What’s Working on FAST Right Now?

We cover the most popular platforms for free, ad-supported streaming television and exciting new trends.

What’s Working on FAST Right Now?

By Josh Terry | April 18, 2024

Anyone who has opened a social media feed in recent weeks has likely seen one of many memes featuring Conan O’Brien doused in hot sauce, milk, or both.

After decades of conducting interviews, the late night host and podcaster appeared on Hot Ones, the popular internet talk show where guests answer questions while eating progressively spicier chicken wings. O’Brien’s guest spot was such a scorching success that the racked up over 6.5 million views in just a week, and has prestigious outlets like NPR singing its praises. Thousands of social media users have since posted videos of their favorite jokes from O’Brien.

O’Brien, who currently hosts a podcast called Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, was there to promote his new travel show on Max called Conan O’Brien Must Go. That premieres Thursday, April 18 but you can also watch decades of Conan content on a FAST channel devoted entirely to the former host of The Tonight Show and Conan. Called Conan O’Brien TV, it’s exclusively available on Samsung TV Plus, and is free, ad-supported streaming television.

Conan O’Brien TV is one of the thousands of niche yet accessible FAST channels in this exciting new marketplace that’s upending the streaming entertainment business. These channels cater to every taste. You can watch a marathon of old Bob Ross episodes, binge Star Trek, or peruse linear television documenting sports, local news, movies, and more.

Read on for a deep dive into the world of FAST channels–what’s hot, who are the major players, and what’s working with viewers everywhere?

Why more and more people like life in the FAST lane

Trends in entertainment can be cyclical. What used to be the standard can eventually seem novel compared to constant innovation and change. While streaming up-ended traditional cable programming with on-demand, binge-worthy content and billions invested in original programming, now some tangible tides are shifting back to linear television.

While much talk has been about FAST channels being totally free and a budget-friendly alternative to pricey OTT subscriptions, it can also be pinned down to changing viewer habits. Remember a little over 10 years ago when all your friends could talk about were prestige TV shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and House of Cards? Now, you might notice the way you watch TV is different. You may want to put something on in the background while you cook dinner or scroll your phone.

According to research conducted by Bloomberg, more and more people prefer FAST channels like TUBI and watch more hours than, “Max, Peacock or Paramount+, to say nothing of Apple TV+.” As The Verge reports, this suggests that folks prefer to  leave the TV on while they go about their day. FAST channels offer this low-stakes and no-cost experience. As The Verge writer Alex Cranz notes, one of the best perks from watching FAST Channelsis “how liberating it feels to remove some of the choice from the situation.”

With on-demand streaming options, you can become paralyzed with indecision. You can scroll for hours Though there are also many FAST channel options, once you press play you can zone out and take in the programming without fear of choosing the right thing or feeling like watching is work.

The biggest players in streaming are noticing this trend. Netflix scored big last year by bringing Suits, the long-canceled dramedy that ran on USA Network, to its catalog. It was the most streamed show of 2023, which suggests that audiences crave familiarity and comfort.

What are the most popular FAST channels?

There are so many FAST channel options that there are currently nearly 2000 operating in the United States alone. This is expected to make for a $9 billion industry by the end of 2024.

The aforementioned Tubi, which is owned by Fox, is a massive player in this industry. They offer both 200,000 movies and TV episodes on demand, 200 originals, and nearly 250 FAST channels. It boats a monthly userbase of 74 million and Fox reportedly turned down a $2 billion offer for the service last year.

Another major figure in this landscape is the Roku Channel. They cracked 80 million monthly active users in 2023 thanks to their many linear channels and library of old movies and TV shows. They’re also investing more and more in original content, which includes shows hosted by talent like Martha Stewart, Chelsea Peretti, and dozens more.

Paramount’s Pluto TV dominates this space though. With Pluto TV operating over 156 unique channels and Paramount manning 129 unique channels, it’s the biggest company in FAST. They often cater to specific tastes with single IP programming with channels devoted to Star Trek and CSI. According to Omdia, the top five channels in the US, “Pluto TV Spotlight, Star Trek, Pluto TV Action, Pluto TV Reaction and Pluto TV Comedy accounted for 21% of consumption across the top 100 FAST channels.”

What does the future hold?

With Tubi and Peacock outpacing WarnerDiscovery’s Max in minutes streamed, FAST’s growth is making the industry notice. Bigger players like Disney are about to launch their own FAST channels while niche providers like the Criterion Channel just debuted their 24/7 movie channel within their OTT platforms.

FAST Is here to stay. Just last year, Amazon’s FreeVee became the first AVOD provider to secure Emmy nominations for their original show Jury Duty. The Roku Channel won an Emmy for Best Television Movie for their Weird Al Yankovic biopic starring Daniel Radcliffe and secured nominations for other programming dating back to 2022.

What does all of this mean for you?

As more and more people around the world tune into FAST channels, the streaming entertainment landscape will shift. SVOD companies will look to older, comforting programming and FAST channels and AVOD providers will invest in original content. The market may flatten and users will continue to cancel expensive subscription-based OTT services.

Audiences crave convenience and budget-friendly alternatives. If FAST channels can better reach both niche fans and a general audience, the possibilities are endless. For now, content owners should focus on accessibility and reach. Make your content easy to find and the audiences will follow.

Let’s Talk

If you have an idea for a FAST channel, hit us up at matchpoint.tv. We’ll chat about how we can help you enter the fold, license new material to supplement the content you already own, and deliver it to audiences everywhere.

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