Kevin and I met at one of the Mips in Cannes and it must have been around 10 years ago. Kevin was early in the game of building AVOD apps for Smart TVs and has built a network for distribution and his own ad sales team. He was also early to catch on to the FAST wave and his company, Stormcast Cinema, now runs a couple of channels across Europe. We always end up chatting at the Mips and I thought it could be good to get his take on the FAST trends.
I asked Kevin how he sees the industry moving and where will Stormcast Cinema be in 2025?
FAST represents a threat to OTT streaming platforms like Roku, Amazon and others because they have the prime real estate on the TV screen. I guess that’s why we’re starting to see Roku and Amazon branded TVs on the horizon. I see FAST platforms evolving to having less back-catalog content and more premium content, to the point where they will offer a package of content that is similar to existing cable TV boxes. We may even see some SVOD options in FAST since cable TV and services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are largely commercial-free. That is a big draw for some viewers.
In 2025 Stormcast Cinema wants to be in a place where we present a content offering that a large number of people enjoy and where we can get maximum visibility for our channels on the platforms that reach the most viewers. Today that means that Stormcast Cinema is working hard to create channels that appeal to the largest number of users, to get our channels onto more FAST platforms, as well as to place our apps in the connected TV app stores. On the content side we’ll keep looking for better and better quality content while on the app side we’ll continue to bring our connected TV apps onto new TV platforms.
At the same time OTT platforms remain important to us. They offer a huge diversity of programming and since it will take quite while for the newer TVs that are FAST-capable to penetrate deeply into markets, the OTT boxes will remain important for some time. Roku and Amazon are also beginning to offer their own TVs and won’t go down without a fight. OTT branded TVs brings to mind Android TV, which is well-positioned to compete with FAST platforms since it’s the default streaming platform for brands like Sony and Panasonic, but we have to see what Google decides it is. Because it’s either an orphan child or it’s a sleeping giant with huge potential. Lastly we’re keeping an eye on mobile and other device formats (mobile, tablet) where FAST is available as they will most likely become much more important.
What was that initial moment you first encountered FAST?
In 2019, I set up a meeting with somebody from Samsung UK to ask about developing for their Samsung Tizen platform but when the meeting started, he said, ”I want to talk to you about something else”. Then he presented me Samsung TV Plus, which was yet to launch in Europe, and he asked me if Stormcast Cinema could propose some channels. I saw that the Samsung TV Plus concept represented a very promising streaming platform, given the home screen presence which perfectly positioned it to compete with any other type of streaming platform or service.
Tell us about your Stormcast Cinema. What do you do and what makes your company stand out in the FAST space.
Stormcast Cinema is a streaming platform that creates VOD channels for OTT and connected TV platforms. On most platforms our channels are hybrid, meaning it’s free with ads and you can pay to get rid of ads. We also have a significant capacity to monetize via ads thanks to over 30 different advertising partners. As a result, in Europe, where programmatic advertising is still just beginning, we now provide ads to a significant number of other FAST publishers. Stormcast Novelas was the first telenovelas channel on Samsung TV Plus in France (there are at least 4 now) and now it’s available in Spain on LG and Xiaomi as well. We also have other channels launching soon. What we do differently than most companies is that we develop all of our own app technology in-house. That means that for any FAST platform we have the capability to put a similar themed app in the app store of that same TV to give people the option to watch the same content they see on FAST, with a bigger library, in VOD and with our content discovery tools. We can also offer the option to watch free with ads or to subscribe and watch ad-free.
What are the biggest challenges that you see today and in the next couple of years for FAST Channels and your company?
For FAST in general, I think the number of channels on each service is an important data point to watch. Most FAST platforms started out with a vision of having a very limited number of channels. But that number is always growing. As more channels are added, it will become more competitive and more expensive to attract viewers as is the case with platforms like Roku and FireTV now. For Stormcast Cinema, the challenge is to continue to get premium content that our audiences want to watch in all of the markets where we are present and to get onto the platforms where space is becoming harder and harder to get.
What other companies do you look to for inspiration in the FAST industry and what inspires you from them?
I like Samsung because it’s the biggest right now, their team is great and they see committed to innovating and owning this space. They’re also amazingly available considering how much they are doing and they work closely with us to help us to be successful. We also work with Wurl as a back-end service provider and we’re quite happy with their service and support as well.
Whats your Favourite FAST Channel and why?
I watch a lot of different ones. Can I say that Stormcast Novelas is my favorite? We launched the channel because after I had watched a couple of telenovelas series on TV, I thought that the format would be perfect for streaming since the series usually have 60 – 100 or more episodes, they’re great to watch with somebody and they’re very binge-watchable. I’ve actually managed to watch two complete telenovelas series, one of which had 160 episodes.
Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash
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