents said they would prefer to watch ad-supported content if it saved them “$4 or $5 on a streaming service subscription.” On platforms where ad-supported streaming is available for free, those positive sentiments may be even stronger.

How FAST Ad Campaigns Can Support Your Digital Strategy

For local businesses using digital video as part of their overall advertising strategy, FAST services create new possibilities for maximizing the reach and value of your ad campaigns. Combined with traditional TV, streaming, and other digital advertising tactics, investing in FAST ad inventories can help your business:

  • Reach a more diverse audience. With the top FAST services attracting millions of monthly users, FAST streaming makes it easier to connect with a broader audience, complementing other types of TV advertising such as cable TV and digital video ads. Four out of every 10 streamers now use FAST services to watch content, underscoring the incredible scale these platforms have achieved.
  • Maximize the value of your ad buys. Expanded ad buying options creates a better market for identifying high-value ad spots. As an early adopter of FAST ad inventories, you may also enjoy reduced competition that improves the overall cost of video advertising.
  • Improve the cost-effectiveness of your digital video ads. Not only can you get more mileage out of ads produced for cable TV and other streaming platforms, you can deliver ads on cost-effective services where reliable performance data can help you understand the true value of your campaign.

How to Take Advantage of FAST Advertising Opportunities

Advertising on FAST services is similar to the process used to buy traditional TV ads, and as part of Cox Media’s holistic streaming solution, FAST ad inventories can offer powerful new targeting and delivery tools to improve the quality of ad exposures to your target audience.

As you plan these media buys, though, it’s important to account for them alongside other traditional TV and digital video advertising to optimize spending and audience engagement across all of your campaigns.

A small business marketing consultant can help you determine the best approach to FAST streaming ad campaigns while leveraging these emerging services to secure the highest-value media buys for your business. Contact Cox Media today to find out how we can help.

About the Author

Sara Brasfield

Sara is a Marketing Manager on Cox Media’s corporate team in Atlanta, with a passion for writing and delivering relevant insights for advertisers. With more than nine years of experience in B2B marketing, Sara aims to help Cox Media’s current and future clients connect with their customers find new and unique ways to grow their business. Outside of the office, Sara loves spending time running, reading, and supporting her favorite sports teams (Go Braves & Gamecocks!).

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