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Free streaming services: Why popularity is forecast to surge in the next 12 months

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September 5, 2023 | 5 min read

The television landscape is no stranger to regime changes

Linear programming originally dominated the airwaves; viewers only had to worry about scrolling through a handful of channels to find what to watch. Over the last decade this has given way to the age of streaming, which has exponentially grown the amount of programs to watch.

But extensive content libraries alone aren’t enough to propel streaming platforms through the current difficult economic climate unscathed. Consumers are being particularly wary about their outgoings. And whilst this hasn’t threatened television’s position at the heart of the modern household, it has driven a shift in how viewers are spreading their time across different platforms.

Samsung Ads’s latest report, 'Is TV Just TV?' observed viewers’ current perceptions and habits around watching TV. One of the key takeaways was that viewership across free streaming services is due to increase by 30% over the next 12 months, ranking second for all television services. There are a number of factors driving this growth:

  • Improved content quality
  • Seamless viewing experiences
  • Relevant, targeted ads

Public perception of free streaming services - including free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) and advertising video-on-demand (AVOD) - is improving. Viewers are drawn to their ease of access and usability. And with Smart TV penetration continuing to increase, this trend is only going in one direction; up.

Improved content quality

Content, not format, is now the greatest differentiator for consumers according to Samsung Ads’ latest research. More than half (55%) of viewers said that wanting to watch a specific program was the most important motivation for tuning-in to either linear and on-demand services.

With viewers on the hunt for premium shows, it’s important to note FAST channels’ shift in programming. The notion that these services are home solely to popular (but old fashioned) re-runs is outdated. Is TV Just TV? reported that 64% of viewers believe that content quality on FAST channels is improving.

Samsung’s own FAST service - Samsung TV Plus - epitomizes the changing of the guard. Investment in high-profile programs such as Schitt’s Creek (previously only accessible to UK viewers via Netflix’s paid service) and MasterChef UK are ensuring that Samsung TV Plus’s content is more accessible, whilst maintaining a reputation for premium content.

Samsung TV Plus’s evolution has also capitalized on emerging macro trends - including consumers’ desire for more in-depth sports coverage. Samsung recently partnered with FIFA to launch its new FAST channel on Samsung TV Plus. The launch, coinciding with the start of the Women’s World Cup, offered access to both original content - including player interviews and docuseries - as well as highlights and archive footage.

Today’s viewers aren’t hung up on which TV platform (be it traditional linear or streaming service) they are using. Rather, it’s content that is driving them towards particular offerings.

But where does discoverability factor into unlocking higher viewership?

Seamless viewing experiences

The proliferation of content, and ways to watch, has left 65% of viewers frustrated shortly after being unable to find something to watch, according to Samsung Ad’s research, highlighting the need for better tools to aid with discovery.

Viewers crave convenience - and this is where Samsung’s role as original equipment manufacturer (OEM) pays dividends. The 1st Screen Masthead, a high-impact ad unit, ensures viewers see personalized recommendations from the moment they turn on their Samsung Smart TV. What's more, Samsung’s Universal Guide - a discovery engine on Samsung TV home screens, pulls in viewers’ favorite shows, movies and music from live TV and different streaming apps and collates them onto one easy-to-browse platform.

The desire for seamlessness also factors into FAST’s soaring popularity. Samsung TV Plus offers laid back viewing experiences that feature traditional linear-esque programming that viewers are familiar with - as well as the on-demand options that have become a staple of the streaming landscape.

Relevant, targeted ads for better brand perception

It isn’t just the lack of subscription that drives audiences to FAST in their droves.

Fragmentation has become commonplace; viewers jump across platforms as they follow their favorite content. Advertisers have to acknowledge the shifting viewership landscape. Adopting a holistic multi-channel approach is the catalyst to optimizing their advertising strategy and ensuring it consistently resonates with the desired audience.

Leveraging FAST can also be the key to unlocking improved perception. Brands that use streaming-based advertising are seen as five times more modern and innovative in contrast to brands that appear in non-streaming environments.

These feelings are even more pronounced among 18-34 year old viewers (eight times and five times respectively). Advertisers have a golden opportunity to leverage FAST to connect with tech-savvy, younger audiences.

TV is just TV in the eyes of the viewer

Today’s viewers don’t bother with the acronyms that send even the most seasoned industry professional into a spin. Rather, their behavior is dictated by their content preferences. And this is putting FAST in a position to flourish for years to come. Its ability to blend the best of both old (linear) and new (on-demand) sets it a world apart.

Download Samsung Ads’ ‘Is TV Just TV? ‘ report here.

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