Why should advertisers care about being on FAST channels

Going beyond driving incremental reach, FAST channels help advertisers align brands with contextually relevant programming

Sakshi Sharma
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Why should advertisers care about being on FAST channels

FAST channels deliver the impact of traditional TV for advertisers, but with the benefit of digital performance allowing advertisers flexibility to drive various goals, brand awareness, lead generation or website traffic, as per domain experts.

According to GroupM's TYNY Report, there are over 200 FAST channels in India with a variety of content streaming on OTTs and OEM applications. The shift in content on FAST channels is also one of the reasons for people to cut the chords.

While some industry leaders see advertising on FAST channels in India as a budding opportunity with significant potential for growth, offering ample opportunities for advertisers across various categories, others view it as overhyped. They doubt whether the associated opportunities will materialise to the extent envisioned by many.

So, let's explore the realm of FAST channels and what they truly offer advertisers in India.

What is a FAST Channel?

FAST stands for Free ad-supported streaming TV.

It essentially means television delivered over the internet.

Vikas Khanchandani

Vikas Khanchandani - DistroScale, APAC Head, said, “In simpler terms, as people move away from traditional cable and satellite TV towards internet-based options, content is increasingly being accessed through the internet enabled devices be it Smart TVs or mobile. This shift is occurring across markets as users opt in for internet at home and content comes bundled.

“We currently have around 200 channels accessible through FAST. I expect this count to go into 1000s within the next 10-12 quarters. This will include popular TV channels as well as specialised channels dedicated to specific shows/creator/ IP’s as we have seen in some of the markets,” Khanchandani said.

FAST channels emerging as a significant avenue for advertisers in India

Prabhvir Sahmey

Prabhvir Sahmey, Senior Director, Samsung Ads India, highlighted that FAST is complementary and supplementary to your total TV or video buy. It is not an either/or debate. FAST provides premium curated content in a brand safe environment. It provides advertisers with advanced targeting capabilities and contextual placements which drive relevancy and engagement in comparison to linear TV.

“FAST ad inventory is also 100% non-skippable and watched predominately on the biggest screen in the house to drive impact. In fact, we see 76% of users access FAST channels via their Smart TV. FAST delivers the impact of traditional TV for advertisers, but with the benefit of digital performance allowing advertisers flexibility to drive various goals, brand awareness, lead generation or website traffic,” he added.

Khanchandani added that a variety of content partners available across diverse genres or sub genres is giving advertisers the opportunity to reach out to their target audiences by audience interest buckets.

He said, “Thus, for digital planners and buyers, it translates into additional digital video inventory. FAST advertising enables advertisers to tap into high viewability and high engagement advertising with long form content where ads come stitched in within the feed. FAST like linear TV is driving higher watch time.”

He added, “In my opinion, FAST will be a significant reach driver as users transition to digital and as content owners tap into this growing audience. FAST will also bring vibrant, diverse and community based content opportunities for audiences as the entry barrier is lower and volume of content is not constrained by infrastructure.”

While explaining the kind of advertisers that are being drawn to FAST channels, Sahmey said that the advertising experience is TV-like in FAST. In-stream video advertising breaks offer advertisers the opportunity to show up on the TV as if they would in traditional linear TV. Advertisers drawn to FAST initially were those looking to drive incremental reach off their linear or digital buy to hit unduplicated audiences.

“However, we are now seeing advertisers wanting to align brands with contextually relevant programming, with popular channels across entertainment, sports and news. Advertisers can start to see the size of the opportunity to interact with those hard-to-reach audiences not just from an incremental play,” Sahmey said.

“On Samsung TVs, we are also seeing major categories such as auto, luxury, retail and entertainment take advantage of pairing our native ad formats with instream video in FAST environments. Leveraging Samsung ACR technology, advertisers can amplify the impact of their TV investment by retargeting those exposed to their video campaign with native ads,” he added.

Samsung Ads research conducted in the US across 300+ campaigns found a 70% uplift in campaign KPIs when pairing CTV video with native ads versus video only campaigns. 

“In India, we have seen major retail brands also achieve double digit uplift on key brand metrics across brand favorability, aided awareness and purchase intent. Showing FAST as an efficient platform for brands to boost full funnel metrics,” Sahmey said.

What do FAST channels offer platforms and content companies?

Khanchandani shared that venturing into the FAST channels landscape helps content companies expand reach and tap into the audience base of people who are cord cutters and cord nevers.

“Currently, we are witnessing broadcast channels and multiple Indian and global content owners entering the FAST space. The opportunity enables existing channels to expand and tap into new distribution avenues and users who are cord cutters and cord nevers thereby helping channels build incremental reach. For owners of content it's an opportunity to build channels and own the IP as the new ecosystem will grow and flourish. The fact is that users are migrating out of traditional distribution,” he added.

Current landscape of FAST channels in India

According to reports, the number of users in the Indian FAST market is expected to reach approximately 152.4 million users by 2029. The user penetration rate in the Indian market is estimated to be 9.2% in 2024 and is projected to increase to 10.1% by 2029.

Meanwhile, Sahmey shared, “In our recent India FAST study, 74% of the population stream FAST services in a month in India. The space for free-to-view, ad-supported streaming - FAST content is growing as the quality of content, access to channels and new services are launched,” Sahmey said.

“Samsung TV Plus India has now hit 118 channels and we will continue to grow. To better understand FAST audiences, we looked into viewers of Samsung TV Plus. The majority of viewers (68%) are 25-54 years old, are more affluent, and are skewed towards living in urban areas,” he added.

Sahmey said that as a relatively new concept in the TV ecosystem, FAST has increased its footprint across the globe. FAST is expected to hit over $12 billion in revenue by 2027 worldwide.

In a recent report by Samsung Ads, it showed consumer adoption in FAST has increased 50% in the past four years, with 57% of US households now using FAST. It is not unreasonable to expect a similar trajectory or faster for India given our higher acceptance of watching ads in return for free content, he stated.

FAST services originated in the United States. Currently, Pluto TV, Xumo, Tubi, The Roku Channel, IMDB TV and Samsung TV Plus provide FAST services in the US.

These services arrived in India relatively late and are still in their early stages of development. With the surge in popularity of streaming during COVID-19, people in India started exploring FAST channels.

In India, players like Crunchyroll introduced their FAST channels. Zee collaborated with OTTera to roll out another FAST channel. Additionally, Amazon introduced its FAST channel service on Fire TV.

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