Getting ahead in the FAST lane with live & local content

October 26, 2022 by Rick Young, SVP, Head of Global Products

Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV (FAST) has been a hot topic in many of the conversations with our customers and at most major industry events in 2022. Global media companies of varying flavors and sizes are looking to launch FAST channels today if they haven’t done so already — or they’re at least considering it. FAST has evolved from what was a little-known concept just a few years ago into a hugely exciting broadcast business model — and it’s on course to become one of the de-facto viewing methods for many consumers around the world.

Audiences are increasingly turning back to the ‘lean-back’ viewing experience that traditional linear television offers. The massive growth of on-demand services has led to a sense of ‘choice fatigue’ for many. Faced with rising living costs and tightened home budgets, consumers are looking to save on their video subscriptions. Ad-supported video (AVOD) services are growing rapidly in popularity as audiences look to reduce or eliminate TV subscription fees, in exchange for ad-based viewing. With advances in personalization and ad targeting, consumers find TV ad experiences significantly more tolerable – and engaging – than ever before.

For some content providers and technology partners, FAST is an effective supplement or alternative to on-demand only video content platforms. However, with too narrow a mindset, media organizations might miss out on the bigger picture — and the bigger opportunity — behind FAST channels. Delivering fresh, local, and live content to FAST viewers is a game-changing revenue driver and a proven route to audience growth. Utilizing FAST for playout of pre-recorded programming is just the first phase in the FAST story. Running repeats all day can only take you so far in the FAST race — and it limits audience growth. Bold media providers need to look beyond phase one and bring high-quality live and local content to FAST platforms to forge their way ahead in the race for digital eyeballs. Fortunately, at LTN, we have our finger on the pulse and we’ve designed tailored solutions like LTN Lift that help our customers take their FAST game to the next level.

Here and now – the live and local approach

Media companies and technology providers have constructed basic workflows to play out VOD assets across FAST channels. However, taking FAST up a gear and seamlessly integrating both live and non-live programming has been another challenge. Today, advances in IP-powered automation and cloud technology are enabling media companies to easily and efficiently bring high-value live content to FAST platforms — and it’s shaking up the status quo.

Live is the most valuable form of content. Live sports, news, and events draw in viewers by the millions, and the ad dollars follow. Localized, relevant content experiences are also critical ingredients for building a successful FAST offering. Geographically tailored news coverage, regional sports, weather, and cultural programming bolsters audience engagement and strengthens platform loyalty.

The importance of live and local content is clear, but a way to efficiently bring that content to FAST platforms hasn’t always been easy to find. In fact, it’s been almost impossible. However, technology evolves quickly — and impossible doesn’t stay ‘impossible’ for long. LTN’s newly developed innovative versioning solutions for full-time channels — LTN Lift, and live events — LTN Arc, enable seamless customization and digital distribution at scale. Today, media brands need to deliver content across an explosion of digital and OTT platforms, alongside FAST services. Faced with squeezed ad revenues and a surging cost of content, broadcasters need solutions to repurpose linear streams and live events for multi-platform digital delivery without breaking the bank or investing in heavy CapEx infrastructure.

LTN’s newly launched cloud-enabled playout solution, LTN Lift, leverages automated versioning capabilities to enable broadcasters to take a primary linear channel and seamlessly spin up secondary and tertiary tracks for FAST distribution — engaging audiences with live and local news, sports, or other high-value live content. Furthermore, rightsholders and sports broadcasters can harness LTN Arc, LTN’s fully-managed production solution to tailor every live event for any platform, language and geography, bringing culturally relevant live sports coverage to FAST viewers across continents.

IP blueprint for a FAST future

Media brands looking to get into the FAST race should adopt an IP-first approach now — or risk falling off the pace. Traditional hardware and staff-intensive workflows built around fiber and satellite transport don’t provide the flexibility to launch FAST channels quickly. With inherent two-way data transfer capabilities and near-infinite scalability, an IP-enabled transmission network underpins today’s multi-platform distribution needs and is fundamental to unlocking digital monetization opportunities.

All media companies are aware of the emerging FAST opportunity — and some are already seeing the rewards come to fruition. However, many organizations are still finding their feet with FAST, experimenting with different content strategies to grow their audiences. Media providers need to increase their FAST viewership to maximize ad value — the bigger the audience, the hungrier the ad buyers. Delivering high-quality live and local content is an effective strategy to draw viewers in and make sure they stick around. LTN understands this, and we know how to make it a reality through advanced cloud technologies and a growth-oriented, partner-centric approach. That’s why major international broadcasters partner with us to fuel their digital distribution strategy — and put them out in front in the FAST lane.