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Free streaming TV services among most-used in America, Omdia reports

Content tiles for TV shows and movies available through Fox's free streaming service Tubi.
Tubi offers hundreds of television shows and movies that are available to stream for free. (Graphic by The Desk)

Free, ad-supported streaming television (FAST) services are gaining popularity in the United States, displacing some premium streaming platforms as television fans flock to low-cost content, according to a new report released this week.

The report, released by media analysts at research firm Omdia and presented at the Connected TV World Summit in London on Wednesday, revealed more streamers watched The Roku Channel and Fox Corporation’s Tubi than network-owned streaming apps from NBC Universal and the Walt Disney Company.

Google’s YouTube remains the dominant streaming video platform of choice among American TV fans, a position held in other markets around the world, according to Omdia, with Netflix clocking in at number two in the United States. But streamers are incorporating more free, ad-supported streaming services into their TV diets as premium services raise their prices to offset content costs.

According to Omdia, Tubi clocked in as the sixth most-watched video service in the United States during an evaluation period that took place last November, followed by the Roku Channel (7), then NBC’s broadcast network (8). Facebook Watch and apps associated with NBC (9).

In the United Kingdom, the BBC’s iPlayer platform was the second most-dominant during the evaluation period, followed by Netflix. Free-to-air television networks were lumped together and came in as the fourth most-watched video service, followed by the streaming version of Channel 4, then Amazon’s Prime Video.

The report claimed subscription-based services fell in popularity for the first time since Omdia began tracking consumer behavior with respect to traditional and streaming video platforms, something that allowed free, ad-supported streaming services to rise on their lists.

Rue Aguete, the senior research developer for media and entertainment at Omdia, said the rise in popularity among free, ad-supported streaming services will only encourage premium streaming products to develop and build out various low-cost, ad-supported plans.

“The appetite for free content is ever-increasing, and the major streamers are clearly leaning into this as a strategy — by the end of 2024, all major [subscription] services will have advertising tiers,” Aguete said at the conference on Wednesday.

Some have already moved in this direction: Over the past two years, major streaming players like Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video, AMC Plus, Warner Bros Discovery’s Max and Disney Plus have launched ad-supported plans as a way to push frugal streamers toward lower-cost plans. The companies wind up generating revenue from customers in two ways — through subscriptions and advertisements — and there are signs that the approach has helped each service lower their rate of churn.

That strategy has started to influence thinking in other parts of the world, with British broadcasters and entertainment companies looking at ways to diversify their own offerings in order to capture greater audience share and revenue.

“Whether these changes are happenings in response to the cost of living increases, paid subscription fatigue, or other factors, it underscores the evolving preferences of consumers who increasingly have more places to go to access video content,” Aguete affirmed.

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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 10 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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