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Amazon debuts free, ad-supported streaming channels just for Fire TV

Amazon is doubling down on free, ad-supported content with today's introduction of Fire TV Channels, its new, free and ad-supported (FAST) video experience coming to Fire TV devices this week. Though Fire TV had previously offered FAST content, Fire TV Channels will now be continuously updated throughout the day and integrated into several areas across the Fire TV interface, including on Home Screen rows, within Fire TV's "Free" tab, and in category-specific pages devoted to certain genres.

In addition, Fire TV is gaining a set of new FAST channels from NHL, Xbox, and TMZ, as well as a new Travel category featuring content from Tastemade Travel, "Rick Steves' Europe," "Travel Hacks," and soon, Condé Nast Traveler. Later, Fire TV Channels will also include content from the PGA.

The company explained this Fire TV update was informed by customer behavior and the increasing demand for free streaming content.

"We've offered some of this [FAST] content for a while for customers -- we've helped them discover it throughout the [user interface] by having rows of content for example throughout 'Home' or other pages," explains Charlotte Maines, director of Advertising, Monetization, Marketing and Engagement for Fire TV. "We've seen that they've been engaging with it when we surface it in a topical way...And what we've seen in the past six months alone is that the monthly hours streamed of this content have grown by 300%. So we know it's working for our customers," she added.

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The growth can be attributed to several factors, the exec said. For one, customers have hit a sort of saturation point with streaming video-on-demand offerings and don't have interest in adding more subscriptions to their monthly bills, nor do they want to try to keep up with any more services. By comparison, FAST channels are easy to use because users don't have to create an account, sign in, or jump through any other hoops to start watching.

With the update, the Fire TV interface will now pull all the new and existing FAST content together in an updated experience that provides access to a variety of categories like news, sports, food and cooking, music videos, trailers, gaming videos, comedy, and more, Maines notes.

The news category includes access to both national news coverage as well as over 330 local news channels, including as of later this week, new FAST channels from NBC and Telemundo.

These category pages can be accessed with just a click from Fire TV's "Free" tab, and Amazon says more categories are "coming soon."

The update was announced as part of Amazon's broader NewFronts presentation, which also included updates to its free streaming service Freevee -- which offers FAST channels of its own. But Freevee is accessible across platforms, including on mobile devices and other non-Amazon media players and TVs, while Fire TV Channels are exclusive to Fire TV.

The company's pitch to advertisers is that they can now directly target the Fire TV customer base, which tends to include Prime subscribers and younger families, through Amazon's DSP. This lets Amazon leverage the company's broader advertising team and capabilities to sell Fire TV's FAST channel ad space.

Amazon notes it's sold over 200 million Fire TV devices globally and Amazon's ad-supported streaming solutions now reach an average of 155 million unduplicated monthly viewers, or 6 out of 10 adults in the U.S.

The company also cited a customer success story where an automotive client ran native ads on Fire TV and Fire tablets that led to an 11% lift in brand awareness and a 14% increase in purchase intent. Plus, citing Nielsen data, Amazon said 72% of its streaming TV viewers are not watching linear TV.

Amazon isn't the only streamer offering FAST channels these days, however. Competitor Roku has over 350 FAST channels on its platform as of March. Google TV just announced over 800 FAST channels, and YouTube has been experimenting with them, as well. Plex, Warner Bros. Discovery, Tubi, and Sling TV, among others, are also wading into this market, historically led by services like Pluto TV.

The new Fire TV experience will be rolling out to customers this week, Amazon said. Customers will be able to find the new content tiles via the Fire TV Home Screen, as well as within Fire TV's "Free" tab. Later this summer, Fire TV will bring all the FAST categories together with the launch of an always-on Fire TV Channels destination.