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FAST vs AVOD: What's the Difference?

Updated: Apr. 04, 2024
Published: Jul. 07, 2023

Subscription fatigue is real. According to a survey by Blue Label, nearly 2 out of every 3 consumers have canceled at least one service in the last year. For many consumers, the remedy to this growing problem is FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channels.

As a CTV buyer, it’s important to understand the basics behind FAST channels before you start buying CTV inventory. In this post, we'll examine what exactly FAST channels are and how they work so that you can make the most informed decisions in your buying strategy.

What are FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channels?

Free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) is most commonly known as a unique, hybrid model that combines the best aspects of linear channels and video-on-demand (VOD) services. It provides a unique viewing experience by offering pre-programmed content, typically found exclusively on linear channels, as well as on-demand content.

Unlike traditional broadcasting methods like antenna, cable, or satellite, FAST channels are accessible from any internet-connected device, including smart TVs and connected TVs. The outcome is an immersive viewing experience that emulates the traditional cable TV setup but with the added advantages of modern streaming technology.

These channels go beyond providing the most current content and also offer a selection of older, licensed content. For instance, Pluto TV has over 250 channels, including a specially curated channel called "Totally Turtles," which allows viewers to stream episodes of the popular '90s show, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Picture of Pluto TV
Source: https://pluto.tv/welcome

But the definition of FAST channels is evolving. FAST channels were once the only video-on-demand model to have linear channels. Now, free and subscription services also offer linear channels.

In other words, the line is blurry. All major aggregators now have linear and on-demand offerings. A more straightforward way to distinguish one service from another is to ask: Is it free? If it is, it's a FAST service. Think of a business model where either linear or on-demand video content is free and ad-supported.

If it's not free, it's an SVOD model — or a service that charges a recurring fee and can include ad-free or ad-supported content. TVREV’s diagram below illustrates this nomenclature well.

TV REV FASTs vs SVOD infographic

FAST services are increasingly gaining popularity as a solution to subscription fatigue, which refers to the exasperation felt by viewers as they accumulate expenses from multiple OTT (over-the-top) platforms. Rather than subscribing to another service, FAST services offer viewers the desired content without requiring a financial commitment.

How is FAST different from AVOD?

Is it a FAST channel, or is it an AVOD? It's hard to distinguish between the two, but here's an easy way to think about it.

In both models, viewers access on-demand content by watching ads. FAST is unique because it includes linear, scheduled programming, unlike AVOD services. This is a big plus for many viewers, who still enjoy cable television's "always on" experience.

The other big difference between the two is pricing: FAST services are always free, using advertisements as their primary source of revenue. AVOD services, on the other hand, can be free or charge some fee.

Netflix, for instance, now offers an ad-supported subscription plan at a lower rate than their established subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) plan. The same applies to AVOD plans or tiers offered by popular streaming TV services such as Disney+ and HBO Max.

Still confused? That's OK. Remember when we said the line between models is blurred? AVOD is the gray area between FAST and SVOD services. An AVOD model that charges a fee is technically an SVOD, while free AVODs can technically fall under FAST services. Because AVOD has become increasingly vague, the term is slowly losing popularity.

Is FAST the future of advertising?

It's clear FAST services are rising in popularity. Just take a look at the numbers.

FAST services have a bright future, but that's not to say they're without flaws. For one, transparency is murky. Extensive content libraries create challenges in predicting and stabilizing viewership at an individual level. The situation becomes more complex with multiple vendors offering various programmatic options, especially open programmatic.

These vendors do not typically communicate with one another. Consequently, as a viewer, you may encounter the same advertisement multiple times within a single ad pod because the vendors have not synchronized their ad insertions.

The good news is that advertisers and publishers alike are constantly brainstorming, creating new and ever-evolving solutions to set the future of FASTs up for success. Contextual targeting, for instance, is a growing strategy for more privacy-compliant targeting.

Start Buying on FASTs

FAST platforms present a unique opportunity for advertisers to target engaged viewers who are highly involved with the content they consume. But how do you get started?

Simulmedia's TV+® platform offers direct integrations with 250+ networks and publishers, enabling advertisers to plan, buy, activate, and measure campaigns across FAST programming. Our advanced technology optimizes ad strategies based on target audiences, programs, and platforms, ensuring predictable campaign success aligned with your goals.

Ready to try it out? Speak with one of our experts.