It's no secret that connected TV (CTV) has been on a roll. U.S. CTV ad spend is expected to reach $14.12 billion in 2023, which is more than double the amount it garnered in 2016, according to eMarketer.
But a lot more information, some of which is surprising, recently emerged in Comcast Advertising's recent report, "Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV: Why More Advertisers (and Consumers) are Going F.A.S.T." It specifically focuses on CTV services that fall into the FAST category (free ad-supported television). FAST programming services -- which include XUMO, Tubi and Pluto -- offer both on-demand and linear viewing options, and they capture cord-cutting consumers.
"This report was interesting in that it provided a full view of just how quickly FAST is growing," said Travis Flood, Director, Customer Insights, Effectv, a business unit within Comcast Advertising. "According to the report, FAST penetration among households has more than doubled year-over-year. And today, six out of 10 households who have connected TVs are using FAST services, either exclusively or in addition to other services."
The report also shows that FAST services garner higher Net Promoter Scores (NPS), a metric that suggests viewers of the platform are satisfied and loyal.
FAST distinguishes itself from other types of video services, such as subscription video on demand (SVOD) and advertising-based video on demand (AVOD), because it doesn't require a paid subscription or password -- and it offers both linear and on-demand content. With FAST, linear streaming channels are created using a specific technology that stitches VOD together to create linear viewability.
"For advertisers, FAST provides a unique opportunity to reach cord-cutters while they are scrolling, channel surfing and discovering new content -- a prospect not possible through ad-free services like Netflix, or even from ad-supported on-demand services like Crackle," the report notes.
"When creating our FAST report, we worked with XUMO to better understand how consumers are using FAST services today," Flood explained. (The XUMO service is also owned by Comcast.) The report shows that there is considerable viewer overlap with other streaming services, many of which are not ad-supported. Of XUMO viewers, 77% subscribe to Netflix, 80% subscribe to Hulu and 65% subscribe to Prime Video.
While FAST content is available on all kinds of video devices, the screen of choice is usually the largest in the house, offering a lean-back viewing experience not unlike linear TV. Because of that, big-screen FAST viewers are prone to channel surfing. In fact, the report reveals that it's not unusual for viewers to land on FAST services without realizing it and then spend time engrossed in the content. This is especially true of cord-cutters, who don't have a cable program guide.
The report also analyzes viewer preferences by genre on the XUMO service: "Crime TV, game shows and daytime TV are [among] the most popular genres on the service, behind news and movies," Flood said. "There is such a diverse mix of programming available on FAST services today, so it is very useful to understand the type of content users are gravitating towards."
Fern Feistel, Vice President, Marketing & Content Operations at XUMO, noted that "the report shows an increasing appetite among viewers for series-based channels on FAST, services that [viewers] can tune to, lean back and binge.
"These series-based, or theme-based, channels such as Baywatch or Fear Factor are resonating with audiences and represent one of the main differences between FAST and traditional TV offerings," she added.
While measurement of FAST services is in the development stage, the report indicates that, generally speaking, FAST audiences spend considerable time on these services (about 104 minutes within a platform once they have entered). They also tend to be Millennials (a generation that values affordability, accessibility and nostalgic experiences through technology).
These viewers are also open to advertising and don't mind ads if the content is free and if the breaks are short (75% of respondents). What's more, 69% of survey respondents said that they would consider replacing paid streaming services with ad-supported streaming services.
That may be an indication of how FAST could change the video dynamics moving forward. What are some others? "It's hard to predict six months out, let alone three years from now," Feistel said. "But we anticipate continued growth in viewership because of the low barrier to entry and 'lean-back' viewing experience."
She expects that FAST will continue to gain momentum with advertisers, "especially if FAST services continue to invest in ad technology to make their service more scalable and targetable for advertisers."
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