BBC, AMC Networks launch BBC News FAST channel

BBC News is coming to streaming via a free ad-supported TV channel that's launching on a handful of major FAST services and CTV platforms.

At launch the new 24-7 live FAST news channel is initially available on free streaming services including Paramount’s Pluto TV, Xumo Play, Plex, Dish’s Sling Freestream, as well as smart TV OEM FAST services Samsung TV Plus and Vizio’s WatchFree+.

AMC Networks is handling distribution and sales for BBC News in the U.S. as a partner in its BBC America joint venture.

The BBC News channel will continue to be distributed by major traditional pay TV and virtual MVPD providers including DirecTV, Comcast, Charter, Dish, YouTube TV and Philo. BBC said the FAST channel launch is complementary to this traditional distribution, however, notably, a spokesperson confirmed the FAST channel is porting the same content from its traditional cable channel over to the free streaming feed.  BBC News coverage is anchored out of the U.K., U.S., and Singapore, with a news operation out of its Washington D.C. bureau. Programming includes flagship shows such as Verified Live, BBC News America, Newsday, World Business report and more.

In a statement, Tara Maitra, Chief Commercial Officer of Global Media & Streaming at BBC Studios pointed to the launch as expanding the news organization’s reach.

“This is a significant milestone for the BBC as this launch will more than double the current reach and availability of the BBC News channel in the U.S. at a time when access to independent news and information is more important than ever,” said Maitra in a statement. “We’re proud to launch this channel with the support of so many of the leading CTV/FAST platform partners as we continue to expand the footprint of BBC News and bring the BBC’s journalism to wider audiences in the region.” 

Major news organizations have been working to pivot in the world of streaming. That includes CNN which had a short-lived standalone CNN+ app that was quickly shuttered within a month after launch once David Zaslav took over a newly combined Warner Bros. Discovery in 2022. Since then, it’s been working to chart a new course, including last year’s hire of former New York Times chief Mark Thompson as CEO of CNN Worldwide who is refocusing the network around digital and streaming products. In September WBD launched a 24-7 live news stream on Max called CNN Max. The CNN Max feed features content from the organization’s domestic and international news channels.

In a January column on StreamTV Insider after Thompson revealed changes for CNN, TVREV analyst Alan Wolk advised other news networks to take note as CNN works to appeal to a younger demographic and through means other than traditional cable.

“If you’re one of the other national news networks, watch and learn—cable news is a dying business because cable is a dying business, meaning it is time to figure out what your next steps will be,” Wolk wrote.

News, both local and national, has also been pegged as a category driving engagement on FAST by multiple platforms, including Samsung TV Plus – with Xumo VP of programming and partnerships Stefan Van Engen echoing a similar sentiment in today’s BBC announcement.

“Live local and national news has always been a top performing category on Xumo Play, and with the addition of BBC’s 24/7 live coverage, our viewers can now enjoy a fresh, international perspective on major news moments happening across the world,” Engen stated.

Alongside popularity, news also is a category where channels have been proliferating FAST services and AMC Networks Chief Commercial Officer Kim Kelleher in a statement pointed to the weight of BBC’s news organization joining the ecosystem.

“What a profoundly meaningful addition to the rapidly growing CTV/FAST space, at a time when access to authoritative and impartial news could never be more important,” stated Kelleher. “The BBC is one of the largest, most trusted and comprehensive news-gathering organizations in the world. The arrival of BBC News as a live, 24-hour channel on these free platforms is a landmark moment for global news, our partner platforms and the entire FAST distribution ecosystem.”