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YouTube, in a bid to take on streaming competitors like Paramount’s Pluto TV and Roku, is offering a select group of users access to free, ad-supported streaming TV channels — also known as “FAST” — on the platform, a company spokesperson confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.
The experiment is running in the U.S. and appears within the movies and TV page on YouTube for participating users. The page otherwise is the central hub where YouTube users can watch free, ad-supported film and TV shows from studios and distributors like Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate and FilmRise, as well as purchase or rent select works.
“We’re always looking for new ways to provide viewers a central destination to more easily find, watch, and share the content that matters most to them,” the YouTube spokesperson said. “We are currently running a small experiment that allows viewers to watch free ad-supported linear channels alongside the wide variety of content we offer on the platform.”
Moving into the FAST landscape would be a natural expansion for the video platform, which accounts for 8 percent of TV viewership and surpasses Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video, among others, according to a Sept. 2022 Nielsen report. FAST channels, which allow users to browse through linear channels and tune into whatever program is already playing, were also given a vote of confidence when Paramount’s Pluto TV brought in enough viewership to account for 1 percent of the pie in the same Nielsen report.
A YouTube FAST offering would also give the company another source of ad revenue, which has seen a decrease in growth amid an overall decline in the ad market for tech companies. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news of the FAST offering.
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