There has never been a better time to reap the rewards of FAST content distribution. With subscription overwhelm and the first-ever Netflix subscriber downturn, viewers and analysts alike have turned their attention to the quickly-growing FAST arena. If you have a content catalog and want to join them, follow the steps below.

1. Ascertain your audience

Before anything else, work out where your content will best perform. Initial desk research can indicate where you should push and save you significant time and money in the long run. Look at existing FAST channels using similar content: where are they gaining traction? From your current viewer analytics, which of your content is performing well enough to indicate wider release would be savvy? Consider any demographics your content speaks to particularly well and how users in these groups prefer to access their media. 

2. Decide your theme

FAST channels have themes or genres that link their content together. Before launching, think carefully about how your content fits together for marketing and viewing purposes. Popular channels have topics as broad as an overall genre (e.g., a documentary or thriller channel) or as specific as one show (e.g., Unsolved Mysteries), subject (e.g., Weddings), or studio (e.g., Gusto TV).  

A selection of Pluto TV channels.

3. Choose your FAST platform(s)

Unless you already have a significant, established digital media space (and the capacity to launch content across apps, desktops, and smart sticks), you will need to partner with an existing FAST platform such as Pluto TV, Tubi, or Samsung TV. These platforms take a proportion of your advertising revenue but expose your content to millions of users in return. Crucially, they make set-up painless compared with the bottlenecks and unseen snags of attempting to build your own viewing and hosting solution. When choosing a platform, consider whether it covers ad insertion and strategy. Also, check whether you need to sort your own channel origination (services can do this for you quickly, or you can host your own in the cloud). Depending on your partnership, you might set up an exclusive channel or one that runs across several platforms.

4. Check your content meets the requirements

Deciding to use a FAST platform means you must meet particular content prerequisites. Platforms require a minimum of 100 hours of content for a channel, and you will need to commit to refreshing this throughout the year. When distributing in a foreign market, ensure you adhere to local rules. Aim for a channel that mixes original local content and localized catalog content for the best results. Increasingly, platforms will only accept localized content dubbed into the target language (a requirement software like Papercup can help you meet). 

5. Gain traction with marketing

If you were rolling out a new TV channel, you wouldn’t launch it quietly in the night, or no one would know to search it out. The same is true of your new FAST service. “One of the biggest challenges today with FAST channels and services is content discovery,” says Rob Gambino, Director of Playout Solutions at Harmonic. Launching your channel now rather than later is the best way to avoid this headache (it's much easier to grow viewership on channel 7 compared to channel 432). However, that doesn’t mean you can sleep on marketing strategy.  

Desk research is helpful here - where do your target consumers spend their time? To what forms of advertising do they respond? Digital is likely to be most effective and cheaper than billboards or subway ads. Some FAST platforms offer package deals that include feed promotion, which you can weigh up using an ROI cost/benefit analysis. 

Your marketing strategy should also help build an idea of your channel and its flavor of content. Viewing expectations for the Discovery Channel are very different from HBO, for example, where viewers expect prestige post-watershed drama. If you have carefully curated a theme, make it central to your promotion. 

Creating a FAST channel can be a surprisingly straightforward process and a super-effective way of monetizing your content catalog. Pay adequate upfront attention to your audience, content requirements, and FAST partnership, and you'll be launching live in no time.