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Fubo readies free tier to keep former subscribers engaged

The plan, called Fubo Free, will include over 100 FAST channels and is aimed at reaching subscribers who churn out in the off-season.

The plan, called Fubo Free, will include over 100 FAST channels and is aimed at reaching subscribers who churn out in the off-season.

Fubo's live television service is widely supported on connected TV devices as well as phones, tablets and computers.
Fubo’s live television service is widely supported on connected TV devices as well as phones, tablets and computers. (Courtesy image, Graphic designed by The Desk)

Fubo is working on a no-cost version of its streaming television service that will include more than 100 free, ad-supported TV (FAST) channels.

The platform, tentatively named Fubo Free, will include the same FAST channels that are already available in Fubo’s subscription service, which starts at $80 per month before taxes and regional sports fees. It will also offer FAST channels that are programmed or supported by Fubo itself, including Maximum Effort Channel and Fubo Sports Network.

The platform is intended to help address customer churn by keeping former subscribers of Fubo’s pay TV service engaged with the product, the company’s CEO David Gandler said at a recent industry event.

Gandler affirmed Fubo is “a very expensive product,” one that is primarily focused on curating live sports programming from partner channels like ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS, ESPN, Fox Sports 1, CBS Sports Network and BeIN Sports. Streamers who sign up for the service are more likely to end their subscription when their favorite sport ends for the year.

“So the idea is, we’ve already paid the acquisition cost, why not attempt to keep people within the ecosystem?” Gandler said, referring to the investment made in onboarding FAST channels. “So, if we can create a service that can dynamically keep people engaged during the off-season that allows us to recirculate traffic, drive revenue, engagement, and also, obviously, create even more data than we have around our customer base, then why wouldn’t we want to do that?”

The forthcoming launch of Fubo Free is the latest trend of a pay television provider reaching streamers with free offerings in order to keep them engaged in a service. Dish Network’s streaming service, Sling TV, has long offered a free product that was recently rebranded to Sling Freestream. Wallet-friendly service Philo, which carries general entertainment cable channels for $25 per month, has offered some former subscribers the option to continue watching FAST channels via its platform for free, which might roll out more broadly in the future, according to people familiar with the plan.

FAST channels offer pay TV providers the option of integrating more content options for existing subscribers, which is viewed as an added value to bundles of broadcast and cable channels that customers pay for. It also allows pay TV companies to continue monetizing ex-subscribers when they churn out of a service, assuming they take advantage of free offerings through those same apps.

The FAST channels offered by pay TV platforms are generally no different from the content streams available on free services like Comcast’s Xumo Play or Paramount Global’s Pluto TV. But pay TV companies believe their services offer better experiences: Both Sling TV and Philo allow customers to record shows and movies from FAST channels for later viewing, and Sling Freestream recently introduced a dedicated cloud DVR for free users.

Fubo subscribers seem to find FAST channels attractive on their own, with Gandler saying those content streams account for 9 percent of viewing during the first three months of 2024. While the company is still focused on marketing itself as a sports-inclusive platform, Gandler said Fubo needs to do more to engage customers with non-sports products.

“We have to think about Fubo as a sports-first cable TV replacement service,” Gandler affirmed. “. So you’re not really down-tearing, because you can only get sports in the virtual [cable-like] bundle. This is really about augmentation of our product lineup, and just gives us a chance to engage a consumer in the off-season.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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