Your browser is not supported. Please update it.

1 September 2022

Samsung stunned by TV Plus FAST growth, no one else surprised

Samsung had no idea its free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service would explode at a rate of 100% increase in viewing over the past twelve months – but Faultline has known for at least two months that Samsung has been preparing for something of a relaunch, given the recent influx of content deals.

To celebrate the growth of Samsung TV Plus to 3 billion streaming hours on 465 million smart TVs, smartphones, and browsers globally, the Korean electronics giant has awarded the FAST service a facelift and a slew of new content.

While not a dramatic makeover on the front-end, TV Plus brings new channels and shows to the service, including emphasis on local and national news shows, plus two Samsung exclusives – the car enthusiast channel Ride or Drive and the events channel Samsung Showcase.

But what’s happening behind the scenes is much more interesting.

As revealed in an interview with Fierce Video, Samsung’s SVP of Product Marketing, Sang Kim, revealed that the spike in Samsung TV Plus popularity has turned the tides of power, as content providers are approaching Samsung directly – scrambling to get FAST distribution signatures for their content, and fast.

While highlighting Samsung’s renewed commitment to FAST – which, remember, defines a service offering both linear and on-demand content with ads – the interview does not talk technology. Specifically, with content deals for the likes of Samsung TV Plus ramping up considerably to meet viewer demand, all this new content needs protecting.

For this, we defer to one of Faultline’s own recent interviews, with US content security specialist BuyDRM – supplier to Samsung TV Plus of its KeyOS Multi-DRM Platform.

We recall the candor of BuyDRM CEO Christopher Levy, telling Faultline that, despite all the excitement around FAST services, ad-based revenue on long-tail content is still something like 10% of the revenue per play of SVoD and pay TV. What that means is massive amounts of playback for the content, which your run of the mill conditional access technology suppliers cannot handle.

Levy claimed, at the time of our call, that none of the usual content security suspects – Nagra, Verimatrix, Viaccess-Orca – can support the kind of playback at scale that FAST services require, and are not making a penny from DRM.

These pioneers of pay TV protection need to figure out how to play catch-up to the likes of BuyDRM, Axinom, and castLabs when it comes to serving the AVoD opportunity.

It was during this June 2022 conversation with Levy that we sensed Samsung TV Plus was on the cusp of a relaunch – not only with momentum building around content deals, but crucially with the expansion of TV Plus as a web version in July 2021. This was a game-changer, marking the service’s breakthrough on devices outside the Samsung ecosystem, chiefly smart TV and handsets, since launching in 2015.

It therefore goes without saying that the relaunch or rebrand of Samsung TV Plus – whatever you want to call the reaction to surge in demand – is excellent news for BuyDRM.

Of course, Samsung’s device footprint gives it immense potential clout, should it choose to push the streaming service aggressively.

However, it might have to overcome the consumer hostility to its software, with its somewhat infamous rip-off apps that would try to poach users from the core Android experience, but as the cost of SVoD services increases across the board, a service like Samsung TV Plus becomes more enticing.

Circling back to the Fierce Video interview, Samsung’s Kim also highlighted personalization and recommendations as areas that have received investment with the relaunch, without explaining what specifically has changed or been improved on.

In the meantime, Samsung is busy experimenting with different ad loads and formats on different channels. Right now, ad load on linear channels is a fixed number, although Kim then contradicts this by saying that the TV Plus team does not believe in a fixed ad load in the future. More experimenting is clearly on the cards then.