Research Digest

The State of Free Ad Supported TV (FASTs) in 2023


  • The large majority (89%) of consumers think FASTs deliver great value
  • Only 7% of FAST viewers skip advertisements
  • As of October 2023, 70.3M people use FASTs
  • Price increases and content discovery issues on SVODs — with or without ad tiers — could tip the scales even further in favor of FASTs

Free Ad Supported TV networks — aka FASTs — are having a moment. Another one, that is. After being a hot topic at the 2023 NewFronts, FASTs are back in the spotlight thanks to recent research conducted by Vevo and Publicis Media.

Viewers Find Value in FAST Networks

Viewers have long had mixed feelings about watching TV advertisements, but sentiments towards ad-supported content are shifting in a positive direction.

The Vevo and Publicis Media survey reports that consumer attitudes are overwhelmingly favorable when it comes to FAST networks. 89% of respondents think FASTs deliver great value. And only 7% of FAST viewers say they skip advertisements.

The survey also revealed insights into what drives consumers to watch FAST channels. The top three factors: 1. A great selection of TV shows, 2. A great selection of movies, and 3. Good content library organization. Here’s how the rest of the list shook out:

While cord-cutting continues to increase, consumers seem to be turning to FAST networks to scratch an itch that linear television used to — content surfing. Per the same Vevo and Publicis Media survey, 60% of FAST viewers “browse or scroll” until they’ve found something they want to watch.

FAST Usage is on the Rise

Considering the reported satisfaction of FAST users, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that viewership numbers are growing steadily. According to eMarketer, 57% of TV consumers already watch FAST networks.

This percentage translates to millions of viewers. Per Statista, as of October 2023, 70.3M people use FASTs. This is up from 63.2M in 2022 and 56M in 2021. Should this trend continue, FAST viewership numbers will reach nearly 80M by 2027.

FAST Usage Could Mean Trouble for SVODs

While FAST viewership is already on the rise, two other factors regarding Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) services could encourage more consumers to use ad-free networks over other streamers:

SVOD Price Increases

While many consumers have welcomed ad-supported tiers on their favorite streaming platforms (Disney+, Netflix, etc.), the consistent price hikes of SVOD offerings — ad-supported or ad-free — have left a bad taste in some mouths.

Disney announced in August that it will again be raising the prices of some of its most popular streaming services this fall. Here’s the breakdown:

Disney isn’t the only one…

  • Warner Bros. Discovery raised the cost of the ad-free version of Max in January of 2023, and will soon do the same for its ad-free Discovery+ service.
  • Apple TV+ recently increased from $6.99 per month to $9.99 per month.
  • With the release of its Q3 earnings report, and in light of the continued SAG-AFTRA strike, Netflix announced that prices would be going up — the streamer increased the cost of its Basic plan by $2 and its Premium plan by $3.

SVOD ad-supported tiers remain more affordable than ad-free, but consumers are still very aware of any cost — especially since streaming has always been framed as a “cheaper” alternative to cable subscriptions. In Q2 of 2023, nearly 60% of viewers said they’d rather watch ads than pay more for ad-free video services, up from 57% in Q4 of 2022. If ad-supported subscription fees continue to increase along with ad-free tiers, it could push even ad-supported SVOD subscribers away.

Content Discovery Continues to be an Issue

Another topic that could prove pivotal in the SVOD vs. FAST discussion: content discovery. Per Accenture, almost three in four (72%) consumers reported frustration at finding something to watch on streaming services.

“The growing abundance of content and content sources has become overwhelming for audiences, who say they now spend an average of 10-and-a-half minutes searching for something to watch,” reports Nielsen. “Which is up from nearly seven-and-a-half minutes back in early 2019.”

Because they’re seen as a great value and viewers are largely happy with channel organization, FAST networks could be the answer to both of the pain points discussed above.

FASTs Offer Opportunities for Advertisers with a Good Audience Targeting Strategy

FAST user satisfaction and viewership numbers are on the up and up, making for a big advertising opportunity. Advertisers can reach engaged audiences on FAST networks, but only if they’re strategic about targeting. According to AppsFlyer, nearly 40% of consumers said they’d be willing to watch 3-4 ads that are personally targeted to them. To support this, brands need advertising solutions that offer precision audience targeting to reach the right viewers on their favorite FAST networks.

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