Vizio’s WatchFree+ expands FAST content with BBC, Paramount, Magnolia deals

Vizio’s free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service WatchFree+ has expanded its content offering, inking new deals with BBC Studios, Magnolia Pictures and Paramount Global Content Distribution.

On Tuesday the smart TV maker announced its FAST content offering has more than doubled the number of titles it offers compared to a year ago, as it continues to add more partners and programming. The recent deals “are part of an aggressive free premium content expansion” for Vizio in 2023, the company said.  Vizio’s WatchFree+ now counts over 275 linear FAST channels and more than 15,000 on-demand movies and TV shows. The on-demand growth has been particularly rapid, with Vizio counting around 6,000 VOD titles in June.

Under the latest licensing deals it’s bringing on new linear channels as well as incorporating titles into its on-demand library and owned and operated FAST channels.

New programming licensed by Vizio includes: 

BBC Studios: More than 400 on-demand episodes featuring 30 distinct BBC shows. It’s launching BBC Studios’ FAST channels including Antiques Roadshow UK, BBC Food and Top Gear. A Classic Doctor Who FAST channel is coming November 8. BBC on-demand content will also be featured in WatchFree+’s British Film and TV carousel.

Paramount: In November and December different titles will be available from Paramount Pictures on-demand on WatchFree+. This month that includes “The Untouchables” and films from the Star Trek franchise including “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” “Star Trek: First Contact” and “Star Trek Insurrection.” In December, Paramount titles available include “Four Brothers,” “The Mechanic,” “Rat Race” and “The Truman Show.”

While Paramount Pictures films won’t be featured in FAST linear channels, WatchFree+ is incorporating them into EPG (electronic programming guide) banners, helping users move more easily from the live programming lineup into the Paramount on-demand title they want to watch. Vizio’s programming team also built a custom carousel promoting the Star Trek movies aligned with Star Trek-adjacent documentaries.

Vizio Watchfree EPG

Vizio is expanding VOD content as it disclosed monthly viewing hours of on-demand programming doubled year over year, helping WatchFree+ to maintain its spot as the second most-watched ad-supported streaming service on the smart TV maker’s platform.

Magnolia Pictures: Vizio licensed 50 episodes and 50 films from Magnolia, including Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, Bad Reputation and I Give it a Year. Several titles licensed from Magnolia are already incorporated into the lineup on Vizio’s WatchFree+ O&O channels, such as 2 Days in New York, which streams in Vizio Romance FAST channel and the newly launched Free Movie Network FAST channel. Other titles include Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior and Ong Bak 2: The Beginning, which are part of WatchFree+’s Action! FAST channel.

“Over the past year, we have remained steadfastly committed to enhancing and elevating the WatchFree+ entertainment experience,” said Katherine Pond, group VP of Platform Content & Partnerships at Vizio, in a statement.

The new content joins over 20 studios and media companies contributing programming on the FAST platform, including A24, AMC Networks, Disney, Lionsgate and others.

Pond, in the announcement, also pointed to "enriched personalization with localization, and data-driven content discovery features” as boosting WatchFree+’s free content offering for millions of Vizio users.

In late October WatchFree added 15 more local channels and launched a new geo-filtering feature that automatically detects the location of the device to serve users live regional news, sports and weather across 30 markets and 40 channels from Cox Media Group, Fox and Gray Television.

Pond previously spoke to StreamTV Insider about Vizio’s data-informed approach to programming. It leans, in part, on information gleaned from glass-level automatic content recognition (ACR) data that informs what people are watching across TV sources, going deeper than genre-level. Vizio pairs ACR with additional data for more insights, such as knowing comedies with a certain type of talent is hitting the mark audiences –  playing into which licensing deals it ultimately pursues.

“When my team actually goes out to do our licensing deals with the studios, we look for those exact attributes in the content that we’re trying to pull in,” Pond told STV in June.