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How to Deliver a Great FAST App Experience

Do apps and other out-of-home endpoints matter in Free Ad-Supported TV (FAST)? Matthew Durgin, Sr. Director, North American Innovation and Development Team, LG discusses this topic with Patrick Courtney, SVP, Head of Digital & Business Development, Fuse Media, and Ryan Spicer, Chief Revenue Officer, Atmosphere in this clip from their panel at Streaming Media East 2023.

Durgin begins by remarking on the advantages of FAST from both a technological and content standpoint. “It's interesting how FAST is still something that's relevant for people that don't want to build apps and also relevant for people who build apps,” he says. He asks Patrick Courtney, “Fuse has some great experiences, a lot of choices for consumers, and you've been investing in FAST to add to that suite of offerings. How's that changed your company?”

“Very significantly in a very short amount of time,” Courtney says. “We still are a pay TV cable business. We have two cable channels, and that business is great.  But we also see that viewership is spanning different devices, and so we saw a little bit of a blip with what was going on in FAST. So we kind of dipped our toes in, and I think our first FAST channel launched in 2018.” He says that as others have noted, streaming growth expanded during the pandemic. “So we've been looking at it every quarter or so, seeing how things are growing, and then investing more in that. And now we've gone from one channel to five. We've got a couple more that we'll we're going to be announcing soon. And it just continues to exceed our expectations in terms of the performance of that viewership and then where the monetization is going. The advertising industry is moving into connected TV in a really big way. And so we're responding to that.”

Courtney says that because Fuse is a more traditionally oriented TV company, they had a built-in advantage with launching FAST channels because they treated them like any other broadcast channel. “We have a scheduling team, programing team, and a research team to do all of that. We've been doing that for years now. And now that's really making a big difference in that space. But we still balance that with pay TV and subscription and digital content, [our] YouTube channel, and social.” In this sense, Courtney says that apps and other ways of delivering content is essential in the current marketplace. “You just have to start acting a lot more like a startup,” he says. “You have all of these different endpoints you have to be in, but you just have to figure out how to do it with a lot more agility.”

Durgin mentions that the shift from pandemic lockdown in-home viewing has experienced a dramatic drop after restrictions were lifted, and now platforms must make it easy for viewers to watch programming anywhere, a “digital out of home” approach.

Ryan Spicer says, “To be honest, I recoil a little bit from the idea of ‘digital out of home.’ Only because…that carries a lot of legacy understanding of what that means for a business. I think you could safely say that nearly every single streaming FAST platform is focused on how to gain consumers’ attention when they're inside their home. And that's a tough battle right now.”

He emphasizes that the “streaming wars” are over, since all in-home viewership has flattened, and subscription churn rates are up for everyone. “We're basically where the telcos are,” he says. “They're just trying to trade and reduce churn, and at Atmosphere, at our inception, the idea was everyone's worried about when people watch television at home, [but] there's a lot of moments where people are watching television outside their home or could be enjoying that experience of watching television outside their home. And so why don't we program to that? That's what Atmosphere has done. We program content bespoke for the moment that you're sitting outside your home. And that includes sports, entertainment, it includes the best of the viral content that you'd otherwise watch on your phone. But it gives us an opportunity to meet consumers at that moment when they're in a bar, a restaurant, a medical office, another retail environment, a gym, a salon or a spa. I spent 20 years at two major media companies, and what attracted me to Atmosphere was the idea of actually solving for a problem that people hadn't started to identify yet, which is no one's made content to meet that moment.”

Learn more about a wide range of streaming industry topics at Streaming Media Connect 2023.

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