Google may be looking to make its connected television platform even more appealing to “cord cutters.”
Protocol reported the company has plans to add free, live TV channels to Google TV. Google TV is the tech giant’s streaming TV operating system, which was added to the refreshed Chromecast dongle released last year. The publication wrote that Google has held carriage discussions with companies that distribute free, ad-supported streaming television channels, known in the TV industry as “FAST” channels.
This is likely good news for FAST channels: As more Americans continue to cut the cord on traditional cable or satellite television, FAST channels offer the live TV experience typically not found on streaming platforms at no additional cost.
In a way, FAST TV providers have grown market share, by convincing users to download their free apps or by integrating their platforms directly into streaming set-top boxes.
FAST TV providers are everywhere, including the Roku Channel on Roku, IMDb TV on Amazon Fire TV, NBCUniversal’s Peacock, ViacomCBS-owned Pluto TV and Tubi, which is owned by the Fox Corporation. Some of these channels feature repackaged content first run on major broadcast networks or are themed around a specific show, like Peacock’s “Today All Day” channel.
It is likely that Google has spoken to many of the providers of channels that can be found on these other platforms. Protocol reported these live streaming channels could arrive on Google TV this fall, but the company could delay the announcement until early 2022. If delayed, the announcement would likely be made in conjunction with Google’s smart TV partners.
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Major media companies that own and operate broadcast networks have embraced live TV services that distribute FAST channels. ViacomCBS acquired Pluto TV for $340 million in January 2019, while Fox acquired Tubi for $440 million in March 2020. NBCUniversal, whose parent company is cable giant Viacom, has integrated the live TV channels into the free version of Peacock, its streaming platform.
Despite being owned by these major media companies, FAST streaming platforms do not feature their mainline broadcast or cable channels, likely to avoid conflict with major cable and satellite providers.
Unlike traditional cable networks, FAST channels often do not collect carriage fees from distributors. Instead, FAST channels depend on ad revenue, which can grow with wider distribution. Fox, ViacomCBS or NBCUniversal have created FAST channels exclusive to their platforms, often featuring intellectual property from the networks. In other cases, independent media companies distribute channels to a variety of platforms.
The one advantage in Google’s hands: it can natively integrate these FAST channels into the “Live” tab on the latest version of Google TV. Currently, only YouTube TV and Dish Network’s Sling TV service are compatible with the feature.