- Mar 24, 2009
Yep, there's a ton of high-quality content that you can stream for free with ads. The acronym the industry seems to be using for those apps/services is FAST (free ad-supported television). It's becoming an increasingly big part of the TV landscape.With cable & satellite people are paying for commercial channels like USA, Nick, etc. Free streaming services offer many of these same services. Not always the same content, but still a free streaming service with ads. I always didn't like paying for a commercial channel on satellite/cable. Now Xumo, Pluto, Free Sling, etc all have lots of commercial channels for free. That is the way it should be.
My prediction is that the national broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox -- will eventually stream their national content both live and on-demand in an associated FAST app. Fox already has Tubi as their FAST app. Paramount (CBS) has Pluto TV. NBCUniversal has the free tier of Peacock. Disney (ABC) will eventually have one too. (My suggested name for it: Magic.)
What I think will slowly happen over the coming years is that nearly all sports content -- which is the expensive, high-value content -- will be shifted from the broadcast networks to their associated pay cable and subscription streaming outlets. Disney has already largely done this, with very little sports any more on ABC. Monday Night Football, for instance, was moved to ESPN and ESPN+. Look for CBS, NBC and Fox to gradually do the same with their sports. (Fox owns cable nets FS1, FS2 and Big 10 Network but currently has no subscription streaming app.)
The result of this shift will do a couple things. First, it should shift some of the overall cost of cable TV from the "broadcast TV fee" to the main part of the bill for cable channels. Programming for the broadcast networks will go down as they carry fewer expensive sports and more cheap-to-produce news/talk/reality/competition/game shows. This should allow cable companies to sell a cheaper locals-only channel package as an add-on to broadband. Around here, Comcast charges an extra $28.65/mo ($10 + $18.65 broadcast TV fee) to add the locals-only TV package (with HD and 20 hrs cloud DVR) to standalone broadband. Which is ridiculous.
But the other effect, of course, is that fewer folks would quit cable TV and just use OTA antennas to watch some sports for free on the local broadcast stations. Because they wouldn't have much sports on those channels any more. (A major exception, though, is that the NFL currently requires all games featuring the local team to air on a free OTA station.) Folks would still quit cable but they'd pay to watch sports as part of a subscription streaming app like Paramount+ or Peacock or ESPN+. (And starting this year, Bally Sports is going to start selling their regional sports networks for MLB, NBA and NHL via a standalone subscription app, no cable needed.)
So cord-cutting will go on. And at some point, the major media companies will have shared or shifted pretty much ALL their high-value content on their broadcast and cable networks to their subscription streaming services. That content will either be available for streaming at the same time it debuts on cable or it won't be on cable at all, just exclusively on the streaming service.
What will be left on the four broadcast networks will be cheap, lowest-common-denominator shows that will also be available to stream for free on their FAST app. Like I said, live stream ABC primetime on "Magic," CBS primetime on Pluto TV, NBC primetime on Peacock (or whatever it merges into), Fox primetime on Tubi. Whether you're watching for free via their OTA stations or via their FAST app, you'll be watching enough ads for that content to be profitable. This all happens at the point, of course, when cable TV as we know it pretty much implodes. I give it maybe five years, 'til 2027.