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US FAST sector update, Q3 2023

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US FAST sector update, Q3 2023

The free ad-supported TV race in the US continued to heat up in the third quarter as channel counts continued to grow for many platforms. The 13 platforms tracked by Kagan averaged 333 channels each, with entertainment programming the dominant genre except for Local Now and Tubi where news channels accounted for the majority of total available channels.

While free ad-supported TV (FAST) channel counts for most services have grown swiftly in 2022 and 2023, some of those gains have been fueled by the same channel becoming available at multiple services. Channel owners typically deploy their channels as widely as possible across numerous platforms versus their channels being exclusive to a single platform.

Channel exclusivity varied widely across services in the third quarter, ranging from Local Now with 61% of channels exclusive to its platform and not found on another service assessed by Kagan to Vizio WatchFree+, where just 10% of channels were exclusive to that platform.

Channels that were available across 10 or more platforms in the third quarter were a varied list, led by "beIN Sports Xtra" and "Cheddar," which were each found at 12 services. Entertainment, news and sports genres were each represented among widely available channels as were single IP offerings such as "The Bob Ross Channel," "Forensic Files," "Unsolved Mysteries" and "Heartland."

Paramount Global's Pluto TV and Fox Corp.'s Tubi have emerged as the top US FAST services by revenue, although their respective parents, Paramount and Fox, have charted different strategic paths for each service. Pluto TV topped 300 channels over a year ago and primarily relies on entertainment programming. Tubi, on the other hand, leans more heavily into news programming and carries local news channel feeds for Fox stations and from stations owned by Hearst Television Inc., The E.W. Scripps Co., TEGNA Inc. and others.

Pluto TV's total channel count rose by 9.1% in the third quarter of 2023 versus the third quarter of 2022, with the addition of 36 entertainment channels offsetting a small year-over-year decline for both news and sports channels. Tubi's channel count more than doubled over the same period as entertainment, news and sports programming each grew significantly.

Channel data was collected during September 2023 and reflects channels available in the US when accessing services with a PC and browser. Channel lineups change frequently and available channels may vary depending on viewer location and the device used to access services. Total available channels for Samsung TV Plus, LG Channels and Vizio WatchFree+ may vary when accessed via a browser or app versus when viewed natively through Samsung, LG and Vizio televisions, respectively.

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