Disney+ Is Reportedly Getting in the FAST Lane

Disney+ plans to launch new linear-TV-like channels with Star Wars or Marvel shows, according to a report from The Information. But don’t call them FAST channels, because considering the Disney+ subscription price, they wouldn’t be free.

First things first: IndieWire went straight to the source, a spokesperson for Disney’s streaming business, to inquire. The spokesperson declined comment. Shoot.

So then we went straight to the guy who coined the FAST acronym — it stands for Free, ad-Supported Streaming Television — for his opinion on the report.

Alan Wolk has been yelling (OK, strongly suggesting) at SVOD (Streaming Video On-Demand — not Wolk’s acronym) services to roll out preprogrammed channels for years now. It’s FAST without the free; it’s broadcast and cable TV without the cord. Programmers set a 24/7 schedule of owned and licensed content, one after another in whatever order, and they will come. Who’s “they”? Folks who don’t want to go fishing for the perfect series or film. Bring them a good stream (on a good theme) and watch the advertising revenue pile up.

That’s where the curation comes in — the tighter the better. Last week, the famed Criterion Collection’s SVOD platform Criterion Channel launched a Criterion 24/7 feature. Think of Criterion 24/7 like a cordless Turner Classic Movies. Drop in anytime day or night and you’ll enter a piece of cinema history, already in progress. The Criterion Collection is arguably more exclusive than TCM and, as the New York Times recently argued, membership in it may be a better indicator of quality than even the Oscars.

If Criterion can do it, so can Disney. And so, by the way, have Paramount+ and Peacock.

“It just makes so much sense for all of them from so many angles,” Wolk told IndieWire on Tuesday. “To begin with, consumers seem to like linear channels— we’ve seen as much with the success of linear channels on FAST services.”

A quick interjection here for the sake of journalism and fairness. Much of the population doesn’t “seem to like” linear channels THAT much, Alan — just look at the cord-cutting rate. And according to Nielsen’s monthly The Gauge report, which came out on Tuesday, broadcast television in March represented just 22.5 percent of all TV usage, down 6 percent from February. Cable, buoyed by March Madness basketball, nabbed 28.3 percent.

Streaming (including FAST) made up 38.5 percent of all TV usage. Catch-all category “Other” finished the pie off with 10.7 percent.

A lot of the usage of streaming apps is the part where you hunt for content. Many folks give up before even picking a show or a movie. In lieu of the perfect recommendation algorithm (sorry Netflix, not yet), the analysis paralysis is real.

“Don’t discount how much people dislike having to make decisions every time they are watching,” Wolk said. “Say they want to watch a few episodes of ‘The Simpsons.’ [It’s] much easier to watch on a linear channel than having to pick a new episode every 22 minutes.”

There’s, ah, 762 episodes of “The Simpsons” — maybe do let Hulu (now on Disney+!) pick for you. Or just search: “Marge vs. the Monorail” and get in on the Conan O’Brien love fest currently (and refreshingly) taking over social media.

A female who has orange skin with white markings, blue-and-white striped head tails, and holds two white lightsabers; still of Ahsoka Tano in

But we take Wolk’s point. As does Paramount’s Pluto TV, which continues to rake in big money in the FAST space while the company’s other streaming service sputters. (Yes, we recognize the hypocrisy here: We, through Wolk, are pushing SVOD services to add linear channels to save themselves. Paramount+ is failing with that very setup, and Peacock isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire either.)

Along with the recent gains seen from password-sharing crackdowns, streamers are vying for advertising revenue and increased engagement. Linear channels, which Wolk says “keep people watching longer,” can take care of both. Plus, what better way to get your huge and otherwise hidden archives some new love?

“Too often people feel that since they are paying for a service, they should only watch the originals,” Wolk said. Linear channels (on streaming services) are a “great option to break consumers of that habit while also showcasing the depths of their libraries.”

Wolk thinks FAST channels (he prefers “linear channels” so as to not be confused with FAST services: Pluto, Tubi, Vizio WatchFree+, LG Channels, The Roku Channel et al.) “makes sense” for both Disney+ and its sibling, Hulu.

“Disney+ has all those IP properties and I suspect they are hoping to lure in those fans, maybe test it out,” he said. “But Hulu has a lot more traditional library content and can create single show (‘single IP’) channels and genre channels.”

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SOURCE: Indie Wire

About Michael Zotos 400 Articles
Founder and owner of Performer.com/Performer Media LLC, a multimedia content creator for a variety of national plus local print & electronic media affiliates.