Why CTV and FASTs Will Dominate the 2023 Upfronts

It’s time to rethink how you buy media

With TV Upfronts and NewFronts well underway, brands are actively assessing budgets, looking to make ad dollars go further and media plans work harder. Amid the fanfare of flashy announcements and talent appearances from major platforms, issues of measurement, privacy, and market fragmentation are buzz-makers this season.

But, to make the most of ad dollars, what advertisers should really focus on is where viewer behavior is headed—and how to adjust media spend accordingly.

CTV has become a cornerstone of any effective media plan. While CTV was once a “nice to have,” it’s now a must-buy to achieve campaign reach. In fact, 59% of marketers’ upfront buys will lean on CTV this year. And within the CTV realm, free ad-supported streaming TV channels (FASTs)  have emerged as a major player, not to be ignored.

Here’s what media planners need to know to make the most of their CTV buys to drive maximum audience reach and campaign ROAs.


As American households increasingly stream their favorite programming, traditional linear TV continues to lose audience share and ad dollars to CTV. In 2024, CTV households will hit 115.1 million and will be more than double the number of traditional pay-TV households, which will shrink to 56.6 million.

Time spent on CTV is also increasing, and with it, engagement. According to Samsung Ads research, the average time spent per day on CTV among U.S. adults will reach 1:51 hours this year. If current trends hold, time spent will surpass 2 hours per day by mid-decade.

As compared to CTV, linear TV under-delivers against coveted, younger, first-mover audiences and diverse or niche audience segments—making certain audiences impossible to reach without it. In fact, 40% of U.S. households are unreachable without CTV.

Brands also can often achieve greater reach with CTV investment. For example, with Samsung Ads, brands can often see a 20% plus lift in ad exposure, as compared to linear TV.

FAST is a breakout star

2023 has marked a seismic shift in the CTV landscape: Ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) platforms have won dominance over subscription-based video on demand (SVOD) platforms for the first time. Within the AVOD space, FAST has emerged as a breakout star, with its soaring adoption and audience engagement.

Particularly amid economic uncertainty, households are re-assessing budgets and subscription stacks. Many are keeping FAST services, which have a zero barrier to entry, or are choosing FASTs over other services. According to a recent Samsung Ads consumer survey, nearly 75% of viewers would switch to a free or lower-cost tier of a streaming service when given the option.

For advertisers, FASTs present a win-win: They garner the reach of traditional broadcast media, with the addressability and targeting of digital media buys. Advertisers are taking note, with ad spend on FASTs expected to surpass that of cable, broadcast or SVOD services by 2025.

The mix of experience, content and reach

With the explosion of FAST, more players have entered the space—but not all FAST services are created equal. Three factors differentiate a FAST service: user experience, premium content and audience reach.

A quality FAST service should provide the kind of viewing experience consumers look for in streaming: great content and easy to view. It must also be able to show advertisers that it has a wide range of content, from live TV to movies and TV shows on demand, as well as investments in cutting-edge, fresh content to draw in new audiences.

For example, Samsung recently launched Kevin Hart’s new comedy channel, the LOLl! Network on Samsung TV Plus. And at its 2023 NewFronts presentation, Samsung also announced a partnership with Emmy Award-winning presenter, Conan O’Brien, to launch his very first FAST channel, which will be available only on Samsung TV Plus starting next month.

Ultimately, as audiences change the way they consume content, advertisers can’t just carry on, business as usual—they need to change the way they buy media. This is reflected in this year’s Upfronts and NewFronts, where CTV and FAST have gone from add-ons to mainstays in media planning.

Looking ahead, as AVOD shifts further towards FAST, and traditional media plans continue to shortfall in delivery, Samsung Ads will continue to be at the forefront of CTV, helping brands reach targeted audiences at scale in a premium, high-performance environment.

Michael Scott is VP of brand sales, North America at Samsung Ads. With more than 20 years of sales, business development and marketing experience in the television marketing services, digital advertising, programmatic and sports marketing industries, Michael works with brands to leverage Samsung Ads Smart TV insights to reach consumers where they consume their content across Smart TVs, mobile or desktop devices.