The prevalence of unfilled ad time at FAST providers is remarkable. Those unfilled spans amount to dead airtime, with some spans going on so long that they hearken back to television’s early days when broadcasts would cease at midnight and give way to static. One particularly lengthy example caught our eye in August. The UFC feed on Xumo presented an unfilled span lasting one hour and forty minutes (out of five hours audited), which led to Xumo having the highest average hourly unfilled ad load we’ve encountered since initiating coverage of FAST channels at the start of 2022.
Prolonged periods of unfilled time may be by design. 4K feeds on certain pay-TV providers go dark when not airing sports or other live events. Some news-centric FAST feeds only air truly live content during specified slots, typically in the morning and evening. But this appears to be a fringe case. The UFC feed on Xumo doesn’t usually air live fights but instead airs replays and clips of prior bouts.
The UFC feed on Xumo doesn’t usually air live fights but instead airs replays and clips of prior bouts. The Xumo website describes the channel as providing “UFC 24/7 from the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization.”
Combined with the frequent occurrences of unfilled time on Xumo Comedy, August marked the most rampant unfilled ad experience we’ve ever seen, with an average of 10 minutes every hour going to unfilled ad time on Xumo.
Next? FAST remains relatively nascent. The category has seen strong growth—going from 8% US household penetration at the end of 2020 to 18% at the end of 2021 per Kantar—but some kinks need ironing out. FAST services are considered supplements rather than all-in-one streaming solutions. So sure, a user faced with minutes upon minutes of dead airtime with only a UFC logo for company will tune away or switch to another app. But the possibilities for mitigating such scenarios are vastly different in an OTT environment where “linear” playback is defined by how content displays within an interface. We assume dead airtime will become less common as FAST services mature and innovate on channels. Eventually, we may see dynamic feeds that self-populate so that the UFC feed I’m watching is entirely different from what you encounter. The pairing of targeted advertising and programming in a linear environment is something to look out for.