AVOD vs. FAST: What’s the Difference?

Blog 1 min read | Mar 21, 2024 | Filip Trichkov


In the age of digital media, with new streaming services popping up so often in 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 video on demand (AVOD) and free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) because it impacts the daily life of just about anyone with access to the internet.

Understanding AVOD

Advertising 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 and when to watch. Popular examples of AVOD platforms include Hulu, Peacock, YouTube, and 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, are the revenue engine that keeps the AVOD service running without a subscription fee.

While discussing subscription fees, let’s look at SVOD (subscription video on demand) and how it differs from AVOD. SVOD is a VOD (video on demand) model in which users pay a recurring fee, typically monthly, to access a library of video content. Their content can be ad-supported or ad-free. 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 flick 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 and when to watch, making it a more personalized experience.
    • FAST: FAST channels, in contrast, provide a linear TV experience with scheduled programming like traditional broadcasting. Users have less control over choosing specific content.
  2. User Experience:
    • AVOD: Users on AVOD platforms can pause, rewind, and fast-forward ad-supported content and create their 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 do 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 closer to traditional TV, where users come across programming while flipping through channels.

FAST channels, characterized by their real-time ad insertion into live video streams, are primarily tailored for live-streaming scenarios. Utilizing server-side ad insertion (SSAI), these channels monetize live streams with targeted, real-time ads, ensuring a seamless viewer experience with minimal disruptions.

Ad targeting is based on live-stream context, and the scalability of FAST channels allows them to handle high-volume live-streaming events efficiently. Pre-integrated ads ensure minimal loading times and reduced ad-blocker interference. However, control over ad placements in real-time streams is limited, and platform support is often tied to specific technology providers.

On the other hand, AVOD platforms offer video content for free with ads, covering both live and on-demand content. Ad insertion methods include client-side ad insertion (CSAI) or ad pre-rolls. Monetization is achieved by generating revenue through displaying ads with free content.

These platforms boast wider ad inventory for various content types and genres, and revenue potential depends on content popularity and ad demand. Content creators have more control over ad placements within on-demand content, and AVOD platforms are supported by various networks and platforms, offering greater flexibility.

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 dependence 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 JWP can help you with your AVOD or FAST business model, book a meeting with our video experts!