With so many media companies developing, launching, or expanding their advertising-supported streaming platforms, here are some practical things to know about them.

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Let’s take a quick look at the SVOD, TVOD, and PVOD paid streaming options before moving into the free ones, AVOD and FAST.


SVOD stands for Subscription Video on Demand. If yours is one of the more than 85% of US households that subscribes to a video-on-demand streaming service, then you know firsthand that it entails paying a monthly or annual subscription fee to access the streamer’s content. SVOD platforms include standalone subscription streaming services, such as Apple TV+, and streaming bundles, such as AMC+ — the latter of which allow you to stream content from all of the channels included in the bundles. Some SVOD services are completely ad-free, at least as of this writing (e.g. Acorn TV), while others have both ad-free and ad-supported subscription options (e.g. Netflix’s “Premium” and “Basic with Ads” plans, respectively).

TVOD stands for Transactional Video on Demand, meaning a transaction in which you pay to rent or purchase a film or TV title or a video bundle. PVOD stands for Premium Video on Demand, and it is TVOD and SVOD taken up a notch. That is, for the privilege of being able to watch a film or TV show in advance of its release date, you pay a premium fee. With subscription VOD, this fee is an additive charge, over and above your subscription fee.


AVOD stands for Advertising-supported Video on Demand, and FAST stands for Free Advertising-supported Streaming Television. While they both allow you to stream content free of charge, they work differently.

As with the other video-on-demand options, you choose the titles and watch them when you want with AVOD, only here they always come with ads. AVOD platforms are the homes of FAST channels, which act like broadcast channels but via streaming: Programs are preselected, scheduled, and shown one after the other — what’s known as “linear TV” (FAST channels call it “live TV”) — and you watch what the FAST channel serves up without being able to pause or stop the program or to fast forward past the ads.

The number of AVOD services has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, to more than 1,500 in the US alone, and the proliferation of linear FAST channels has exploded in the past couple of years — so much so that it’s nearly impossible for us viewers to keep up with all of them, never mind where to find some of the thousands of movie and TV titles, as well as specialty titles, like workout programs, that they offer.

The information below summarizes the different parts of AVOD and FAST in the US to help you start to narrow down the options for using them.

Access: It’s like anything else streaming: You need a working internet connection, a device that streams media (phone, tablet, TV), and the website URL or app (Android, iOS mobile / Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire Stick, Roku device app) for the AVOD platform. The type of device could affect your user/viewing experience in more ways than screen size. More about this is under “ease of use” below.

Platforms: Some of the most popular AVOD platforms in the US right now are (in alphabetical order): Crackle, Freevee, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, Tubi, and Vudu, with Plex and Xumo moving up the ranks. Also popular are the Samsung TV Plus and LG Channels AVOD offerings.

(Peacock isn’t on the list because it is now a 100% paid subscription-based streaming service. Viewers who’ve been accessing its ad-supported content for free through the promotion with Xfinity will have to start paying for it come June 26, 2023.)

For the rest of this article, only Freevee, Plex, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, Tubi, and Xumo will be used for examples, as they have both video-on-demand and FAST channel offerings.

Apps/Channels: Standalone AVOD apps are numerous. Some, like Crackle, offer video-on-demand titles in a variety of genres, while others, such as most of the ones from streaming network FilmRise, offer niche and targeted programming on apps like FilmRise for Her, FilmRise Black TV, and FilmRise True Crime.

There are plenty of FAST channels, too, including ones for popular shows (America’s Test Kitchen, Family Feud, Line of Duty), shows presented by famous folks (Emeril Lagasse, Suze Orman, Martha Stewart), and themed content (crime, horror, romance); channels from TV networks (Hallmark, Ion, Ovation) and news organizations (AccuWeather, Euronews, Reuters); and channels whose content is in languages other than English (Canela TV, Jubao, Kocowa).

FilmRise has themed FAST channels on multiple AVOD platforms. The Roku Channel currently has 17 of them, including FilmRise Anime, FilmRise British TV, and FilmRise Mysteries. Pluto TV has its owned themed channels, such as Pluto Love Stories, Pluto News, and Pluto Suspense, as do other ad-supported services.

Like the FilmRise FAST channels, others are available on multiple platforms, too, such as Antiques Roadshow UK (Freevee, Plex, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, Xumo), BBC Food (Freevee, Plex, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, Xumo), and the Jamie Oliver Channel (Freevee, The Roku Channel, Tubi, Xumo).

Subscription video-on-demand streaming services have been adding their own FAST channels to ad-supported VOD platforms, which lets you sample some of their programs so you can better determine if you’d like to sign up for a paid subscription. A few of these SVOD-branded FAST channels are ALLBLK Gems, BritBox Mysteries, MHz Now, Paramount+ Picks, and Topic Crime & Thrillers.

(FYI, some fan-favorite series that were unceremoniously dumped from SVOD services and linear TV channels over the past year or so will likely have new homes on FAST channels.)

Content & program availability: Many of the thousands of film and TV titles on AVOD can be found on multiple platforms, but all seasons of a show, including Season 1, might not be available. And programs shown on FAST channels might not be available for on-demand streaming. For example, only a small percentage of the 2,400+ episodes of British cop drama The Bill are shown on the Sleuth channel on Freevee and Plex, but neither platform offers the show as an on-demand title.

Generally, the content on multi-platform FAST channels is the same across the platforms at any given hour, but it might be different, too. For example, as I’m writing this, the BBC Food channel is showing Rachel Allen’s Cake Diaries on Freevee and Xumo, Rick Stein’s Long Weekends on Plex, The Hairy Bikers’ Mississippi Adventure on Pluto TV, and Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets on The Roku Channel. So with just one FAST channel, you could have a choice of shows to watch.

FAST channels can also have repeat episodes galore.

Originals & exclusives: Some AVOD services produce Originals, which are exclusive to them, such as the Tubi Original drama thriller The Assistant, the Freevee Original crime thriller series Troppo, and the Roku Original biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. More Originals are coming. As for FAST, I can’t say with 100% certainty that exclusive FAST channels exist, but I’ve only found Quip, which shows select British comedy series, on Freevee.

Ease of use: The video-on-demand sections of AVOD platforms are pretty straightforward. From the thumbnail images of available TV shows and movies, you select the one you want to watch and watch it right then or add it and others to your watchlist for later viewing. (To save your selections, you have to create an account with the streaming service.)

Navigating through a platform’s FAST channels can be simpler with its Android and iOS mobile apps or on its website, less so with its apps for Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire Stick, and Roku OTT devices. This has been my experience with Tubi and Freevee.

Plex, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, and Xumo have a “favorites” function for their FAST channels (as does Tubi, but only on the mobile apps), which makes it easy to get to your go-to live TV channels quickly. Freevee’s lack of a “favorites” function and use of the Amazon.com-shopping-style graphical user interface can make locating your favorite channels a pain, given that its live channels aren’t always shown in the same place on Freevee’s main screen, and it could take a fair amount of scrolling to find them.

Searches: With the exception of Xumo, which doesn’t seem have a search function, the AVOD platforms will return results for video-on-demand titles, but only Plex and Pluto TV will include both on-demand titles and FAST channels (as applicable) in their search results — but there’s a caveat: If you search for a title that’s only shown on a FAST channel and it isn’t available for video on demand, neither that title nor the FAST channel will come up in the Plex or Pluto TV search results.

A few words about the ads

The ads on AVOD services and FAST channels make it possible for their content to be made available to you at no charge. Ad breaks typically include multiple ads, with programs generally having several ad breaks each, which can come at seemingly random times. (What’s really annoying is when the program doesn’t pick up where it left off when the ad break started.) Sometimes program promos are included in the ad breaks, which can run for a few minutes to 10+ minutes total during a show or film — all of which allows you to stream the program for $0.

So there you have it — some practical tidbits about AVOD and FAST. Use them to help you navigate, explore, and (hopefully) enjoy the plethora of movie and TV content available in the ad-supported streaming arena.


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Practical Things to Know About AVOD & FAST Ad-Supported Video Streaming