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Google TV Takes on the FAST Market with 800+ Free Channels

These days, free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channels have become ubiquitous and are gaining popularity due to their offering of familiar reruns and news programming at no cost. Almost all modern smart TVs come with a host of FAST channels, and streaming devices like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and now Google TV are actively promoting them. In fact, Google TV has recently doubled down on linear FAST content and is introducing a ton of additional channels in the US. Users will start seeing these channels pop up over the next few weeks, whether they’re watching from a Chromecast or a TV that runs the software.

Google TV had already been offering FAST content from Pluto TV, but it has now expanded to include channels from Tubi, Plex, and Haystack News, and it is also adding its own FAST channels that can be streamed without the need for an app. Google claims that there are now “over 800 free TV channels from multiple providers in one place.” However, users should be aware that this only refers to the live TV guide, and in some cases, they may still need to install and open an app to watch some of these channels.

Google is serious about pushing FAST content and plans to bring the new TV guide and free channels to eligible Android TV devices later this year. So, this won’t just be limited to newer Google TV software. If you have an Nvidia Shield TV or other Android TV-based hardware, it could show up there too.

For people who don’t want to pay for a live TV subscription service, FAST programming can be a helpful way to fill in downtime when you’re tired of watching Netflix, HBO Max, or any of the other major streamers. However, if you do pay for YouTube TV, Sling TV, or another service that was already integrated with the live guide on Google TV, this influx of new content might be overwhelming. While there’s no way to completely hide the FAST content, live TV channels from your subscriptions will at least show up above them at the top of the guide. You can also save your favorite networks to the top of the guide for faster access, so hopefully, there will be minimal scrolling through dozens of linear channels with shows that you’ve never heard of. However, sometimes that’s just part of the FAST experience, but at least they’re organized into categories that are easier to browse.

This expansion of the live TV tab follows other changes to Google TV’s interface, mostly focused on the homescreen, back in February. The redesign saw “Movies” and “Shows” being dropped from the main navigation bar and moved into the “For You” tab. Before that, Google cleaned up the library and streamlined the live guide.

As someone who mostly watches the usual streaming heavyweights, I’m curious about FAST and would love to hear from people who use these services often. Do you have a favorite FAST channel? Are there any under-the-radar gems that are worth watching despite the ads? I recently watched some MacGyver reruns on a channel I’ve already forgotten, and that hit the spot. I also know that Samsung has its ultra-soothing Bob Ross channel, but I want to know what’s worth my time now that I have access to 800-plus channels of random content every night. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

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