Marcos Milanez on Rakuten TV’s FAST Play


Marcos Milanez, the chief content officer at Rakuten TV, told FAST Festival viewers about the European platform’s FAST channel bouquet and approach to acquisitions and originals.

In conversation with World Screen’s Kristin Brzoznowski, the keynote session, which you can view here, saw Milanez discussing the key role FAST channels play in the platform’s overall ad-supported offering to European audiences.

“FAST is a crucial proposition for us because it helps us play into one of our key goals, which is not only offering top-quality content but more importantly, in various forms of access,” Milanez explained. “We understand that not all our clients are willing to either pay for content or they want to watch on-demand. So we understand the value in offering free linear channels at no cost for our customers.”

The must-have genres in the portfolio include movies, news, sports, kids and family, lifestyle and entertainment. “But we also do take into account if there is niche content that might work quite strongly in certain markets for certain audiences. We do like to take these initiatives in these experimental tests as well whenever we have a chance.”

Rakuten TV’s content needs currently depend on the genre, Milanez added. For example, the platform has several branded, owned-and-operated movie channels already, so there’s less of a need for third-party FAST services in that category. “It needs to bring some sort of differential so that we don’t add an overlap to the lineup or just cannibalize our existing channels. For other genres, it also comes down to: Is that content relevant to those local markets? Has that channel or programs within that channel been broadcast into free or pay TV before in the market? Does it have a strong following from the local audiences? Those are the first pillars that we look at within the content acquisition strategy to then scale down to the actual content IP and editorial.”

Milanez then talked about the approach to single-IP brands. ”We do see their value,” he noted, “particularly with discoverability, where, for the customer, it’s very easy to recognize. That has a significant advantage in the landscape where you can scroll through 150 channels.”

But just having significant brand awareness is not enough, Milanez said. “We’ve identified multiple shows that have really strong relevance, it’s a recognizable IP, but doesn’t have the depth in terms of volume of episodes that would be required to launch a channel. Sometimes it does, but just for a few months. The other thing we need to also take into account is that even if it works well, how long does that success last? Will customers, particularly loyal customers that come back to the platform, engage again with that channel, or will they just be a bit tired of it? That’s the balance we’re trying to fine-tune within our platform.”

The conversation moved to deal structures. “We work mainly with rev-shares,” Milanez said, noting the platform has a sister company, Rakuten Advertising, and hence built-in expertise in CTV ad sales. “We think we’re better positioned with all of these local ad-sales teams across Europe that have connections with the agencies, with the brands, to sell the ad inventory from our channels and third-party FAST channels, as opposed to the partner trying to do that.”

There is a role for exclusivity in AVOD, Milanez noted, referencing the company’s Rakuten TV Originals business that is producing or co-producing content for its owned-and-operated channels. “On the other hand, we also see the value of broadening the distribution by putting those channels on other third-party platforms. For example, the likes of Samsung TV Plus, Plex or LG Channels. There is value to [exclusivity], but it’s not a deal breaker.”

Brzoznowski then asked Milanez about the role of data analytics in making content decisions. “It comes down to engagement, the number of plays, repeat users and the length of the period that that customer stays in the platform.”

Milanez said Rakuten TV will continue to evolve its own FAST channel bouquet, recently adding series services to the mix following its success with movie channels. It also wants to bolster the quality of its roster of third-party services. “It’s not a numbers game,” he said, “especially with the challenges of discoverability. You need these standout IPs that we know will make a difference. It’s not just adding new channels to the lineup, but bringing new audiences to the platform, or at least more engaged customers.”

As for the future of FAST, Milanez said he expects a further migration of ad dollars from traditional TV to CTV. “The pace of that transition differs from market to market,” he said. “The ad-sales agencies will get more used to CTV and the benefits of digital advertising. Brands will be more familiarized with that.”