Free streamers continue growth with new channels

New offerings include devoted channels to Wheel Of Fortune, Jeopardy!, and Judge Judy; National Geographic, and Canada’s CBC as business continues to grow

The growth of free, ad-supported streaming television channels – or FAST for short, isn’t just blooming – it’s exploding.

On Monday, Paramount Global’s Pluto TV announced the addition of channels dedicated to classic Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune episodes to their streaming service beginning August 1, meaning for those who miss the late Alex Trebek hosting Jeopardy! can now watch him again.

It’s not known how far back Pluto would reach into each show’s library for content. Originally distributed by King World, Wheel of Fortune debuted in syndication in 1983 while Jeopardy! followed a year later. King World was bought by CBS in 1999 and both has been distributed by CBS Media Ventures ever since as the company and Pluto TV share Paramount Global as a parent. However, the deal to bring each show to streaming were made by Sony Pictures Television, who produces both shows and own ancillary rights.

On Monday, Pluto TV added Judge Judy and Let’s Make A Deal (from the Wayne Brady-hosted era) channels, the latter licensed by a new partnership created last year by Nancy Glass and Marcus Lemonis. Recently, Amazon’s Freevee (formerly IMDB TV) launched a Judy channel of its own, culled from her new series for Amazon, Judy Justice. CBS owns the large library of Judge Judy episodes, whose ownership and profits were the focus of a lawsuit between the company and Judy Sheindlin.

Pluto TV is also reorganizing their lineup by grouping together their game show channels into a single, easy-to-find hub, where as Wheel and Jeopardy will join August 1.

Meanwhile, National Geographic (or NatGeo for short) launched two new free streaming channels on June 30, featuring content previously airing on the cable network of the same name: Pets & Vets, featuring animals and veterinarians (of course), and National Geographic Investigates, featuring documentaries and reality law enforcement shows, such as To Catch A Smuggler and Trafficked.

A third channel from NatGeo launched last week named Sharkfest, obviously tied in to NatGeo’s month-long celebration of all things sharks, obviously a clone of Discovery’s long-running Shark Week. Launched as a cable network by Fox in 2001 and based on the famous magazine, NatGeo was part of Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of most 20th Century Fox’s properties, announced in December 2017 and closed in March 2019. National Geographic’s relationship with TV dates back to 1964 with broadcast and cable TV specials.

All three are a part of Disney’s “ABC Unlocked” initiative, where viewers can watch ABC’s eight-owned stations (including WLS-TV/ABC 7) 24/7 streaming channels, without sign-in or any geographic restrictions. The channels are available on ABC.com and ABC’s app, available on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, Roku, and Samsung TVs and as a download in the Amazon, Apple, and Google Play stores. CBS’ and NBC’s owned stations have taken a similar path with streaming channels available on Pluto TV and Peacock, respectively as more local stations – network-owned and non-network owned – are also launching streaming channels.

Even Canadian public broadcaster CBC is jumping into the game with a FAST channel of its own, though it is not known if it would be available to American viewers. A daily news show is planned with The National’s Andrew Chang as anchor. The channel plans to feature its content, including The Fifth Estate and some exclusive original shows. And set makers are jumping on too, with Samsung Plus and LG Channels (powered by Comcast-owned Xumo, a streaming app.)

The expansion of FAST channels comes as more media companies are trying to reach viewers who have abandoned live linear TV for streaming alternatives and can create 24/7 channels devoted to just about any genre, including news, sports, weather, movies, music videos, and entire TV shows. It’s perfect for those who don’t want an expensive cable or satellite subscription and don’t mind commercials. Plus, the channels are a win for advertisers because they can distinctly target viewers who are likely to be interested in their products. Ad revenue is expected to increase as FAST channels become more popular with viewers.

Have any news tips? E-mail them to terehend@tdogmedia.com.

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