AVOD vs. FAST: What’s the Difference?

Blog 5 min read | Nov 22, 2023 | Filip Trichkov


In the age of digital media, with new streaming services popping up so often the past few years, two acronyms have been gaining attention – AVOD and FAST. While they might sound like jargon only tech-savvy people would use, it’s important to understand the difference between Advertising-Based Video On Demand (AVOD) and Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV (FAST) because it impacts the daily life of just about anyone with an access to the internet.

Understanding AVOD:

Let’s start with AVOD – Ad-Based Video On Demand is a streaming model that allows users to access a library of content for free, with the catch being occasional advertisements during the viewing. You can think of it as the modern digital equivalent of watching TV with commercial breaks, but with the opportunity to choose what to watch and when to watch it. Popular examples of AVOD platforms include Hulu, Peacock, YouTube, Facebook Watch.

YouTube is one of the best known AVOD platforms. Audiences need to watch ads before they can watch a video, and if the video is long enough, it will usually be interrupted by ad breaks in real-time.

AVOD platforms work on the idea that users are willing to deal with ads in exchange for access to a wide range of free content. These ads, often personalized based on user data, serve as the revenue engine that keeps the AVOD service running without a subscription fee.

While we’re on subscription fee, let look at SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand) and how it’s different from AVOD. SVOD is a VOD (video on demand) model in which users pay a recurring fee, typically on a monthly basis, to access a library of video content. Popular SVOD services are subscription-based streaming platforms like Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Paramount+ and others.

What are FAST Channels:

On the other side of the streaming spectrum, we have FAST channels. Free Ad-Supported Television channels are a collection of linear channels offered over-the-top (OTT), just like the traditional broadcasting TV channel experience, without paying a subscription fee. Users can flip through channels, and like AVOD, these channels are free to access, with the revenue generated through ads being its business model.

Ads are inserted into the programming of these tv services at specified time intervals. The type of these ads can range from traditional commercial breaks to shorter, more interactive, forms of ads.

FAST channels provide a curated selection of content to the viewer, similar to the traditional cable TV model but with the added advantage of being available on various devices. Unlike traditional TV, which requires a set-top box, FAST channels can be accessed via multiple providers, including smart TVs, or connected TVs (CTV), mobile phones and computers.

These channels are made available on various FAST platforms like Pluto TV, Roku Channel, Freevee, Xumo, Samsung TV Plus and Tubi represent the FAST model, offering a broad range of channels spanning genres from news to entertainment.

Comparing AVOD and FAST Channels:

Despite both AVOD and FAST falling under the umbrella of free, ad-supported streaming, there are key differences between the two models. Let’s look at what these differences are:

  1. Content Library:
    • AVOD: AVOD platforms typically offer a vast library of on-demand content like movies, TV shows and exclusive content. Users can choose what to watch and when, making it a more personalized experience.
    • FAST: FAST channels, in contrast, provide a linear TV experience with scheduled programming like traditional broadcasting. Users can flick through channels, but they have less control over choosing specific content.
  2. User Experience:
    • AVOD: Users on AVOD platforms have the freedom to pause, rewind and fast forward ad-supported content as well as make their own watchlists. The on-demand nature of AVOD allows for a more customized and flexible viewing experience.
    • FAST: FAST channels mimic traditional television with an uninterrupted stream of programming. While some platforms may offer limited on-demand content options, the overall experience is more similar to channel surfing.
  3. Monetization Strategy:
    • AVOD: Ad revenue is the main source of income for AVOD platforms. Advertisers pay to reach the platform’s user base, through ad insertion, allowing the service to remain free for consumers.
    • FAST: Similar to AVOD, FAST channels generate revenue through ad-supported video. Advertisers pay for slots during the linear programming, supporting the free access to content.
  4. Content Discovery:
    • AVOD: Users actively choose what to watch and doing so by relying on search features and recommendations. The content discovery on AVOD platforms is driven by user preferences and algorithms that suggest relevant titles to them.
    • FAST: Content discovery on FAST services is more like on traditional TV, where users come across programming while flipping through channels.

Wrapping It Up

In the continued progress of streaming services, the distinctions between AVOD and FAST channels are becoming increasingly significant. AVOD platforms provide an on-demand and personalized experience with a broad content library, while FAST channels bring back the nostalgia of linear TV with scheduled programming and channel surfing. The common thing is the dependance on advertising to keep the content accessible to users for free.

As streaming continues to redefine how we consume content, understanding these models becomes important for users navigating the overflow of choices. Whether you lean towards the flexibility of AVOD or the simplicity of FAST channels, the future of digital content consumption seems firmly secured in the domain of free, ad-supported streaming.

If you want to know how JW Player can help you with your AVOD or FAST business model, book a meeting with our video experts!