Carlyn Staudt, global general manager at Love Nature, discusses the opportunities presented by increasingly competitive FAST channels and AVOD platforms.
If you’re not totally clear on the nuances of free streaming platforms, but have been nodding along for the last several months, you’re not alone. Now, more than ever, the way we talk about free streaming is changing and evolving to meet the needs of audiences and feed the growing appetite for accessible programming.
Historically, the term AVOD was a catch-all way of describing what has now become a bigger ecosystem, where content is still free-of-charge and ad-supported, but offers a variety of unique viewing experiences. This means different programming strategies for each service and, for those in the content business, different ways to approach them.
AVOD and FAST are often confused as the same thing. And it’s easy to see why. The two offerings are usually served up to consumers side-by-side via their carriers. Add to that the hybrid channels that bring audiences the best of these two worlds.
However, the differences are clear. AVOD (ad-supported video on demand) provides audiences with a customized, lean-in experience where they can cherry pick content, on demand, to suit their interests or complement their overall entertainment portfolio. FAST (free, ad-supported streaming television) is a lot like linear TV. Viewers get to lean back and enjoy a programmed lineup of content that is curated for them, with ads served to them via a traditional linear TV programming model.
Love Nature is a global brand, available in over 300 million households on its linear and streaming platforms. That said, we are focused on our expansion on FAST and AVOD platforms in the US. We see a sweet spot in these platforms, where we can fill a gap for natural history content, and ultimately introduce wildlife and nature programming to a new generation of fans. As one of the first premiere natural history brands to gain significant reach on FAST, we’ve carved out a leadership position in this space. This year is all about giving audiences access to our stories, free-of-charge and introducing ourselves to a broader audience, in particular, a hyper-engaged, younger demographic tapping into wildlife and nature content.
New audiences on emerging platforms
In an environment where audiences are savvy consumers of content—essentially supershoppers—AVOD and FAST platforms superserve niche audiences. Natural history is but one genre alongside reality series, home reno shows, comedy, travel and true crime, and from what we’re seeing, just as clickable. So we’re leaning into a great opportunity to engage with younger audiences who don’t subscribe to traditional linear TV and don’t see the value in subscribing to numerous SVODs, but who are discovering free streaming. A big part of that hinges on our commitment to developing and commissioning a new kind of wildlife and nature content that surprises and inspires them. But more on that in a minute.
For those Gen Xers and Baby Boomers among us, it’s not lost on us that this new free streaming universe feels a lot like the world of cable and satellite specialty channels; providing curated programming lineups that viewers seek out. Advertisers know it too. Free OTT platforms aren’t just an attractive alternative for consumers, they also offer a solid economic business model that advertisers are eager to support and grow.
We think that FASTs are destined to play a key role in the new TV ecosystem and Love Nature wants to be part of the group of channels taking a piece of the advertising spend on these platforms, which will skyrocket as viewing shifts from pay-TV to a FAST ecosystem. According to industry analyst TV(R)EV, by 2026, FAST channels will account for $24bn (30%) of the total $80bn ad spend in the US.
Sweetening the deal
We strive to be a valuable destination for OTT platforms to offer their audiences, and to do that we also work hard at being a best-in-class partner.
As we grow into new markets, localising our content for different languages and viewers is a critical customer service piece. We consider ourselves a one-stop shop for all carriers around the world and can customise our offering to suit the needs of their platform.
Our recent launch on Univision’s Prende TV, as a founding channel partner and the platform’s first wildlife and nature offering, serves as a great example of how we delivered a Spanish-language channel for the platform’s unique US Spanish-speaking audience.
Our entire game plan hinges on amazing content. As AVOD and FAST audiences grow and revenues increase, this space is becoming more competitive and transitioning into destination viewing portals. As such, we don’t think of Love Nature programming as vying for attention against other nature shows, but as living alongside a fulsome offering of go-to, primetime content.
Things are about to get really exciting: we’re committed to developing and creating a new generation of game-changing natural history content. Our editorial vision for Love Nature is to give audiences an experience they can share together and in which they walk away feeling like they made a connection with an animal or nature. We’re doing this by creating content that is relatable and immersive, that shows the emotional side of animals, that embraces diverse stories and that uses new technology and storytelling techniques to offer fresh perspectives.
We predict that in the next five years these platforms will dictate how we as an industry distribute, not just our second-window opportunities, but also our key tent-pole original productions. This creates exciting options for advertisers looking to tap into a coveted audience, while also giving the world free access to our programming that we work so hard to make. There is so much to look forward to if you know where to look.
Carlyn Staudt is global general manager at Love Nature, the Blue Ant Media and Smithsonian Networks joint-venture wildlife and nature brand.