How Local News Is Driving FAST Growth 

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Note: The following is based upon content from Variety Intelligence Platform’s special report devoted to exploring free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST), available exclusively to subscribers.

One of the biggest drivers in the ongoing increase in available FAST channels is the news genre.  

This can be expected to contribute to grow. There are currently close to 200 local news TV stations with FAST channels. According to Pew Research, there were 839 local news stations in the U.S. in 2021, so there is ample room for local news’ continued FAST expansion. 

Of course, there are other news formats besides local. FAST offers 22 international-news channels, with news available from India, China, Latin America, Europe and the UK. There are also 20 national-news FAST channels, with channels available from NBC News, ABC News, CBS News and Fox News (note that this is not affiliated with the Fox News Channel). 

News channels can take several different forms on FAST. Some, such as “CNN Replay,” show headlines on a clip or highlight format. Others, like “NBC News Now,” “Bloomberg Television” and numerous local networks maintain a live stream or live stream interspersed with repeated blocks.  

Others still, such as NBC News’ local channels (e.g., “NBC New York News”), show the content that aired on TV but with an enforced delay, likely to maintain the lucrative retrans fee business for as long as possible. This has some drawbacks, notably weather forecasts being given for periods already passed. 

Not all FAST services rely on news equally. Some, like Very Local, Haystack News, News by Fire TV and NewsOn are primarily news-oriented, as was Tubi when it first launched. Local Now offers a large number of local channels but these account for only around one-sixth of available channels on that service. Others offer a good selection of national news and a few affiliates from big cities only. 

When looking at the most-distributed news channels, it immediately stands out how the brands from traditional TV-news powerhouses, while present, have some ways to go to catch up on the presence of some of the newer players.  

The new streaming reality is that viewers have the services they use and are not going to add a new service to the mix just to watch a FAST channel unavailable on the platforms already in use. For that reason, the likes of “CBS News,” “ABC News Live,” “NBC News Now,” and “Live Now From Fox”—which didn’t even make it onto the most distributed list—need to boost their strategy. 

There are also a number of big media brands yet to make a play in FAST News. CNBC does have FAST channels on Peacock, but these are entertainment-based. Traditional media brands like New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal as well as digital giants like BuzzFeed and Huffington Post all should be considering launching FAST channels, especially given that these can be lucrative revenue spinners

Combined with the likelihood that there will be at least 100 more local news channels launching FAST channels, if not many more than that, news will continue to be one of the fastest growing genres within FAST for the near future. 

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