What is FAST TV? A Guide to Ad Effectiveness

Fueling brand growth amid increased receptivity to streaming ads

According to e-Marketer, connected TV (CTV) is the fastest-growing major ad format in the US, drawing strength from the migration of programming, viewers, and time spent to digital channels. The launch of Amazon Prime’s ad tier and the rise of MVPDs are just two developments that are transforming how people consume TV. By embracing this new source of advertising inventory, advertisers have new avenues for reaching diverse and engaged audiences.

In this transformation, free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels such as Tubi, Sling TV, Pluto TV, Freevee, and others have seized a place in between linear TV and paid streaming subscriptions. eMarketer projects that FAST TV channels will be used by nearly a third of US consumers (30.5%) by the end of the year. Marketers are taking note of this rapid adoption and following their target audiences into the new terrain. 

To help advertisers understand the opportunity and make the most of their media investments, we offer a brief guide to answer the important questions:

  1. What is FAST TV?
  2. Why should advertisers care about FAST TV?
  3. How can advertisers optimize FAST TV investments?

What is FAST TV?

FAST is a television model offering linear content through digital devices, like smart TVs, laptops, desktops, and mobile. Similar to linear TV, FAST channels feature prescheduled programming which viewers can watch live or on-demand, depending on the provider. They combine the comfort of traditional schedule-based viewing and the potential for new brand experiences with today’s streaming TV viewers. 

FAST channels offer a diverse range of content, including movies, shows, live sports and news – all without subscription fees. Whether a viewer is streaming live or watching on-demand, they’re exposed to ads throughout programming. 

Why should advertisers care about FAST TV?

Over the last several years, major media owners like Paramount, Fox, and Amazon have created their own FAST offerings or acquired platforms to build them out. Meanwhile, device manufacturers like Roku, Vizio, and Samsung created proprietary FAST channels that are pre-loaded onto their devices. 

The rise of FAST channels offers media owners the opportunity to drive additional revenues and brands new pathways to reach their target audiences. Here, we take a look at what’s driving rapid expansion and why Adland should care about it.

1. FAST TV speaks to the cost-conscious consumer. 

Our Consumer Trends 2024 report found that the economy tops people’s list of concerns for 2024 with inflation (64%) and a recession (54%) most concerning. Many planned to spend less on discretionary categories like entertainment. FAST channels allow people to access quality content without paying the rising subscription fees. FAST channels offer advertisers a chance to reach consumers as they cut back on streaming costs.

2. FAST TV providers offer accessible, diverse content libraries.

Many FAST providers don’t require logins, making the content more accessible than on streaming services. As the FAST market becomes more saturated, providers are optimizing their channel lineups – dropping low-performing channels and adding promising new options. Many are introducing premium content across a range of genres to attract a broader range of audiences. Advertisers can capitalize on high-quality content through a lean-back experience that viewers seek.

3. FAST TV’s digital delivery enables deeper targeting and personalization

Unlike linear TV, FAST TV provides advertisers with opportunities to target specific audiences based on demographics, interests, and viewing behaviors. From the shows they watch to the devices they use, advertisers can leverage context-based advertising to deliver commercial messages that resonate with audiences in the right place and at the right time. This offers advertisers a level of personalization that linear has lacked..

How can advertisers make the most of their FAST TV investments?

The FAST TV advertising opportunity is clear. However, given how quickly the streaming landscape is changing, it's imperative to keep a pulse on how to optimize content for increased ROI.

1. Consider the brand experience.

As FAST channel providers invest in original content and exclusive partnerships, brands have an opportunity to integrate seamlessly into the viewing experience. Our Ad-Supported Streaming TV report found that fewer ads than on linear TV (87%) and frequency caps (83%) make streaming ads more tolerable. Media owners and their advertisers should closely partner to innovate ad formats and solve for things like ad loads and frequency so they deliver optimal brand experiences in FAST channels.

2. Implement cross-media measurement.

Advertisers are investing more money, time, research, and other resources toward FAST channels. But, these investments are only as good as the measurement frameworks that surround them. If media owners and brands can’t measure FAST TV platforms objectively and fully, and against other channels in their media mix, they’re in the dark about the ROI of their placements. Cross-media measurement is needed to isolate FAST channels’ unique lift contributions, and also how they are working in conjunction with other channels to drive effectiveness.

3. Stay agile.

There is sure to be more innovation, more ad formats, and more channels emerging in the FAST space. Media owners and advertisers need to keep a close pulse on how consumers feel about FAST TV, their experiences with FAST ads, and their general feelings about the value exchange between brands and viewers on these channels.

Measure your FAST TV campaigns with DISQO!

DISQO’s audience members opt in to having their digital behaviors passively measured across channels. This allows us to see ad exposure and brand / performance impacts on all media, including FAST channels, without relying on data from the platform itself. With our consistent methodology across all media channels and platforms, our clients can understand their TV campaigns’ impact holistically – and alongside digital and social. DISQO offers a single platform to objectively measure ad effectiveness across CTV, digital and social, which for many advertisers is north of 90% of their ad spend.

Interested in more FAST TV insights from industry experts? Check out our recent webinar with Warner Bros. Discovery’s Sunil Soman and Paramount’s Jennifer Strapp.

Subscribe now!

Get our new reports, case studies, podcasts, articles and events