AVOD (ad-supported video on demand) and FAST (free ad-supported streaming television) are increasingly used as a low-friction way to bring content to audiences. Notable recent releases include S4 of Star Trek: Discovery and the launch of Baywatch and Project Runway channels. Producers and distributors are beginning to use these platforms as a direct-to-consumer offer, either on their own or bundled as part of a wider VOD approach.

While they do offer consumers a subscription-free way to view content, those we surveyed had mixed feelings. Over half said they watch On Demand platforms to avoid ad breaks, and nearly 80% said they will skip ads when they can.

Viewers said they find ads in VOD content disruptive, something that was backed up by our media monitoring research. We found that on some FAST channels, ads were placed without consideration for the content. For programmes that had come from linear television, ads were often placed outside of existing breaks. In some cases, they were placed mid-scene and sometimes even mid-sentence.

However, viewers aren’t being put off by ads entirely. Less than 20% of those surveyed said ads keep them from watching AVOD platforms more often. Support for tiered streamers seems to be evenly split – half want to see more choice for ad-supported and ad-free tiers, while half said they wouldn’t pay to remove ads from a streamer.

AVOD and FAST platforms do offer a solution to the very real problem of subscription fatigue. Nearly 70% of people said they didn’t want to pay for any additional services, indicating that ad-supported platforms could reach this part of the audience. Only 22% said they plan on watching more ad-supported players in the next year, though, so the first hurdle may be coaxing viewers to these players.

The news of ITVX may serve to bring tiered VOD and FAST to the attention of UK audiences, something that could benefit other streamers in the field. When asked how they rate existing ad-supported players, those who have viewed them tend to rate them highly. They do have small audiences, though, with less than 2.5% of those surveyed saying they’d accessed AVOD and FAST platforms in the last 3 months. Broadcaster players had a much larger audience; 26% said they’d used ITV Hub.

From our findings, a successful AVOD or FAST offering in the UK will need to have the right combination of compelling content, relevant ads, well-planned ad placement, and brand recognition.

To find out more about what audiences think about ad-supported players, or for help with new player launch strategy or finding the best placement for your content email jmclevey@trpresearch.com.