VIP+ Webinar: Data for Winning in FAST

In the rapidly morphing world of entertainment consumption, FAST is living up to its name. 

Free ad-supported streaming television is rapidly seeing more companies seek to maximize their content libraries by creating viewing destinations that cater to users with specific interests. And audiences are responding, actively seeking out channels, viewing their ads — making media companies’ entry into the FAST category a no-brainer. 

Wurl, the leading independent FAST channel creator and CTV advertising solutions firm, partnered with Variety Intelligence Platform on a four-part webinar series, “FAST Forward,” to explore different facets of the once unforeseen sector. In part 4, “Data for Winning in FAST,” VIP+ senior media analyst Gavin Bridge sits down with Kevin Cross, a partner at telecommunications service provider Condista, Wurl technology SVP Yuval Fisher and Jennah James, who heads up data strategy for Trusted Media Brands.

Since data is key to capturing any audience, the questions are clear for both entertainment leaders or even those seeking entry into the FAST market: How prevalent is the availability of relevant data, which findings truly correlate to growth, and what is the best way to compile external FAST measurement? 

Data collection has come a long way from what Wurl’s Fisher — a self-described data nerd — calls FAST’s “Jurassic period,” where one person would literally hand-enter results into a spreadsheet. Still, some stats can be hard to put a finger on. Bridge wonders why it’s still so messy for reporting audiences when the viewership numbers matter so much for enticing advertisers. 

Fisher points out how imprecise the seemingly requisite — and often inflated — MAUs can be. “Wurl found out that 75% of [viewing] sessions are less than four seconds long … so two well-meaning service providers who want to measure monthly active users and do it in a slightly different way are going to come up with wildly different numbers.” 

Another obstacle to obtaining precise data is inherent in the nature of FAST. It’s fast, and it’s free, and there’s no one unique identifier for who is watching what. Trusted Media Brands operates — and wrangles data — across a wide range of platforms and labels, including Taste of Home, Reader’s Digest and Family Handyman and its 2021 distributed video acquisition, Jukin Media, often using research from Wurl. James says in the end, as the industry shakes itself out, each provider just needs its own metric to stay consistent in its research delivery.

Condista’s Cross acknowledges the potential for wiggly findings when it comes to MAUs but notes it’s the unique nature of the format that yields telling stats. “We receive a fair amount of data in the FAST space that frankly we’re not accustomed to receiving in the traditional cable or satellite space. It’s been a bit of a revelation.” 

Wurl partners with FAST creators of all ilk. “We process about 15 billion raw records of data every day,” Fisher says, including across CDNs [content delivery networks] and ad servers to suss out monetization, impressions, sessions, user behavior and various other forms of engagement. 

As for the most requested data findings among channel creators, that is indeed consistent. On its most basic level, Fisher adds, “Everybody wants to understand the number of viewers they have and the hours of engagement, but if you’re data driven, there’s a kind of endless cornucopia of value that [providers] can derive.” 

So when it comes to the evolution and the potential of FAST, it really is all in the numbers — and this session of VIP+’s “FAST Forward” webinar series offers invaluable insights straight from the experts. And if you missed the leadup to this session, replay part one, “What Is FAST?; part two, “FAST Marketplace”; and part three, “How to Fast.”