FAST Ecosystem
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Breaking Down the FAST Ecosystem

A comprehensive guide on understanding the different components of the FAST ecosystem, the main players in each category, and how they all work together to deliver content to viewers.

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Free Ad-Supported TV (FAST) is a new category of streaming television services that offer free access to linear channels, similar to traditional cable or satellite TV. However, FAST services are delivered over the Internet and do not require a subscription. Instead, they are funded by advertising.

FAST services are becoming increasingly popular, as they offer a more affordable and convenient alternative to traditional TV. They are also a good option for people who do not want to commit to a long-term subscription.

Here are some of the key differences between FAST and traditional TV:

  • Delivery: FAST services are delivered over the internet, while traditional TV is delivered via cable or satellite. This means that FAST services can be accessed on a wider range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and computers.
  • Cost: FAST services are free to use, while traditional TV requires a subscription.
  • Advertising: FAST services are funded by advertising, while traditional TV is funded by a combination of advertising and subscription fees.

There are a number of different FAST services available. Each service has its own unique selection of content, some of the popular FAST channels are

Why is FAST gaining traction?

There are a few reasons why FAST services are so popular. First, they're free. That's a big draw for a lot of people, especially in a time when the cost of living is going up. Second, FAST services offer a wide variety of content. You can find movies, TV shows, sports, news, and more. Third, FAST services are easy to use. You can watch them on your TV, computer, or mobile device.

So, how is FAST transforming the TV industry? It's putting pressure on traditional cable and satellite TV providers. These providers are used to charging a monthly subscription fee, but FAST services are free. This is forcing them to lower their prices or offer more value to their customers.

Also, FAST services are designed to be easy to use and navigate. You can find your favorite shows and movies with just a few clicks. Most services also have a search function, so you can easily find content that you're interested in.

Understanding Free Ad-Supported TV (FAST)

The idea of FAST came about as a response to the rise of subscription-based streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. These services offered a new, on-demand viewing experience, but they also came with a monthly price tag. Recognizing that there was a market for free TV, companies began exploring ad-supported models.

FAST services are free to use, but they're supported by advertising. This means that you'll see ads while you're watching content. However, the ads are typically short and non-intrusive.

Disruption in the Broadcast Industry

If you're reading this post you're probably thinking about how to get your service into the FAST (Free Ad-Supported TV) space. After all, it's a growing market with a lot of potential.

As you know, the traditional broadcasting industry is facing a lot of challenges. More and more viewers are cutting the cord and moving away from expensive cable and satellite subscriptions. This is creating a huge opportunity for FAST platforms, which offer an appealing alternative to traditional TV.

FAST platforms provide a wide range of content, including live TV, movies, and series, coupled with the flexibility and convenience of digital streaming, all at no direct cost to viewers. This is a huge draw for consumers, and it's why FAST platforms are growing in popularity so quickly.

Key Players in the FAST Ecosystem

There are a number of key players in the FAST ecosystem, including established platforms like Pluto TV and Tubi, as well as new entrants like Vizio WatchFree+ and Xumo. These platforms offer a mix of live and on-demand content, as well as a variety of features and pricing options.

If you're thinking about entering the FAST space, it's important to do your research and understand the landscape. You'll need to decide what kind of service you want to offer, what kind of content you want to include, and how you're going to price your service.

Here are the 5 key players you should know well before you make your choices

1. FAST Platforms:

These platforms aggregate and offer a wide range of channels and content, providing viewers with a convenient streaming experience.

Some popular FAST Platforms are:

  • Pluto TV: Owned by ViacomCBS, Pluto TV offers a wide range of channels and content across multiple genres.
  • XUMO: Owned by Comcast, XUMO offers a mix of live and on-demand content from various sources.
  • Roku Channel: Roku's own channel offers a collection of free streaming content, including movies, TV shows, and live news.
  • IMDb TV: Amazon's ad-supported streaming service offers a mix of movies, TV shows, and IMDb original content.

As a streaming service owner, understanding the reach and potential of different FAST platforms can help you strategize your content distribution and audience acquisition plans effectively.

2. Cloud playout solution providers

Cloud playout solution providers are your key to creating 24x7 linear channels from your VOD content. They help you generate EPGs for your channels. Also, they add SCTE 35 ad markers to your livestreams for your ad platform to understand where to insert ads. 

Popular cloud playout solution providers are Ventuno, Amagi, Harmonic, and Veset. They make it easy to transform your content and maximize its reach and monetization potential.

3. SSAI provider

Now that you have a linear channel with  SCTE markers in place, you need a service that can stitch the ads into your video streams seamlessly. That's where SSAI (Server-Side Ad Insertion) services come into play. 

They dynamically replace the designated ad slots in your stream with relevant ads sourced from ad servers.

This ensures that the ads seamlessly integrate into your content, providing a smooth and uninterrupted viewing experience for your audience.

YoSpace, and G-Mana provide SSAI to your linear live streams.

4. CTV Ad providers 

To ensure that the right ads are served to the right viewers, you need a reliable CTV ad partner that can fill the ad slots within your live video stream. Ad partners play a crucial role in managing your ad inventory. 

Popular examples of ad servers are 

  • SpringServe: SpringServe is an advanced ad management and optimization platform that specializes in video advertising. It offers comprehensive solutions for streaming services operating within the FAST ecosystem, allowing them to effectively manage and monetize their ad inventory. 
  • Google Ad Manager: Google Ad Manager enables you to manage and monetize your ad inventory across multiple channels and formats, including the FAST ecosystem.
  • SpotX: SpotX is a leading video advertising platform that offers programmatic ad solutions for streaming services operating within the FAST ecosystem.
  • Xandr Monetize: Xandr Monetize, formerly known as AppNexus, provides ad monetization solutions for streaming services, allowing them to maximize revenue through programmatic advertising.
  • Freewheel: Freewheel, a Comcast-owned company, offers a comprehensive advertising management platform for streaming services, including those within the FAST space.

For monetizing your linear live streams, you need 1/ Cloud playout solution that is capable of adding SCTE markers, 2/ You need an SSAI solution to splice in the ads where there are markers with 3/ Ads provided by Ad partners.  Some services go the extra mile by offering a comprehensive solution that encompasses two or all three steps of ad monetization within the FAST ecosystem.

5. FAST Channels/Content Owners:

Content owners like you create the FAST channels from your VOD content and make them available on FAST platforms or on your own Owned and Operated (O&O) properties. 

It's also important to remember that the FAST market is still evolving. New channels are emerging all the time, and the competition is fierce. If you want to be successful, you need to offer something that sets you apart from the competition.

Here are a few tips to consider before entering the FAST race:

  1. Choose the right content. When choosing content for your FAST channel, it's important to consider the following factors:
    • Audience: Who are you trying to reach with your channel? What kind of content will they be interested in?
    • Competition: What other FAST channels are out there that offer similar content? How can you make your channel stand out?
    • Licensing: Make sure you have the rights to air the content you want in all regions where your FAST channel will be broadcast.
  2. Create a strong brand. Your FAST channel should have a strong brand that will help it stand out from the competition. This includes developing a unique logo, tagline, and overall look and feel.
  3. Promote your channel. Once you've created your FAST channel, it's important to promote it so people know it exists. You can do this through a variety of channels, including social media, email marketing, and paid advertising.
  4. Partner with FAST platforms. Partnering with FAST platforms like Samsung TV Plus, Roku can help you reach a wider audience and grow your viewership.
  5. Measure your results. It's important to measure the results of your FAST channel so you can see what's working and what's not. You can track on metrics like viewership, engagement, and ad revenue.

Getting Started with FAST

Starting a FAST channel can be a great way to reach a wider audience with your content. However, it is important to note that there is a lot of competition in the FAST space. In order to be successful, you will need to create high-quality content, set up a reliable streaming infrastructure, and market your channel effectively.

It takes time to build a successful FAST channel. Don't expect to become an overnight success. Be patient and continue to create great content and market your channel effectively.

Because your channel is ad-supported, it is free for users. This makes it easy for users to try your service and stick with it if they prefer.

Key Components of FAST Platforms

The structure of FAST platforms can vary, but there are some common key components. These include:

1. Content Library

The content library for a FAST channel is the most important factor in its success. The channel should have a wide variety of content that appeals to a wide range of viewers. This can include movies, TV shows, sports, news, and more. The content should be high-quality and fresh.

Here are some tips for building a successful FAST channel content library:

  • Focus on quality over quantity. It's better to have a few high-quality shows than a lot of low-quality shows. You can repeat your shows strategically rather that showcasing low-quality content.
  • Target a specific audience. When choosing content, think about who your target audience is and what they would be interested in watching.
  • Promote your content library. Let people know what content is available on your channel. You can do this through social media, email marketing, and other channels.
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2. Ad Server:

An ad server is a software application that manages the delivery of advertisements to viewers. It is an essential component of any streaming service that wants to generate revenue from advertising.

The ad server works by first collecting data about the viewer, such as their demographics, interests, and viewing history. This data is then used to target ads that are relevant to the viewer. The ad server then delivers the ads to the viewer's device, either before, during, or after the video content.

Choosing an Ad Server

There are a number of different ad servers available on the market. When choosing an ad server, there are a number of factors to consider, such as:

  • The size of your streaming service: If you have a small streaming service, you may not need a very sophisticated ad server. However, if you have a large streaming service, you will need an ad server that can handle a large volume of traffic.
  • The features of the ad server: Different ad servers offer different features. Make sure to choose an ad server that has the features that you need, such as the ability to target ads, measure ad performance, and manage ad inventory.
  • The price of the ad server: Ad servers can range in price from free to hundreds of dollars per month. Make sure to choose an ad server that fits your budget.
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3. User Interface (UI)

It is important to have a user-friendly UI for any streaming service, but it is especially important for your FAST channels. This is because you are now competing with other streaming services but also with free channels, and a user-friendly UI can be a key factor in attracting and retaining viewers.

There are a number of things that streaming services can do to create a user-friendly UI. These include:

  • Easy navigation: The user interface should be easy to navigate. This means that users should be able to find the content they want to watch quickly and easily.
  • Support for multiple devices: The user interface should support multiple devices. This means that users should be able to watch the service on their TV, computer, phone, or tablet.
  • Responsive design: The user interface should be responsive. This means that it should adapt to the size of the device that it is being used on.

4. Content Delivery Network (CDN)

The content delivery network (CDN) is the system that delivers video content to viewers. A high-performing CDN ensures that viewers can watch content without buffering and with high quality.

CDNs work by caching video content on servers that are located close to viewers. For example, if you're in the US and you're watching a video that's hosted on a server in Europe, the video will have to travel a long distance. This can cause buffering and other performance issues. But if the video is cached on a CDN server that's located in the US, the video will only have to travel a short distance. This will improve performance and reduce buffering.

Consider these things when choosing a CDN for your FAST service:

  • Performance: A high-performing CDN will ensure that your videos are delivered to viewers with minimal buffering and high-quality streaming. Look for a CDN that has a large network of servers located around the world, so that your videos can be delivered to viewers as close to them as possible.
  • Reliability: Your CDN needs to be able to handle spikes in traffic without any disruptions. Look for a CDN that has a proven track record of reliability, and that offers features like DDoS protection and failover.
  • Security: Your CDN needs to protect your videos from unauthorized access and distribution. Look for a CDN that offers features like encryption and authentication.
  • Cost: CDNs can vary in price depending on the features they offer and the amount of traffic you expect to receive. Make sure to compare prices from different providers before making a decision.

Integrating your CDN

1. Under the Billing and Payment section of theleft menu, Select My profile > Manage CDN.
2. You can select the CDN of your choice.
3. If you wish to use our Ventuno CDN, Simply select the Ventuo CDN from the displayed list of CDN’s and enter the maximum size of the video content as well as the maximum size of the video assets under settings.

Integrating Akamai

If you want to integrate Akamai storage which uses Akamai edges to distribute your content, follow the steps below:

1. Under My profile > Manage CDN, Select Akamai under storage and CDN providers.
2. Enter the Host-name, User name, and password from the Akamai storage under the storage details.
3. Enter the Video bucket details.
4. Enter the progressive Edge/Path of the Akamai edges under CDN details. progressive Edge/Path reduces the latency by connecting to a user’s ISP before moving into the Akamai network.
5. Enter the maximum size of the video content as well as the maximum size of the video assets under settings to avoid slow loading and reduce the latency of your content.
Integrating Akamai

Integrating AWS

1. Under My profile > Manage CDN, Select AWS under storage and CDN providers.
2. Enter the Access key, Secret key from the AWS storage under the storage details. (We will generate these keys).
3. Enter the Video bucket and Ad bucket details.
4. Enter the progressive Edge/Path of the Cloudfront CDN under CDN details. progressive Edge/Path reduces the latency by connecting to a user’s ISP before moving into the AWS network.
5. Enter the maximum size of the video content as well as the maximum size of the video assets under settings to avoid slow loading and reduce the latency of your content.

Integrating AWS

5. Choosing the right Cloud Playout Solution

When it comes to choosing the best cloud playout provider for starting your FAST channels, our team at Ventuno believes we have what it takes to meet your needs.

Ease of use: We understand that not everyone is a tech-savvy user. That's why our platform is designed with a user-friendly interface, making it a breeze for you to manage your channels. You don't have to worry about getting lost in complicated technical maze. Our intuitive system ensures a smooth experience, allowing you to focus on creating and delivering captivating video content.

Support: We believe in being there for you whenever you need assistance. That's why our dedicated support team is available 24/7 to provide you with prompt and reliable help. Whether you have questions, encounter issues, or simply need guidance, we've got your back. You can count on us to be there every step of the way.

Reputation: Our track record speaks for itself. We have built a solid reputation in the industry, and our customers have consistently praised us for our reliability and outstanding customer service.

6. Distribution:

Now that you have everything set in place to distribute your FAST channel, lets dive in and uncover the best distribution strategy to propel your streaming service

Distribute to 3rd party FAST networks: 

This is the popular approach where streaming services leverage established platforms like Xumo, Distro TV, and Kaapang. By partnering with these networks, streaming services can make their channels available on the platforms' apps and websites. This option is ideal for services looking to expand their reach without the need for an independent distribution platform.

Incorporate FAST channels in your own website and apps:

Streaming services seeking greater control over the user experience can choose to directly distribute their channels to users through their own website or app. By integrating a FAST channel player, services can deliver content to their audience while maintaining a personalized touch.

Combination of both:

Many streaming services opt for a hybrid approach, utilizing both 3rd party FAST networks and their own website and apps. This strategy allows them to benefit from broader exposure through external networks, while also maintaining control over the user experience through their own distribution channels.

Wrap Up

Free Ad-Supported TV (FAST) is a rapidly growing market, and those trying to launch a FAST service need a reliable and scalable solution that can help them deliver high-quality, engaging content to viewers. At Ventuno, we offer a wide range of features and services that can help you meet the needs of today's viewers. With Ventuno, you can focus on creating great content and leave the rest to us.

Anjana Devi

Anjana Devi