Opinion: Why FAST will be the star of MIPTV next week

Jon Loew

Jon Loew, CEO of US-based distributor & producer Big Media, explains why there is still ‘tremendous opportunity’ in FAST, despite recent explosive growth in the US.

For many in the production community, last autumn was the first time heading back to MIPCOM after putting travel and in-person meetings on hold for a couple of years.

As many FAST providers were emerging, many of the companies they sought to do business with were still in hiding. We continued to attend international markets during COVID and boy did it pay off.

At the start of 2020, the streaming TV business was really starting to pick up steam, but by the time most companies reconvened in Cannes in October last year, there was the undeniable reality that the business had not only greatly matured, it had exploded.

More than that, there was a new buzz in the air; a new excitement. That energy stemmed from the possibilities and opportunities around yet another mutation in the streaming media landscape – FAST. And if FAST was the bright newcomer on la Croisette last market, I think it’s fair to say it will be the star of MIPTV.

There are several aspects of FAST that make it extremely appealing. On the technical side, launching and distributing a FAST channel is far less complicated and expensive than launching a cable channel or even a standalone SVOD or AVOD channel. Dynamic ad insertion also makes promoting and monetising your content easy. And the EPGs associated with connected and Smart TVs give consumers a navigation experience not unlike what they’ve been used to for years on cable.

All of these things have made it simpler and ‘faster’ to take a direct-to-consumer approach. In fact, there are thousands of channels catering to every genre, interest and fan group there is, from British mysteries to horror films to standalone channels for long-running TV series like Law & Order and Doctor Who.

Creating a channel that has an unmistakable association with the kinds of content viewers are looking for is imperative

As one of the earlier adopters of the FAST model, we are often asked by our colleagues, “Is going FAST always a good idea?” Well, if the buzz heading into MIPTV is any indication, there is still tremendous opportunity. In the US, where FAST is fairly advanced (over 1,500 channels), there is still huge growth potential: 216 million monthly active users driving $4.1bn in ad revenue are projected for this year alone.

So that brings me to another question we hear often: What really works in this environment? It seems like a lot of the hype around FAST’s potential has been focused on monetising underused library content – programming that may not be hot right now but deserves to see the light of day again.

That’s great for companies trying to squeeze the last remaining bit of revenue out of their archives. Big, globally recognisable franchises like Friends or The Office or Seinfeld could sustain a standalone channel of their own, but could a channel without a notable brand attached really capture the attention the viewer who is scrolling through a thousand channels looking for something to watch? Aligning yourself with a hit show or brand is ideal, but in absence of that, creating a channel that has an unmistakable association with the kinds of content viewers are looking for is imperative.

At Big Media, we’re just getting started. We weighed a lot of these considerations before joining forces with a seasoned AVOD/FAST channel provider called wedotv.

With built-in audiences and several well-established platform relationships in the UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy, we had a head start right out of the gate. We were smart enough to realise that a Big Media channel would not mean a lot to consumers – and we are producers, not channel distribution experts.


So for us, determining the right time to launch into FAST was contingent upon having a sufficient amount of exclusive content to keep a channel going and refresh it regularly, as well as aligning ourselves with experienced people to do it right.

And as far as feeling like we were late to the party, well, FAST is still growing in the US and it is only just starting to take off globally. But the projections for growth are impressive. FAST revenues in the US are set to reach $10bn by 2027, while in Europe revenue will exceed $1bn by 2027. The UK is the most advanced market, but Canada, Brazil, Germany and Mexico are the next markets to watch.

It’s not too late to get a FAST strategy in place. In fact, if you have compelling content and solid technical and brand partners, it’s just the right time to ride the tide.

However, as we charge ahead fast and furiously, content owners need to remember that like every gold rush, not every FAST platform will prosper or even survive. Don’t charge ahead so quickly that you forget to protect your assets.

Jon Loew is CEO of Big Media Holdings, a production company with offices in New York, Prague, London, Miami, Delhi and Munich.

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