TCL launches FAST service on TVs in North America

TCL is the latest TV-maker to jump into the free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) space. It announced Wednesday the launch of TCLtv+, a free streaming service debuting on TCL-made sets in North America.

TCLtv+ is launching with more than 200 linear FAST channels and 1,500 on-demand movies and TV series from studios including Scripps Media, Fremantle, NBCUniversal, FilmRise, Banijay, and others.

TCLtv+ is available now in the U.S. and Canada on TCL TVs running Google TV. It’s coming soon to the TV-maker's sets supporting Roku TV and Fire TV platforms in Q4.  As with most FASTs, the service is free and there are no subscriptions or logins required to access.

“As a top two best-selling TV brand in the U.S. for four consecutive years, TCL is constantly innovating and looking for ways to offer our customers greater value and more importantly, a better experience. Providing free content plays a huge part in our continuing success so we are excited make our mark on the streaming world with TCLtv+,” said Mark Zhang, president of TCL North America, in a statement. “We are always listening to what consumers want and with TCLtv+, we’re responding to their desire for more content and new experiences.

This isn’t TCL’s first move on free streaming, but the latest reflects a relaunch of its former free TCL TV Channel app.

Interactive experience, enhanced features

TCLtv+ is touted as an enhanced version of the TCL TV Channel that now leverages proprietary “IDEO” technology to boost the viewing experience, including interactive capabilities, along with an interfaced designed to customize and personalized experiences.

The TV-maker teased unique features and capabilities powered by the technology that it says differentiates it from the rest of the streaming arena, but provided few additional details.

According to the announcement, via IDEO tech TCLtv+ can connect viewers “directly with their favorite characters” with interactive on-screen experiences. It gave the example of an animated chef walking viewers through a recipe that uses specific ingredients in their kitchen while watching a cooking show. It said IDEO also provides instant content summaries and detailed recaps, with exclusive insights into actors.

And TCL highlighted what seems like a shoppable TV voice integration for food delivery.

“And simply by speaking into the remote, TCLtv+ users can easily get a gourmet meal delivered with a new ordering platform,” the press release stated. What meal delivery services support this feature or if there any merchant partners already on board wasn’t immediately clear, and the announcement didn’t’ provide additional details on the ordering platform. TCL didn't immediately respond to questions from StreamTV Insider, but we will update with any new information. *Update: TCL said the IDEO functionality will be available starting in late October. In response to questions about the ordering platform, TCL said it's currently partnering with a third-party vendor to enable the service. 

"It will start from food delivery to a wider scope of goods later," a TCL spokesperson said. 

Others like Roku have partnered with the likes of DoorDash and Shopify as it pursues shoppable TV efforts. 

TCL did say the company is working with strategic providers to develop its IDEO content, including Brainstorm Media, Questar Entertainment, Big Media, Nicely Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Tesera Entertainment.

“Our award-winning smart TV lineup has continued to raise the bar for consumers seeking the very best in entertainment, pushing the boundaries of what world-class products can achieve. And now, TCL is ushering in the future of television with viewing enhancements through IDEO that makes watching content on TCLtv+ a deeper, more interactive experience,” said Haohong Wang, general manager, TCL Research America, in a statement.

Multiple FAST vendors support launch

TCL also tapped several FAST vendors to support the launch.

That includes Xumo Enterprise (the B2B unit of Charter and Comcast’s joint venture), which StreamTV Insider in June reported was involved to power 55 FAST channels for the new TCL streaming service as part of the planned relaunch. At the time Xumo CRO Colin Petrie-Norris told STV that TCL is utilizing both Xumo content and technology as part of the launch.

Also involved are Amagi, Wurl, OTTera and Future Today, supporting content launches and distribution, with other vendors expected to be added over time.

Specifically, TCL is utilizing Amagi’s Connect end-to-end FAST marketplace, the vendor’s Thunderstorm server-side dynamic ad insertion platform and the Amagi Ads Plus premium CTV ad marketplace. Ads Plus will reflect the ad inventory exclusively for all Amagi Connect channels delivered through the TCL partnership. OTTera is supplying its StreamBridge service.

TCL joins other TV makers that have launched FAST services, such as Samsung TV Plus and Vizio’s WatchFree+.

Article updated with additional information about TCL's ordering platform and availability of IDEO functionality.