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Tubi streaming service logo 2020

Tubi’s Pitch To Brands Shows Where FAST Services Should Go Next

Like nearly every other streaming service during the pandemic, Fox-owned video service Tubi had a great 2020, viewership of its free, ad-supported offerings jumping 58 percent, to 2.5 billion hours in 2020.

The report, called The Stream: 2021 Actionable Audience Insights for Brands, is basically a pitch to advertisers to spend more of their marketing dollars on the free programming Tubi supplies to its streaming-video viewers.

The report also emphasizes how much younger Tubi’s audience is, 20 years younger on average, than linear TV, and more diverse, with nearly two in five of its viewers people of color, according to the report.

Those all should make Tubi and other AVOD/FAST services a bigger part of marketers’ ad budgets, especially those trying to lock in new consumers and build brand loyalty. At the same time, Tubi acknowledged that ad buys remain skewed toward traditional TV outlets. Old habits die hard, though Tubi’s sure trying to change that.

“This year, streaming should be an always-on touchpoint for advertisers looking to reach incremental audiences outside of their existing linear TV strategy,” said Tubi VP, Marketing Natalie Bastian.

But there are other details of the Tubi report that have implications for the entire sector as it continues to grow and evolve.

Audience reach on Tubi, the biggest of the dedicated FAST services, is about 80 percent more than the top 25 cable networks, a remarkable figure that will only grow as the traditional pay-TV bundle continues to erode.

Also, and I think this is key, Tubi’s audience is relatively unduplicated on other free, ad-supported TV services.

That suggests that viewers of such FAST services – others include Amazon’sAMZN IMDb TV, the Roku Channel, ViacomCBS’ Pluto TV, and Comcast’sCMCSA Xumo and the free tier of Peacock – tend to pick one of them and depend on that for a portion of their TV viewing “diet.”

That has implications for all the FAST services. They may need to consider providing differentiating programming, such as original shows or at least exclusive ones, much as subscription VOD services have discovered over the past year of tightening competition for viewers.

The report also acknowledges challenges for Tubi and the rest of the FAST sector, particularly with “frequency,” how often a viewer sees the same ad. Tubi has spent a lot of resources building its own internal tools to control frequency issues, but frequency becomes a user experience issue for every one of these services if viewers get frustrated seeing the same message several times an hour.

“Ultimately, brand impact and conversion will be heavily influenced by reducing ad fatigue and increasing incremental reach,” the report says.

Other challenges include broadening and diversifying the content on a service, so it can build a loyal long-term audience. Again, reducing churn amid all the competition is a challenge as much or more for the subscription services as for the FASTs. Locked-down viewers continue to exhaust libraries of content even as pandemic restrictions make it more difficult to finish new productions.

The other vital issue suggested by the Tubi report is one of integration between the FASTs and the other components of the corporations that now own just about all of them over the past couple of years.

Fox bought Tubi for $440 million last spring, announcing the deal days after the pandemic first hit the United States in earnest. The deal closed a month later, as watch time skyrocketed for just about every streaming service.

In some ways, that’s good news for the new owners, who get to look really smart for their forethought in getting a piece of a still young sector of streaming.

But the key will be figuring out the new distribution “ladders” for streaming that figure out how to take unique and premium content, and move it through the traditional pay-TV outlets and broadcast, any subscription outlets, and then onto the FASTs for a run.

Tubi and Fox have already begun some of that integration with the company’s other broadcast and cable properties. Most notably, hit reality competition The Masked Singer has proved nearly as successful in re-runs on Tubi as when initially broadcast on the Fox network.

Other Fox reality shows such as I Can See Your Voice and Lego Masters, along with a library of Black Cinema projects, thousands of hours of Spanish-language content, and a significant collection of anime programming also help fill out Tubi’s programming.

If audiences for these FAST services prove to be relatively loyal to one or another of them, then just like their subscription brethren, they’ll need to figure out how to stand out and get viewers to stick around. High-profile properties from the parent companies, and perhaps even original content for the FAST, are likely to be table stakes in the months and years to come.