NEW YORK — To launch their fall lineups, the major networks are turning to the Web like never before, offering viewers the chance to see premiere episodes for free and producing original content around their new series that doubles as entertainment and advertising.
NBC, which is utilizing the tactic most aggressively, is offering downloads of the premiere episodes of the new dramas “Chuck,” “Life” and “Journeyman” on Amazon.com starting Sept. 10.
Also around that date, the 4 million members of Facebook’s Apple students group will be able to exclusively download the three premiere episodes on iTunes. A week later, the iTunes downloads will be widely available.
NBC also is making the premiere episodes of “Chuck,” “Life” and “Journeyman” as well as “Bionic Woman” available as free VOD offerings on about 30 cable and satellite systems, including Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Dish Network starting Sept. 10. A week later, streaming video of the “Life” pilot will be exclusively available on AOL, “Journeyman” on MSN and “Chuck” on Yahoo.
There also will be one more online sampling program starting Sept. 4 that involves a partnership with a major retailer, but NBC declined to provide specific details. Additionally, NBC will screen the full premiere episodes of “Journeyman” and “Chuck” on United Airlines flights.
I’ve got news for you, NBC. I’m still looking for an early leak of Journeyman. It hasn’t happened yet. Just about everyone has already seen the first episodes of Chuck, Bionic Woman, Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Pushing Daisies. But Journeyman? Nope! (Hell, CBS’s Cane and The Big Bang Theory are also available.)
Don’t believe me, NBC?
Here are three screensnaps from Bionic Woman. Note: I do not have this on my hard drive. This was uploaded six days ago to a site where anyone can view it with a mouse click. The screensnaps were done while it was streaming from the site.
I’ve purposely selected three snaps that reveal nothing other than what you, NBC, would recognize: That Bionic Woman is indeed already out there for everyone to see. I don’t think I’ve spoiled anything for anyone with these nebulous screensnaps.
You, NBC, might have visions of partnering with Amazon and iTunes in order to be kewl, but the only people who will get the pilots that way are people who would more or less watch them on TV anyway. That’s not much of a vanguard for real buzz. In fact, you better hope that Amazon and iTunes don’t experience any problems distributing that stuff. Or you’ll have the kind of buzz you never intended to create.
So, NBC, if you’re not going to do it, you better hope someone else does it for you: Leak Journeyman now.