Branded entertainment vet Stuart McLean has launched FAST Studios, a new business aiming to capitalize on the quickly growing programming sector known as FAST — free, ad-supported television channels.
As more companies aim to launch their own FAST channels to be distributed on platforms such as ViacomCBS’ Pluto TV and Comcast’s Xumo, FAST Studios is pitching itself as an investor and operator to handle day-to-day services like scheduling, marketing, distribution and ad sales.
“I think the reality now of these FAST channels, with technology today, just about anybody can start a channel,” McLean said. “But you need at least ten new jobs to run that channel. You need your programming department, you need your marketing department, you need your distribution department, ad sales, all of those traditional roles now are important because you need to support a 24/7 linear channel.
“We have executives that have experience in scheduling and programming channels, we’ve got executives who have great experience in dealing with brands and sponsorships and ad sales or bringing in really strong distribution team,” he added. “The goal is to allow the library owners, the content makers, to focus on creating great programming.”
McLean co-founded the streaming workflow platform MuxIP, which powers FAST channels. The company’s leadership team also includes FAST Studios president Charlie Windisch-Graetz, and marketing/operations lead Kent Rees. The company’s board of directors includes Rocco Benetton, Alex Ramlie and Michael Montgomery.
The focus on the FAST space comes as entities like Pluto TV tout record user growth — so much that co-founder Tom Ryan was recently promoted to head up all of ViacomCBS’ streaming interests (including the upcoming Paramount Plus relaunch). Other media entities like A+E Networks and AMC Networks are also busy launching several new FAST channels, utilizing content from their program libraries.
“There seemed to be this really interesting opportunity to start to take a look at the linear channel space,” McLean said. “Now that the big kind of mega media companies are gobbling up the more established platforms, to us this feels like the early days of cable.”
McLean said he believed the FAST channels would soon look and feel like regular linear cable channels, which is his pitch for why FAST Studios can help entities without a channel infrastructure get into the game. “What goes into a channel is much more sophisticated than it’s ever been and certainly will need to be moving forward to compete,” he said. “And the audience expects it now. I mean, obviously, this is how at least 50% of the world wants to view television. We anticipate that all the channels and certainly all the channels we’re looking at will really replicate cable-level quality in terms of everything from programming to coming up next on-air promos and all those things that go into making a cable channel look great.”