Elevating FAST Channels: Increase Engagement and Enhance Audience Loyalty through Viewer Interactivity

Geert Faber
ExMachinaGroup
Published in
4 min readJan 3, 2024

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Viewer interaction can boost loyalty, viewing time, and engagement (example integration — copyright owned by respective owners).

The Free, Ad-Supported Television (FAST) channel market is experiencing rapid growth. Despite limited viewership data, there’s a noticeable trend among device manufacturers and media companies, like Samsung, Roku, and Pluto, to develop their own channel bundles. These often include a Program Guide (EPG) and a user-friendly interface for content discovery.

FAST channels revive the linear TV experience by allowing viewers to enjoy content without searching for what to watch next. However, FAST channels lack the recognizability of traditional linear TV, often having no fixed position in the lineup and bearing generic names. Many channels feature continuous reruns of familiar TV formats, offering non-stop entertainment options like ‘Deal or No Deal’, ‘Antiques Roadshow’, and ‘World Poker Tour’.

The industry reports mixed success for FAST channels and their reach. Growth is often quantified in percentages, with little concrete data on viewership, market share, advertising revenue, or operating costs.

Content owners continue launching channels to reach a global audience with their extensive libraries. FAST provides a business model that is less impacted by subscriber churn. In recent months, we have seen diversification beyond just broadcasting old content. Nowadays, viewers can find live news and premium content from networks like AMC and Showtime.

FAST channels must stand out in an expanding market with increasing quality and variety.

Many FAST channels struggle to achieve sustainable viewership. FAST channels must stand out in an expanding market with increasing quality and variety. Once viewers tune in, keeping them engaged and returning is crucial.

Drawing on our extensive experience in creating interactive and engaging experiences for live and linear content, we know that viewer interaction can boost loyalty, viewing time, and engagement.

Adding viewer interactivity to FAST channels

Introducing interactive, gamified elements can help a channel stand out. For example, creating a second-screen play-along experience can significantly increase viewer engagement and loyalty. FAST channels offer the perfect platform for synchronized second-screen features, such as:

  • Providing background information for (local) news.
  • Offering live sports predictions.
  • Enabling play-along options for game shows.
  • Encouraging audience participation in talk shows.
  • Creating shoppable experiences for lifestyle programs.

Channel owners and distribution platforms benefit from these play-along experiences:

  1. Create viewer profiles which are valuable for broadcasters, production companies, and advertisers. This data assists in targeted advertising and provides deeper viewer insights.
  2. Adding play-along features to existing apps or websites can increase downloads and registrations.
  3. These interactions foster loyalty by creating a social and engaging experience, resulting in longer viewing durations and repeat viewers.
  4. A direct connection can inform viewers about new episodes and cross-promote content and channels through email and notifications.
  5. Premium experiences, merchandising, and additional sponsorship or advertising opportunities can create new revenue streams.
  6. Provides an opportunity to upsell viewers to premium subscription services and experiences.

Engaging FAST viewers

Ex Machina has extensive experience in creating successful apps and websites that enable viewer participation. Our platform has supported play-along experiences for talent shows, game shows, elections, live sports, and many more formats.

We develop projects on PlayTwo, our platform that serves as a technology foundation for real-time interactive projects. It provides all the tools to manage trivia, polls, interstitials, shopping, and other interactions during the broadcast.

Audio synchronization ensures that all participants stay in sync with the broadcast, despite platform latency or device differences. The app or website recognizes the broadcast audio and syncs interactions with the correct moment.

Drive awareness of interactive play-along experiences by adding QR codes to broadcasts, including lower-third explanations, and inserting promotional videos during ad breaks.

Loyalty badges, rewards, and leaderboards (both global and friend-based) add a competitive, gamified dimension, boosting viewer excitement and participation.

Ready to add interactivity to your FAST channel?

Ready to add interactivity to your FAST channel?

Contact us if you’re considering adding interactivity to your FAST channel. Ex Machina offers the technology and expertise to launch a second screen experience for your FAST channel, from trivia to shoppable experiences.

The largest broadcasters, gaming, and entertainment companies trust our experience in developing high-quality solutions to engage millions of fans and viewers.

Contact us or visit our website for more information.

Family watching TV on a couch.
Viewer interaction can boost loyalty, viewing time, and engagement.

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Geert Faber
ExMachinaGroup

I work at @exmachinagroup with game publishers and media companies to create engaging and interactive formats. Predicts the @endoftelevision as we know it.