Matt Schnaars, president of content distribution at NBCUniversal, discussed how the company is approaching FAST channel opportunities at the FAST Festival.
NBCUniversal recently bolstered its slate of FAST channels in the U.S. Schnaars, in his keynote conversation with World Screen’s Anna Carugati that you can view here, discussed what prompted that move and the company’s overall approach to ad-supported platforms.
FAST platforms can serve as a “place for content that we aren’t monetizing in other arenas,” Schnaars said. “Studio content or past seasons of something. Areas where we can make a theme channel and deliver it to fans who are into that particular genre or show. Our first objective is to serve fan bases where they aggregate. We’ve had an opportunity to realize not only a new audience but also a new monetization stream with the development of these various FAST platforms. If there’s an audience and the right business model there that supports our interests and is also supportive of our broader distribution ecosystem, then we’re interested.”
Schnaars then discussed the role of local news in the FAST ecosystem. “We have a long history producing local news. We have a number of broadcast TV stations both in English and Spanish, so we have a strength in that arena. Where there is an audience of people who are aggregating to consume content, scripted or non-scripted, they’re also interested in news programming. There’s been an opportunity there. We’re fortunate to have a newsgathering infrastructure in place in many major markets and metros, so we’re leveraging that to serve a new audience, one that’s incremental for us and still supportive of our underlying business. It’s an exciting place for our stations and news gatherers to be, to have a new audience and a new potential generation of fans, if you will, at least consumers of the NBC News brand.”
The conversation then moved to the recent expansion of the NBCUniversal FAST channel portfolio. “We wanted to be thoughtful. We wanted to produce products for this ecosystem that we thought people would watch with brands that would resonate and not just throw tonnage out to the ecosystem. We have a number of brands, either channel brands or TV brands that we think people know and love, ranging from SNL to some of our Bravo franchises to some of our news brands, which are either NBC-branded, local branded or just focused on genres that people are really into these days, like true crime.”
This new collection of channels, Schnaars said, should allow the company to “reach a whole new section of content consumers on these platforms that might not be watching in other places. It’s important to note that we’re utilizing a lot of content produced long ago that’s not being monetized in the ecosystem otherwise. We’re not taking the same thing we’re putting on cable channels, broadcast networks or Peacock and just putting it on a FAST platform. We think that would be the wrong strategy for a variety of reasons. This is a different product set, leveraging a lot of studio IP that has been monetized in some cases or was monetized long ago. And because of the beauty of technology and the internet, we’ve found new platforms and environments where people are interested in that content again, and we can monetize that content.”
He continued: “We’re in the envious position of having brands that people already know and love. We’re not having to spend millions in marketing to create awareness of these channels. People just organically know what SNL might be, what Million Dollar Listing might be. Other companies are putting over 100 channels out there. That might suit their strategy. We think lesser is probably the better approach and focus on quality.”
As for how FAST channels can boost content monetization, Schnaars noted: “It’s more reach. There’s an incremental additional audience on everything from Amazon Freevee to Tubi to Pluto TV to all the device platforms. There’s a whole bunch of different people out there using these different devices, different services that aren’t duplicative of another where we’re going to reach them with our products. We’re going to sell advertising against those consumers and offer incremental reach to our advertisers, and it makes our distribution relationships stronger in all those cases as well. It’s one of the more straightforward opportunities we’ve seen as a media company for a bit, where it is all accretive. Given our strategy, we don’t think we’re undermining other businesses by playing in this space. And if you can reach more people and deliver relevant and resonant advertising against those audiences, it’s going to be accretive from a financial perspective.”
Regarding how the ad market has responded to FAST, Schnaars said: “We think there’s a number of ways that our FAST channels will deliver value for advertisers, whether it’s in direct sale campaigns or programmatic. We think we have the leading ad-sales organization not only in the country but in the world. Whenever you can attach incremental content assets to that underlying operation, it will deliver more value for the company’s top line. The world is going to a place where the more you can tailor a content offering or connect a content offering with an advertising audience, the higher value there is there. That’s one of the interesting things about FAST; some of these channels that are either IP-specific or genre-specific just align themselves to be more of a targeted vehicle for advertising. You marry that with data and ad delivery, and it’s a great recipe for driving top value for us as a company and delivering the right kind of targeting for our advertising clients and partners.”
On the prospects ahead for FAST, Schnaars said it will become less of a volume game at the platforms. “There’s going to be a point where they determine what they have is sufficient for the average user. For some out there, there might be a point where there might not be as much interest in the next thing they have to distribute on a FAST platform. I don’t have concerns there. We’ve been very thoughtful and focused from an offering and branded volume perspective.”