Cable executives warned viewers who complained about the bundle that without it smaller players may drop off of TV. But what the industry giants did not anticipate was that they would be reborn as free channels on streaming platforms. Comcast’s XUMO, a big player in the free ad-supported streaming (FAST) space will be launching an El Rey channel. El Rey, which until recently was a linear cable network, was launched by writer Director Robert Rodrigez. The cable channel quietly shut down in 2021 after losing its partnership with Univision. El Rey was in 13 million households when it shut down linear network operations about two months after Univision Communications pulled out of the channel. After the break, the network began to look for streaming opportunities and found a home with XUMO.
Seeing a cable channel become a FAST is more monumental than is being acknowledged in the press at the moment. It is like the canary in the coal mine of the bundle. And as other smaller cable channels meet the same fate in the more traditional lineup and find their way to aggregators that don’t cost viewers $130.00-$200.00 per month the line between cable and FASTS, which often allow for live and on-demand viewing built into a unified programming grid will get more blurred. A check of XUMO and other FASTS will show you the depth of programming that mixes digital natives like Cheddar News with over-the-air channels (OTA) like BUZZR or Stadium.
We have long believed that FASTS would become indistinguishable from OTA and cable channels and the transition from a cable channel to a free streaming channel is a sign that this is happening. This is a space worth following.