By Sahil Patel
In recent years, HBO has made a practice of making series and season premieres of its original shows available online for free — it’s a way for people to sample the content in the hopes that it convinces them to pay for HBO. (On a smaller level, it could also be seen as a way to boost interest and viewership for a series, regardless of whether the online viewer is an HBO customer or not.)
The premium pay-TV programmer is at it again with its newest show, “The Leftovers,” from creator and executive producer Damon Lindelof (“Lost”).
The ultra-bleak drama follows the citizens of a small New York suburb three years after a cataclysmic worldwide event that caused 2% of the world’s population to vanish without a trace. Based on a bestselling novel of the same name, “The Leftovers” focuses on those who are trying to cope with losing loved ones, and wondering why they didn’t make the cut.
The pilot, which runs for more than an hour, is now available for a limited time on Yahoo Screen. The deadline to watch it is July 6, when the episode goes back behind HBO’s paywall.
Now Yahoo Screen isn’t the only place the pilot is available for free. HBO says it’s distributing the episode across multiple digital portals and on-demand platforms.
But in previous years, HBO would prominently distribute these premieres via its YouTube channel. That’s not the case with “The Leftovers.” According to an HBO spokesperson, the episode will not go to YouTube.
The episode’s availability on Yahoo Screen is the result of a partnership between HBO and Yahoo for the Yahoo Screen audiences, the spokesperson said.
Which makes this an interesting — albeit small — development in the context of Yahoo’s plans to build a competitive offering to YouTube. Most conversations surrounding Yahoo and its video plans have focused on YouTube creators, and how the company is trying to entice them to put content on Yahoo.
But YouTube is not just its creator community. The open platform also has plenty of large and traditional media brands distributing their “premium” content. Yahoo’s upcoming video offering — whenever it rolls out — will make a similar play.
To its credit, Yahoo isn’t a stranger to distribution partnerships with TV content owners. The company already has deals with Viacom and Broadway Video to distribute clips of shows like “Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” The Colbert Report,” and “SNL” on Yahoo Screen. But by locking in a deal such as this with HBO, the company is suggesting that it too can be a place for content people — big and small — to freely distribute content.