As Paramount+ Loses Billions, 285 FAST Channels Bring Reliable Cash to Paramount Global

We live in a FAST world. At the end of June, there were approximately 1,500 unique free, ad-supported, streaming television channels — the 21st-century version of syndicated cable. According to data from Stream Metrics, those channels belong to about 20 U.S. providers.

In a Stream Metrics study for IndieWire, the analysts identified an owner for 1,364 of the channels. Most owners are in the single digits, but one company holds more than 20 percent of the channels studied: Paramount Global.

Paramount-owned Pluto TV is credited with creating 156 unique FAST channels; Paramount proper has another 129. Spanish-language media company Televisa’s next, with 45, followed by Warner Bros. Discovery’s 32.

The vast majority of the Paramount-attributed FAST TV channels were created, programmed, distributed, and operated by Pluto TV, but they’re differentiated via specific Paramount IP (i.e. a “Star Trek” channel, a “CSI” channel, etc.).

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Whatever they’re called, they create a ton of revenue for Paramount Global. Deals with third-party platforms bring in licensing fees or an ad-sales split — or a combination of both. Either way, the cash infusion is helpful at a desperate time: Paramount’s overall direct-to-consumer business, which includes Pluto TV (and Paramount+, the vanishing Showtime OTT app, BET+, and Noggin) lost more than a half-billion dollars in the first quarter of 2023 alone. The company reports Q2 numbers August 7.

The FAST landscape is vast because the concept quickly became big business. It’s also easy. All you need to create a FAST channel is a library, a strategy to program it as broadly or as niche as you’d like, and a platform that will make a licensing deal.

If you’re Paramount/Pluto TV, you can take it to the next level. Paramount has so many channels in part because it has its own platform with Pluto TV, which was launched in 2013 and purchased by Paramount (then ViacomCBS) in 2019. That allows Paramount to launch as many channels as it likes, without the licensing costs, and count the ad dollars. It needs that reliable cash; core streaming service Paramount+, like so many others in the SVOD category, hemorrhages mountains of money.

Pluto TV logo
Paramount Global’s Pluto TV logoPluto TV/Paramount Global

Much more recently, Warner Bros. Discovery pushed into FAST with the packaging of “Westworld” and other high-profile HBO shows in channels it licensed to Roku and Tubi. Now that the company completed the launch of Max, executives want to launch WBD’s own FAST service.

Fifth among owners is another Spanish-language provider, Vix, with 31 unique channels. Comcast’s Xumo, which at one point was going to be Peacock (before Peacock became Peacock), has 29 channels; FilmRise has 26.

Find the top 20 as of June 30, 2023 below.

Top 20 Owners of Unique FAST Channels
1. Pluto TV: 156 unique channels
2. Paramount: 129 unique channels
3. Televisa: 45 unique channels
4. Warner Bros. Discovery: 32 unique channels
5. VIX: 31 unique channels
6. Xumo: 29 unique channels
7. FilmRise: 26 unique channels
8. iHeartMedia: 25 unique channels
9. Vizio: 23 unique channels
10. (tie) Cineverse: 22 unique channels
10. (tie) Xite: 22 unique channels
12. A+E Networks: 21 unique channels
13. Local Now: 20 unique channels
14. NBCUniversal: 19 unique channels
15. Fremantle: 18 unique channels
16. Amazon: 17 unique channels (FreeVee ads another five)
17. UMG, Sony, EMI: 16 unique channels
18. BBC: 14 unique channels
19. (tie) AMC Networks: 13 unique channels
19. (tie) Sony: 13 unique channels

Other notables that nearly made the Top 20 include Lionsgate (10 channels), Fox (nine channels), and Disney and Roku, both of which have eight unique channels.

NBCUniversal should jump quite a few slots on the rankings soon. On June 29, the company announced it will launch nearly 50 new FAST channels on FreeVee and Xumo. Those are not yet out and active, and thus not tallied here.

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Aaron Paul and Thandie Newton in “Westworld”John P. Johnson / HBO

The NBCU push will also propel Amazon’s FreeVee up the rankings of U.S. providers of FAST channels. The former IMDbTV currently ranks eighth in hosted channels.

In first place is Plex.tv, with a whopping 438 available channels (they’re not necessarily unique, and only six are owned). Roku is second with 395, Pluto TV is third with 358, Sling Freestream has 355, and Xumo Play rounds out the top 5 with 309 channels. See the top 10 below.

Top 10 Most Popular U.S. Providers of FAST Channels
1. Plex Live TV: 438 channels
2. Roku Live TV: 395 channels
3. Pluto TV Live TV: 358 channels
4. Sling Freestream Live TV: 355 channels
5. Xumo Play: 309 channels
6. Vizio WatchFree+ Live: 295 channels
7. LG Channels Live TV: 285 channels
8. Freevee Live TV: 265 channels
9. Samsung TV Plus Live: 262 channels
10. Tubi Live TV: 236 channels

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