Viewers love FAST TV and advertisers are following suit

By David Dembowski, Operative

Free ad-supported TV (FAST) is growing, well, fast.

There are several reasons why viewers are taking to the new channel so quickly. First, FAST is part of the general trend moving from traditional broadcast and linear TV towards streaming technology. In the U.S., streaming overtook cable TV in July of 2022 to become the most popular way to get TV. Globally, streaming growth rates are much higher than other TV options.

Around the world, consumers like that streaming offers better choices at a better price point – a win-win. FAST is a streaming option that is appealing to cost-conscious viewers who are tired of paying subscription fees. The majority of respondents in one major study showed that people are willing to watch ads to save money.

Viewers also like that FAST is truly digital. With connected TVs (aka CTVs) in nearly three quarters of every household in the United Kingdom, for example, millions of people have the promise of interactive, addressable viewing in their homes. Younger generations, in particular, are used to social media platforms, where commerce, communication and content are all combined. FAST, and streaming in general, is likely to evolve in that direction in the future, and consumers are embracing these innovations.

FAST opportunities

Having a competitive FAST offering gives broadcast and cable companies an opportunity to appeal to advertisers in new ways. First, FAST is where audiences are moving. If broadcast and cable publishers want to remain competitive, they need streaming options like FAST to deliver access to these shifting audiences.

Advertisers are following consumers to FAST, and media companies will be well served to create FAST offerings that highlight all of the best elements of the channel to meet advertiser demand. Advertisers like FAST combine the big-screen attention-capturing appeal of broadcast TV with the addressability, targeting, measurement, reporting and interactivity of digital. While TV is often pre-sold in blocks of placements through up-fronts and manual insertion orders, advertisers want to be able to buy FAST TV programmatically, and they want to buy against specific audiences, not just content types. This allows them to create more targeted creative, and to optimize performance throughout a campaign.

FAST is also an opportunity to offer more flexibility and choice to advertisers and to become more agile. With so many more levers to pull on FAST, advertisers are finding that they can get high performance. In fact, demand for FAST often outpaces supply, even though the channel is growing quickly. Scheduling cable and broadcast is much less flexible, with fewer opportunities to target audiences or optimize and measure performance. For example, in FAST, advertisers can create personalized creative that is dynamically inserted based on the content someone just saw or other customer data that can come from other channels.


What’s more, cable and broadcast ad serving and distribution is much less dynamic. With FAST, media companies can get real-time performance insights and make changes to maximize ROI based on advertiser KPIs and improve their own revenue opportunities. FAST providers need the right software in place to track and optimize campaigns and pull reports on demand.

Targeting and data also matter. If a sports apparel advertiser buying on a FAST app could target viewers who have shown interest in sports apparel across digital channels such as shopping on e-commerce sites, that’s much more accurate than targeting viewers of sports content as in traditional broadcast targeting. Great targeting allows for much more focused media buying and much more relevant advertising.

FAST is just getting started

To succeed with viewers and advertisers, FAST providers need to keep growing and innovating. Advertisers are adapting to shifts in consumer behavior in real-time, which means that their demands will shift quickly, as well. At the same time, FAST providers need to make it as easy as possible for advertisers to buy at scale and reach key audiences.

One way to appeal to buyers is with self-serve sales. Advertisers and their agencies are used to self-service from major digital platforms, and even smaller and local advertisers will like the convenience and control that self-service provides.

Another important element that FAST providers need to have in place is a tech stack that streamlines the sales, order management and reporting processes in a way that works with their other channels. Consolidating media sales across channels is important to reduce friction and complexity. Broadcasters often have content on other channels, such as broadcast or digital and need to have a unified product offering. Having a single IO for advertisers buying across channels, being able to measure and optimize throughout a campaign, and pricing and packaging inventory effectively will all set FAST providers up for success in the long term.

David Dembowski, OperativeDavid Dembowski is the Head of Global Sales and Account Management at Operative. He spearheads the expansion and growth of Operative across existing and new markets worldwide. Dembowski is an accomplished sales leader with extensive digital media and adtech experience. Prior to joining Operative, Dembowski led data analytics and SaaS sales across leading linear, CTV/OTT, DOOH, and digital ecosystems for Standard Media Index. He has also held leadership sales roles at IgnitionOne, NetMining and Yahoo!. Dembowski has served on a variety of boards for industry organizations, including the IAB and the ANA. He received a B.A. in History from the University of New Hampshire and his MS in Strategic Communication and Leadership from Purdue University.

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