Sling TV’s Freestream adds FAST channels at a clip, reaches 335

Since debuting just three months ago, Sling TV’s Freestream has been adding content at a healthy clip, announcing Thursday that the free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service has now reached more than 335 channels.

That includes more than 100 new channel additions since February to the Dish-owned FAST (which had around 210 linear-style channels and 41,000 movies and TV shows on-demand at launch) and this week the introduction of 12 new exclusive channels.

“This milestone is just the beginning of what we have in store for Sling Freestream,” said Gary Schanman, group president, Sling TV, in a statement. “We are charging full steam ahead to deliver unparalleled free live sports, news and entertainment for consumers to watch popular games, catch up on the latest headlines or enjoy award-winning TV shows, all for free.”

The dozen new channels span history, crime, kids and classics and include: Living History, featuring documentaries; Short Films, featuring programming under 40 minutes long; Latino Cinema, offering Spanish-langue movies across genres; Her TV, a channel focused on female entertainment and performances; Ambient Cinema, offering slow and ambient programming such as calming landscapes and music; For the Culture, celebrating Black culture and storylines; an as well as channels focused on horror, suspense, crime documentaries and thrillers and a Classics channel offering programming produced before 2010.

“We’re constantly aiming to offer more of what consumers want, and with our new channels we thoughtfully curated content, from horror and thriller movies to kids TV, and Black and women-led programming, to create unique channels exclusively for Sling Freestream users,” Shanman continued.

In total, Freestream now offers more than 35 sports, 100 entertainment and 45 news channels for free. It’s offered across several platforms, including Roku, Comcast, LG, Samsung and Vizio. The company said it plans to introduce more domestic sports, news and entertainment channels, as well as dozens of foreign language international and on-demand content throughout 2023.

Freestream users are also able to subscribe to more than 50 standalone streaming services, such as AMC+, discovery+, MGM+, Showtime and more, as well as ad Sling Orange or Blue base service packages.

Freestream is the latest player to join the FAST space, which is already populated by leaders such as Paramount’s Pluto TV, Fox’s Tubi, The Roku Channel, Amazon’s Freevee, among others, and smart TV OEM services including Samsung TV Plus, Vizio’s WatchFree, LG Channels.

Kantar’s Q1 Entertainment On Demand report recorded continued growth for AVOD and FAST services, alongside SVOD declines, as wallet-conscious consumers continue to turn to free TV options. The report found FAST services gained 1.7 million users in Q1 while paid ad-supported subscriptions (AVOD) gained 2.6 million subscribers.

“Despite inflation beginning to cool in the US, cost of streaming has caught up with the industry. In the last two quarters of Entertainment on Demand data, value has appeared to be more of an important factor in sign up, satisfaction, and cancellation,” wrote Kantar analysts. “Consumers are opting to trade down to less expensive options or sign up at a lower price point to find the right balance of value across all of their services.”

Freestream also has implications for the Dish Media advertising business, as SVP Kevin Arrix explained to Fierce in March, saying it brings both more choice for consumers and scale for advertisers. Arrix said one of the first focuses is that Dish plans to improve a currently less-than-stellar advertising experience on FASTs, including over frequency.

He also noted that with Freestream, Dish now has three legs to the proverbial stool, bringing to market a full pay TV offering through Dish TV, a vMVPD service via Sling, and the Freestream FAST serving as the final leg of an “always-on, sometimes-on, free-to-watch” TV trifecta.