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FAST services add channels but discovery remains a problemnScreenMedia

The FAST market continues to attract new content and competitors. The latest examples are linear channel additions for Amazon Freevee and Google TV, though search and discovery remain problematic.

Tubi, The Roku Channel, and Pluto TV are the top three made-for-TV FASTs

FAST services continue to grow in the US market. According to new research from PCH Consumer Insights and Evan Shapiro, YouTube remains the dominant free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service in the US, with 31.1% of 18-54-year-olds using it each month. However, among services made for TV, Tubi is the most popular (11.3%), and The Roku Channel (10.2%) is just behind. Pluto and Freevee also have a significant presence in the market.

All providers in the FAST market are working on expanding the content available in their services. The linear channel format is a particular area of focus for providers, with Google TV joining the ever-increasing list of FAST linear providers.

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Monthly 18-54 users of FAST services in the US

Google TV adds built-in channels and integrates third-party services

Devices powered by TV OSs like Samsung Tizen, Roku OS, and TiVo OS come with a large selection of built-in FAST linear channels. No app installations or logins are required to watch the channels. All the user needs to do is connect Wi-Fi to the smart TV, and they can start watching linear TV. Google TV was the odd OS out until today.

Google TV announced the availability of a suite of channels built into the Live Guide; no app installations are required. In addition, users can now integrate channels from Plex, Tubi, and Haystack News into the live guide once the apps are installed. Pluto TV was already integrated into the Live Guide. If users install all the supported apps, they can browse over 800 channels in the Live Guide.

Google TV linear channel discovery is a challenge

While the availability of such a wide variety of channels is great for viewers, finding a particular channel is not as easy. Google describes searching the channels this way:

“The new TV guide brings all your new free TV channels together and organizes them for easier and faster browsing.”

And browsing is the principal tool at the disposal of users to find a channel to watch. The interface does provide genre groups of channels, including Reality, News and Opinion, and Crime. Selecting a group advances the guide listing to channels in that group.[i]   Users can also favorite a channel, which moves it to the top of the channel. However, when it comes down it, a user is browsing up and down the guide, just like cable TV from 20 years ago.

Using voice search to find channels is a non-starter. Searches mostly return titles from YouTube or installed streaming apps like Netflix or Paramount+, not channels in the live guide. And if you have an antenna hooked up to your Google TV-powered device, those channels do not appear in the live guide, and you’ll need to rely on a separate TV guide to find them.

Freevee gets three new Cinedigm channels, adds voice search

In general, younger people use FAST services more than old. The biggest exception is Freevee, where 4.6% of 18-44-year-olds said they use it monthly versus 5.5% of 45-54-year-olds. The service is trying to appeal to all age groups with its latest channel additions.

Cinedigm has expanded the reach of three of its most popular channels by making them available on Amazon Freevee. RetroCrush (anime), The Dove Channel (family-friendly entertainment,) and Docurama (documentary) join other channels, like Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting, and The Elvis Presley Channel, on Freevee.

Freevee is tightly integrated with Prime Video and Fire TV devices. Its channels are included as a separate row on the “Live Tab,” along with all the other live services available on the platform. There is also a live guide – which used to include antenna TV until the company discontinued the Replay DVR.

Unlike Google TV, voice search now includes the linear channels in Freevee. A user can say “Play RetroCrush,” and the channel is included in the list of returned results, though it is below on-demand offerings. It is also disappointing that the voice command didn’t automatically play the Freevee channel. That said, it is a big improvement from last year when linear channels were not included in searches.

[i] I was not able to see the channel groups on my Chromecast with Google TV or my Sony Google TV, although I was able to browse the channels on both devices.


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