How to launch a FAST channel in 6 steps

FAST is an ideal entry to OTT: low set up costs, global reach, enhanced revenue streams. Learn how to create a channel, in 6 simple steps.

1. Content: aggregate to syndicate
2. Pick your tech partner wisely
3. What type of FAST channel do you want?
4. Advertising: what's CPM and how does it benefit me?
5. Applications and analytics
6. To syndicate, or not?

Firstly, what is a FAST Channel? The acronym stands for Free Ad-Supported Television. In one word, however, FAST is… television. It's the linear distribution of content, and it’s growing at a remarkable pace mostly because it’s ‘free’ to the consumer. Simply put, it’s an alternative for the cord-cutters. It’s familiar, as it looks like a traditional broadcasting channel, something we have been used to for decades, and the hegemony of which was put at risk by the advent of OTT. It’s a hot topic currently as viewing figures for ‘live’ content nearly doubles on-demand, not to mention the potential that advertising presents with a much higher Cost per Mille (CPM) due to much more accurate and relevant targeting. FAST is an ideal entry into the OTT world, being relatively low-cost to set up, providing access to global audiences, and with real prospects of making significant revenues after only six months to a year from launch.

Simplestream's product, Channel Studio, allows you to easily create FAST Channels or Virtual Channels with a simple drag-and-drop interface. Optional server-side ad insertion, and/or on-screen graphic overlays make monetisation simple. Read on to find out how you can launch your own in six steps.

#1. Content: aggregate to syndicate

Your first step on this journey of building an engaging FAST Channel is your content. It sounds so simple and obvious, doesn’t it? However, as we mentioned previously in our blog on Preventing Subscription Churn, the top reason for users cancelling subscriptions to Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max, Hulu, and Disney+, was that there was not enough content. Ensuring you have an extensive content library is part of the solution, whether that content is high quality, is another matter entirely. Your content needs to be able to attract audiences that engage with it and want to return once the advertising break has finished. As our CEO, Adam Smith, mentioned in his interview with DTV Europe.

A collection of thematic content channels work well, especially if you have great recognisable titles to attract a captive audience that’s already familiar with them. Our CCO, Dan Finch, mentioned the appeal of thematic channels in this interview on the billion-dollar business of AVOD.

Broadcast quality EPG, displayed on TV for FAST channels

#2. Pick your tech partner wisely

Choosing the right partner to launch your FAST Channel… or Channels, is the second step on your journey. Research the company, their partners and integrations, and on which screens they can get your channel. You could have the greatest content library in the world, but without a partner to help you get it out there, you’re at a loss. To put this simply, ask yourself the following questions:

Once you have these questions answered, and you’ve picked your ideal partner – you’re ready for the next step.

A blue banner including the call-to-action to book a demo with Simplestream on setting up a FAST channel with Channel Studio.

#3. What type of FAST Channel do you want?

Presenting your content in a linear format is more than just stitching together your existing video-on-demand (VOD) assets. There are clear choices to make depending on the type of content you have, your audience, and the relevance of the content itself to your audience. A key reason for the sharp rise in this type of content delivery is to fight decision fatigue.

Girl pointing remote at TV, while watching FAST channels on big screen

You could follow the traditional linear broadcast model by scheduling your content and presenting it in an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), or you could loop your content from 1 to 24 hours using our web-based playlist interface. The final option would be creating playlists of content, which could be thematic as VOD365 has done with Ketchup TV presenting the perfect example of how to curate kids-focused content.

#4. Advertising: what's CPM and how does it benefit me?

Monetising your content at no cost to the consumer: that’s the name of the game with FAST Channels. When you create a FAST Channel, one of the main benefits - as opposed to traditional broadcast TV - is the ability to generate a higher CPM from your advertising. CPM is the amount you get paid per 1,000 ad views, commonly referred to as “impressions” in the advertising industry.

Digital billboards on Times Square, with example of ads on FAST channels

The reason you can generate a higher CPM is due to Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI), which provides your viewers with targeted and relevant advertising that can’t be skipped. You can even set a floor price for a minimum CPM to advertise on your channel, so you can then sit back and watch the advertisers bid against each other for a slot. At Simplestream, we’ve already integrated with over 50 ad networks to assist our customers in filling their inventory.

#5. Applications and analytics

Create a wonderful experience for your viewers by giving them access to your FAST channel on the platform and device of their preference. This will ensure you’re maximising the potential reach of your channel, but you also need to measure this by collecting data analytics to understand how it’s performing. Create applications for all major platforms and the most popular devices. Our out-of-the-box solution with bespoke design elements, App Platform, is your ally in this case.

Data analytics dashboard displaying real-time insights from FAST channels

#6. To syndicate, or not?

Syndicating your content isn’t everything, especially if you already have a captive audience. Creating your own set of FAST channels for your viewers to access on your platform can provide an additional revenue stream and reduces decision fatigue. Think of thematic channels where you can present some of your best content, be it series or movies, with ad breaks like a traditional broadcast channel.

Interested in learning more about Simplestream’s products and services to power FAST Channels quickly and effectively? 💡 Book a demo with us!