Ed Love: Sport is getting faster at embracing FAST channels

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“FAST can become an effective avenue to get more sports into Aussie homes faster”

By Ed Love, Content Acquisitions Manager ANZ, Samsung TV Plus

Popularity of women’s sports is surging. Judging by this year’s FIFA Women’s World CupTM, however, we haven’t seen anything yet. FIFA hopes to reach more than two billion viewers across the world during the tournament. The Matildas set an incredible benchmark from the very first whistle, with almost two million Aussies tuning in to watch Steph Catley and her team take on Ireland in their opening match.

But it’s not just the popularity of football on the rise. Overall viewership of women’s sport in Australia has surged 18% since 2022. What’s more, it isn’t just women watching either; two thirds of viewers are male, with 72% of men watching women’s sport, according to Foxtel Sport.

More is more when it comes to sport

There’s no denying the demand for sports content is growing and linear broadcasters have previously prevailed in this department. But with women’s sport rarely making it above 10% of total sports coverage on any given day in Australia, and increasingly popular sports, such as SailGP and surfing, jostling to be seen, there’s still plenty of room for others to get involved.

This is where free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) services have an opportunity to score a goal. By leveraging innovative technology to deliver the content fans evidently want to see, FAST can become an effective avenue to get more sports into Aussie homes faster.

Sport: a streaming slam-dunk

During strong economic headwinds, sport – particularly global events – are amongst the ‘safest’ bets. Live sports are almost guaranteed to drive big audiences: both amongst existing and casual fans.

However, you only need to look at Netflix’s Drive to Survive to see the people who drive the cars can be as important as the race itself.  As a result, streaming services have expanded their sporting libraries in recent years following a growth in appetite for ‘shoulder programming’, behind-the-scenes footage, match highlights, in-depth player interviews and archive games.

Last year, Disney+ fed this hunger when it launched Fearless, a mini-series going behind the scenes of the Australian Football League Women. The BBC followed suit with several dedicated documentaries including ‘Lionesses: Champions of Europe’ and ‘England’s Lionesses: Inside the Pride’ – both of which gave football lovers another chance to relive the thrilling story of England’s victory in the Women’s Euro 2022.

FAST levelling the playing field

Sports content has become a driving factor in transforming the face of FAST and has helped challenge the existing misconceptions that the quality of its content isn’t able to match that of linear.

DAZN, the over-the-top (OTT) streaming service, is a pioneer in this space. It has launched three FAST channels in the past year, with one of them – DAZN Women’s Football available on Samsung TV Plus – dedicated exclusively to promoting women’s sports. And with the Women’s Sports Trust reporting that 61% of committed women’s sports fans would like to see a dedicated women’s sports channel, this trend is only going to gather momentum.

Back of the net

FAST delivers the lean-back, free and live experience of linear, which sits at the heart of watching sports.

Samsung TV Plus – Samsung’s FAST service – recently launched the FIFA+ FAST channel. Offering originals, archive, match replays, and highlights from FIFA Women’s World Cups, the channel caters to consumers’ desire for communal viewing experiences.

Last year, FIFA+ saw staggering engagement throughout the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, as over 190 million fans tuned into match recaps worldwide. As its content becomes accessible on over 60 million Samsung TVs across the globe for the first time we expect to see this number soar. And, where consumers go, you can be sure advertisers will follow.

Advantage, content partners

Today, one of the biggest advantages of FAST sports sits with industry bodies that own the rights to content. There’s no doubt live broadcast deals will continue to trade for big budgets but they also recognise that valuable opportunities are being left on the table. FAST offers a new, and increasingly sought-after, viewing format that is quickly making it the perfect home for “around the game” content rights that sit within a free environment. By creating additional monetisation and untapped viewership opportunities for sporting partners , it’s game-on for FAST.

Ed Love heads up Content Acquisitions at Samsung TV Plus ANZ, Samsung’s free ad-supported streaming TV service. He is a seasoned business leader with more than 13 years of experience in business planning, content strategy and digital distribution. Before joining Samsung Ads, Love held the position of executive sales director with MGM Worldwide Distribution, where he was responsible for the distribution of MGM’s features and series in South East Asia.

Top image: Ed Love

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