We live in a FAST world. By the end of June, there were about 1,500 free, ad-supported streaming television channels—the 21st century version of syndicated cable. According to data from Stream Metrics, these channels belong to around 20 US providers.
In a study by Stream Metrics for IndieWire, analysts identified an owner for 1,364 channels. Most owners are in the single digits, but one company owns more than 20 percent of the channels studied: Paramount Global.
Paramount-owned Pluto TV is credited with creating 156 unique FAST channels; Paramount proper has another 129. Next Spanish-language media company Televisa, with 45, followed by Warner Bros. Discovery with 32.
The vast majority of Paramount-attributed FAST TV channels are created, programmed, distributed, and operated by Pluto TV, but are differentiated by specific Paramount IPs (e.g. a “Star Trek” channel, a “CSI” channel, etc.).
Whatever they’re called, they create a lot of revenue for Paramount Global. Dealings with third-party platforms involve licensing fees or a split of advertising sales, or a combination of both. Either way, the cash infusion is useful at a desperate time: Paramount’s overall direct-to-consumer business, which includes Pluto TV (and Paramount+, Showtime’s endangered OTT app, BET+, and Noggin) lost more than half a billion dollars in the first quarter of 2023 alone. The company reports its second-quarter numbers on Aug. 7.
The FAST landscape is vast because the concept quickly became big business. It’s easy too. All you need to build a FAST channel is a library, a strategy for programming it in as broad or niche a way as you want, and a platform that will make a licensing deal.
If you are Paramount/Pluto TV, you can take it to the next level. Paramount has so many channels in part because it has its own platform with Pluto TV, which launched in 2013 and was bought by Paramount (later ViacomCBS) in 2019. This allows Paramount to launch as many channels as it wants, without the licensing fees and counting advertising dollars. He needs that reliable cash; the main streaming service Paramount+, like so many others in the SVOD category, hemorrhages mountains of cash.
Much more recently, Warner Bros. Discovery entered FAST with the packaging of “Westworld” and other high-profile HBO shows on channels licensed to Roku and Tubi. Now that the company has completed the Max rollout, executives want to roll out WBD’s FAST service.
Fifth among owners is another Spanish-language provider, Vix, with 31 unique channels. Comcast’s Xumo, which would become Peacock at one point (before Peacock became Peacock), has 29 channels; FilmRise has 26.
Find the top 20 as of June 30, 2023 below.
Top 20 owners of exclusive FAST channels
1. Pluto TV: 156 unique channels
2. Paramount: 129 unique channels
3. Televisa – 45 unique channels
4. Warner Bros. Discovery: 32 exclusive channels
5. VIX: 31 unique channels
6. Xumo: 29 unique channels
7. FilmRise: 26 unique channels
8. iHeartMedia: 25 unique channels
9. Vizio: 23 unique channels
10. (tie) Cineverse: 22 unique channels
10. (tie) Xite: 22 unique channels
12. A+E Networks: 21 unique channels
13. Local Now: 20 unique channels
14. NBCUniversal: 19 unique channels
15. Fremantle: 18 unique channels
16. Amazon: 17 Unique Channels (FreeVee Advertises Five More)
17. UMG, Sony, EMI: 16 unique channels
18. BBC: 14 unique channels
19. (tie) AMC Networks: 13 unique channels
19. (tie) Sony: 13 unique channels
Other notables that nearly cracked the Top 20 include Lionsgate (10 channels), Fox (nine channels), and Disney and Roku, both with eight unique channels.
NBCUniversal is expected to jump several spots in the ratings soon. On June 29, the company announced that it will be launching nearly 50 new FAST channels on FreeVee and Xumo. Those aren’t out and active yet, and thus aren’t counted here.
The NBCU push will also propel Amazon’s FreeVee to the top of the US FAST channel provider chart. The former IMDbTV currently ranks eighth in hosted channels.
In the first place there is Plex.tv, with a whopping 438 channels available (they’re not necessarily unique and only six are owned). Roku is second with 395, Pluto TV is third with 358, Sling Freestream has 355, and Xumo Play completes the top 5 with 309 channels. See the top 10 below.
Top 10 most popular US providers of FAST channels
1. Plex Live TV: 438 channels
2. Roku Live TV: 395 channels
3. Pluto TV Live TV: 358 channels
4.Sling Freestream Live TV: 355 channels
5. Xumo Play: 309 channels
6. Vizio WatchFree+ Live: 295 channels
7. LG TV Live Channels: 285 channels
8. Freevee Live TV: 265 channels
9. Samsung TV Plus Live: 262 channels
10. Live TV Tubes: 236 channels