Warner Bros. Discovery’s MotorTrend Group is launching a free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channel on Samsung TV Plus.
First reported by Variety, the publication noted it’s the first entertainment-focused FAST channel for Warner Bros. Discovery, which already launched CNN Replay and CNN Resuma. According to the report, the MotorTrend FAST TV channel debuts today, October 26, in the U.S. and Canada and will feature automotive content from the library of MotorTrend, which operates a cable network under the same name. It features over 8,000 episodes of automotive content.
For Samsung TV Plus, it’s a new channel as the smart TV maker is refocusing investment on the platform with particular attention on working to grow the library of premium content available on its FAST service.
Takashi Nakano, senior director of content acquisitions and business development at Samsung TV Plus, emphasized in a statement the focus on partnering with popular content brands.
“Samsung TV Plus is fiercely committed to strengthening partnerships with leading content creators and networks, including MotorTrend – a marquee brand well-established as a mark of authority in the automotive space and among car enthusiasts,” Nakano said in a statement provided to Fierce Video.
He added that Samsung TV Plus is also reaching car fans through its recently-launched auto-focused owned & operated channels, alongside other auto, sports and lifestyle content on the platform, which touts 1,600 channels globally.
“By working with trusted brands to deliver premium programming in the categories we know consumers love, we enable our viewers to experience Samsung TV Plus like traditional television – but with the dynamic capabilities unique to streaming – with no added cost for the consumer,” Nakano continued.
Samsung TV Plus is one of a few OEM interface players in the FAST space, alongside fellow smart TV makers LG and Vizio. Its platform also competes with FAST offerings such as Fox’s Tubi, NBCUniversal’s Peacock, Comcast’s Xumo, The Roku Channel and Amazon’s Freevee, among others.
As the TV ecosystem undergoes continued shifts, Nakano said he’s confident on the Samsung TV Plus content strategy for engaging users on the platform.
“As TV continues to evolve with the FAST landscape leading the way, we are constantly exploring new ways to deliver more premium content to our users,” he stated. “While we are absolutely bullish that the next phase of TV will unfold a new era in TV viewing that is yet to be seen, we are confident that our focus on partnerships, exclusive O&O content, a robust news offering, and an ever-growing VOD library will allow us to continue delivering on what we know consumers want.”
In a separate announcement on Wednesday, Hearst Media Production Group announced the launch of its third FAST channel, bringing Rovr Pets to Samsung TV Plus in the U.S. The ad-supported streaming linear channel features hundreds of hours of pet-themed series produced by HMPG.
Not likely to be the last FAST channel for Warner Bros. Discovery
As for Warner Bros. Discovery, media industry analyst and FAST expert Alan Wolk doesn’t expect the MotorTrend FAST channel to be it’s last.
“I think this is the first of several that Warner Brothers will do,” Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst of consulting firm TVREV, told Fierce.
He noted that Discovery+ already has linear channels, as does Peacock and Paramount+. In fact, it’s a trend he expects all major SVOD services will follow with soon.
“They’re all looking at the success of linear channels on the FAST,” he said, adding they’re taking note that it’s a way to increase time spent on platforms, and to surface much of their respective libraries for niche content categories, so overall not many reasons not to.
To that point, WBD executives themselves said during second quarter earnings that the company is exploring the option to launch its own FAST service down the line. That would come after a new SVOD that combines Discovery+ and HBO Max is firmly established, with a FAST serving as an entry point to WBD’s premium service, according to comments by CEO David Zaslav in August.
As for the MotorTrend FAST channel and automotive in general, Wolk views this as a good niche category for the free ad-supported linear format.
“It’s good because there’s sort of ready-made advertisers for it,” he said. “If you’re STP Motor Oil or some other thing aimed at car enthusiasts, what a great place to reach them.”
Or for example, big car manufacturers that have a unique or new product – “it’s a great audience to showcase in front of, so I think that will be a big thing too.”
When it comes to picking Samsung TV Plus for the MotorTrend channel, Wolk noted that Samsung has a huge user base as one of the leading U.S. smart TV OEMs, alongside “a fairly solid ad network.” Its international presence could be a factor too – with Wolk positing that once it gets going in the U.S. there’s opportunity to bring the content overseas as well.
Samsung TV Plus is also teed up to be integrated on more smart TVs, as Samsung recently disclosed plans to license its Tizen OS to third-party TV makers. Already the platform is available in 24 countries and 465 million devices globally across TV and mobile.
That said, FAST channel deals are rarely if ever exclusive as they’re utilizing library content Wolk noted, though sometimes platforms get an exclusive window of say 3-6 months for example, so distribution could likely expand to other platforms as well.
“I doubt they’re [Warner Bros. Discovery] going to just limit it to Samsung,” he said.
In general, the thinking for streamers behind free linear channels focused on a single topic or show, Wolk explained, is to provide an environment where people can easily pop in and out of content they know – such as with single series FAST channels – without having to select a specific episode every time.
The notion is if media companies have a “a series that has hundreds of episodes, why make someone choose a new one every time they tune in?” Wolk continued. “We’ll just have a linear channel for them and they can just dive in where we have it. And that seems to be quite popular,” he said, thus also helping to combat some of the content choice fatigue many consumers face.
At a recent NAPTE event Vizio’s director of content acquisition, Greg Barnard, noted that these type of single-show linear channels help viewers familiarize themselves with AVOD and FAST.
“We’re essentially trying to generate a new behavior in the consumer,” he said during a panel in September. “FAST is new, AVOD on a streaming platform is new. What a single series IP channel does is it generates that behavior more seamlessly.”
Viewers can turn on that channel and immediately know what to expect, Barnard continued, “so it’s a lot easier to engage with.”
As for the new MotorTrend FAST linear channel debuting on Samsung TV Plus, Variety reported that it’s the next step for the brand to bring content to audiences across new platforms. Plans call for multiple thematic programming blocks on Samsung TV Plus, while weekends will feature dedicated content from popular MotorTrend experts David Freiburger and Mike Finnegan, per the report.