Connected TV

Free Ad-Supported TV: Guide to FAST Streaming Services

Free Ad-Supported TV: Guide to FAST Streaming Services

8 Min Read

Sure, streaming services have a lot of buzzy content. But what’s better than TV you have to pay for? Free TV! Read on to learn more about free ad-supported TV—which is admittedly a lot like old-fashioned TV, but with a lot of new tech that makes it extremely compelling to viewers and advertisers alike.

What is Free Ad-Supported TV (FAST)?

Free Ad-Supported TV (FAST) offers viewers access to streaming channels that broadcast curated content on a linear schedule, mimicking traditional TV. This service is free to users and supported by advertisements that play during scheduled programming.

FAST Channels vs AVOD Services

AVOD, or Advertising-Based Video On Demand, enables viewers to watch videos for free by agreeing to view streaming ads, typically providing a selection of on-demand content.

Conversely, FAST channels emulate a traditional TV experience by offering a lineup of streaming channels that broadcast curated shows and movies on a linear schedule with ad breaks.

Benefits of FAST Streaming Services

FAST streaming services are revolutionizing the media landscape with advantages for both viewers and broadcasters.

Affordable Access

FAST services eliminate subscription fees, offering consumers a wide range of content at no cost. For broadcasters, launching channels is more cost-effective compared to traditional TV networks.

Wide Audience Reach

These platforms provide free, widely accessible content that appeals to diverse global demographics, quickly building a large viewership. This broad reach makes FAST an appealing option for advertisers aiming for extensive market penetration.

Integrated Advertising

FAST platforms offer advertisers engaging and less intrusive connected TV advertising options compared to traditional TV ads. Advertisers benefit from placing their messages in more targeted and contextually relevant settings.

Live and On-Demand Content

FAST services combine live TV with on-demand features, allowing viewers to choose their preferred way of engaging with content, and enhancing overall satisfaction. This approach caters to both traditional TV enthusiasts and digital natives who prefer streaming.

Personalized Content

Viewers can customize their experience by selecting from various content streams and genres, leading to longer viewing times and greater satisfaction. This customization also enables providers to better segment their audience for targeted advertising.

How Does Free Ad-Supported TV Work?

FAST streaming services work by offering a wide range of content, including movies, TV shows, and live channels, for free to users while generating revenue through advertisements.

The content is streamed over the internet, similar to other over-the-top (OTT) platforms, but unlike subscription-based services, users do not have to pay a monthly fee. The ads are interspersed throughout the content, often in a manner akin to traditional TV advertising, and the service providers may use targeted advertising based on user preferences and behavior to increase ad effectiveness.

While some channels are “single-show” channels (all Baywatch, all day) there’s quite a lot of diversity in their programming, which tends to be based on older licensed content, rather than the ocean of new and licensed content that defines Premium Video on Demand (PVOD) services like Netflix and Apple TV or Ad-Supported Video on Demand (AVOD) services like the ad-supported tiers of Hulu and HBO Max.

It turns out that a lot of viewers may miss the old days of just seeing what’s on, combined with the ease of streaming: the key difference between a FAST channel and watching old-fashioned linear TV or cable TV is that you can access it on your favorite Connected TV platform or device, in the same way that you’d watch any other streaming service. Of course, that extends to mobile phones and tablets, too.

You can find a FAST channel that’s appealing to you by looking at a grid (let’s face it, like an old TV guide) and clicking on whatever looks good.

Growing Support for Free Streaming Services With Ads

One thing’s for sure, these FAST channels (both as free streaming services and free streaming apps) are gaining in popularity. Consider these statistics: 

  • In 2023, 57 percent of TV viewers in the United States used free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) platforms like Pluto TV, Tubi, and The Roku Channel.
  • Advertising spending on free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) in the United States is projected to more than double from 2023 to 2025, exceeding the spending on cable, broadcast, and subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) by 2025.

So what’s behind this resurgence in a format that many even recently thought had gone the way of the dodo? 

It may have to do with exhaustion brought on by the plethora of streaming services and options, with too many options out there when all you want to do is just find something fun to watch. 

Related to that, there’s the expense of PVOD and even some AVOD services, many of which may be cheaper than PVOD (eg, the ad-supported Hulu tier vs its pure subscription service), but can still get pricey, particularly if you’re someone with several different subscriptions.

What the Evolution of FAST Streaming Means for Marketers

Audiences turning away from premium streaming devices to free ad-supported platforms is good — nay, great— news for advertisers looking to enhance their lead generation and demand generation initiatives. 

Viewers are getting exhausted from having to subscribe to too many premium streaming services and opting for the familiarity and variety of FAST channels. What that means for marketers is that they have to pivot their attention to this growing segment of the US entertainment economy.

To get a sense of the numbers involved, read on.

List of FAST Channels & Platforms

With the explosion in the sheer number of FAST channels and free ad-supported streaming TV platforms out there, here are some that are making the greatest impact:

Tubi TV

Tubi, owned by Fox, provides a substantial library of movies and TV shows from diverse genres at no cost. With over 74 million monthly users as of early 2024, Tubi stands out in the FAST sector for its extensive programming range.

Pluto TV

Paramount’s Pluto TV offers around 80 million monthly users a traditional TV-like experience with over 250 curated channels, including news and specialized content. It’s one of the biggest free streaming services available.

The Roku Channel

As of early 2024, The Roku Channel serves over 80 million active accounts, featuring a rich mix of content from films and TV series to live sports. It aggregates content from various providers, delivering a wide selection of free, ad-supported options.

Amazon Freevee

Previously known as IMDb TV, Amazon Freevee is integrated into Amazon’s vast digital ecosystem, offering a wide array of TV shows, movies, and original content. With over 65 million monthly users, it’s known for high-quality, curated programming accessible through Amazon’s devices and apps.

Crackle

Crackle offers a variety of movies and TV shows, supported by intermittent advertisements. It caters to niche audiences with unique and original content, setting itself apart with a focus on non-mainstream offerings.

Xumo Play

Owned by Comcast, Xumo Play provides over 290 channels, making it a key player in the FAST market. Pre-installed on many smart TVs and available through various apps, it caters to over 40 million monthly users with a blend of live and on-demand content.

Peacock

NBCUniversal’s Peacock combines free and premium content for over 30 million monthly users, offering everything from classic TV shows to current movies and live sports. However, its free plan is no longer available to new users since February 2023.

Sling Freestream

Operated by Dish Network, Sling Freestream offers a selection of free channels primarily focused on news and entertainment. It’s designed for viewers looking for no-cost content without subscribing to a full package.

Vudu

Owned by Fandango, Vudu presents a mix of free and paid content with over 60,000 titles. It’s known for its high-quality video streaming and vast selection of movies and TV shows available for rental or purchase.

Plex

Plex offers a unique combination of free live TV with over 250 channels and a robust on-demand library. It also allows users to stream their personal media from a home server, providing a customized viewing experience.

Samsung TV Plus

Samsung TV Plus offers over 2,000 channels worldwide, reaching audiences in 24 countries on more than 535 million devices. It delivers a diverse array of content, including news, sports, and entertainment, all free of subscription fees.

LG Channels+

LG Channels+ provides over 300 channels, featuring news, sports, movies, and kids’ programming, accessible on LG Smart TVs. This service offers a wide range of live and on-demand content to a global audience.

Vizio WatchFree+

Exclusive to Vizio Smart TVs, Vizio WatchFree+ offers hundreds of free channels and a large library of on-demand movies and TV shows. It provides a variety of genres without requiring subscriptions or extra hardware.

Google TV

Google TV, previously Google Play Movies & TV, combines streaming services and apps into one interface, allowing users to browse across providers. It offers personalized content recommendations and is available on Android devices and Google TV software-equipped TVs.

Redbox Live TV

Redbox Live TV offers a mix of free live and on-demand streaming with hundreds of channels. It focuses on entertainment, lifestyle, and news content, replicating a traditional TV experience at no cost to the viewer.

How Performance TV Connects the Dots

So, how do you reach all of these viewers on FAST channels? With MNTN Performance TV of course!

MNTN Performance TV is the ultimate platform for performance marketing on CTV. Our advanced technology ensures your campaigns are optimized automatically, reaching your ideal audience with precision. By leveraging our Verified Visits™ technology, you can track every interaction with confidence, knowing that each visit contributes to your business goals.

Gain access to premium CTV inventory and transform your brand’s visibility. MNTN Performance TV offers you unparalleled tools to maximize your ROI and achieve outstanding results. Request a demo to get started!

Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV: Final Thoughts

While Netflix and other similar PVOD services have been hogging many of the headlines, a quiet revolution has been taking place in the world of free streaming services and apps, supported by advertising. 

This has not escaped the attention of giant players like Amazon and Comcast, and if you’re an advertiser it shouldn’t escape your notice, either.

Fortunately, MNTN is on top of the trends in the fast-evolving world of FAST channels.

MNTN can use its mastery of Performance TV to help you craft a campaign that’s targeted, affordable, and effective, so you can focus some of the tens of millions of eyeballs watching on FAST channels onto your products.