Remember when you watched The Simpsons in syndication and you could just enjoy a random episode, without the burden of having to consciously pick one? What if instead of being limited to one episode per evening (or perhaps two or even three depending on your TV market), the show was constantly airing 24/7? Well, that could become a reality sooner rather than later if streaming analysts’ predictions hold true.
Now that the streaming business model has imploded, the studios have realized that the linear TV model it disrupted wasn’t so bad after all and are eager to recoup their lost revenue by getting into FAST (free, ad-supported television) channels, which are essentially fake TV channels with commercials you can stream, many of which are dedicated to one show. Some even have their own services featuring these channels: Paramount has Pluto TV and Paramount+, Fox Corporation has Tubi, NBC Universal has Peacock, and Amazon has Freevee. Warner Bros. Discovery is launching their own service later this year. Even Netflix has hinted at getting in the game.
Disney has had an ABC News Live channel for years, and in May they added a few FAST channels on the ABC app, but so far they haven’t made any major waves in that space. Streaming analysts have mused on the viability of Disney embracing the FAST market and posit that a Simpsons channel would be a no-brainer.
The real question around Disney’s decision to launch an ad-supported Disney Plus offering isn’t whether it’s a good move. Rather, it’s when are they going to take the next step and launch a free ad-supported streaming TV service (FAST) that can compete with Paramount’s Pluto TV, NBCU’s Peacock and Fox’s Tubi?
Of course, the other possibility here is that rather than go for a quick buck now and sell to outside ad-supported platforms, Disney could just launch its own FAST service, as Warner Bros. Discovery is exploring. I don’t think it would make much sense to put anything too obviously Disney on such a platform as it might cheapen the brand. But a service which leaned heavily on the 20th titles, as well as content from ABC (including ABC News), could be a winner.
Additionally, internal FAST channels from other streaming companies — such as a “Simpsons” or Marvel channel for Disney+, or a teen-drama channel for Netflix — could be coming sooner than you think.
The first 10 seasons are widely regarded to be the show’s best and would make perfect fodder for a dedicated single-series FAST channel. Disney+ could keep newer seasons behind a paywall, and still have plenty of content for such a channel.
What’s interesting about The Simpsons in particular is that they already were on FAST-like channels, as FX president John Landgraf mentioned in an interview:
When we bought The Simpsons, we built an app called Simpsons World that had every episode ever made in a perfectly searchable system. Then it had so-called channels, which were linear streams of Simpsons episodes. Eighty percent of the consumption was from the linear playlists, and 20 percent was on demand.
Here’s a screenshot of what those channels looked like, via Fast Company.
The Simpsons is already the most popular show on Disney+. Imagine what those viewership numbers would be if they added a channel that allowed you to drop in and just watch a random episode, freeing you from the tyranny of choice.