By Sahil Patel
TV networks are increasingly using digital services to preview and promote their upcoming programming. The hope is that generating advance interest for a show by putting an entire episode online before it premieres on TV will help drive viewership where it still matters — on TV.
Largely and rather obviously, YouTube has been the go-to destination for this kind of campaigning. Networks from HBO to Showtime have used the video site to give people a sneak peek of a new show, or a new season of an existing show. But YouTube doesn’t seem to be the only game in town, anymore. Recently, HBO partnered with Yahoo to screen the first episode of “The Leftovers” on Yahoo Screen, and not YouTube.
And now, NBC has struck a deal with radio-streaming service iHeartRadio — yes, radio — to air the pilot of its upcoming comedy series “A to Z.” Starting today, the pilot can be streamed on iHeartRadio.com as well as the service’s mobile app. The series launches on NBC proper seven weeks from now.
The pilot will also be available on NBC-branded properties including NBC.com, the NBC app, Hulu, Xfinity, and NBC-owned and affiliate station websites and on-demand services.
As part of the campaign, NBC is also partnering with iHeartRadio parent Clear Channel Media and Entertainment to promote the digital-only premiere. Clear Channel will promote the pilot on the air across all of its “contemporary hits” radio stations, as well as their websites, mobile sites, and social networks. Ryan Seacrest, who has a daily show with Clear Channel, also plans to discuss the comedy series and the digital premiere during his broadcasts.
So maybe this goes a bit beyond publishing a full episode to YouTube or Yahoo Screen.
According to NBC, previewing “A to Z” in this fashion is “perfect,” because the show is targeted to the millennial audience, “which often watches content online before traditional linear viewing.” (So why not just make an entire series available on digital platforms? Oh right, money.)
“A to Z” is produced by Le Train Train Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television. The romantic-comedy series stars Ben Feldman (“The Mindy Project”) and Cristin Milioti (“How I Met Your Mother”) in the lead role, joined by a cast that also includes Katey Sagal (“Sons of Anarchy”) and Christina Kirk (“Girls”).
The digital version of the pilot will be 90 seconds longer than the version that airs on NBC on Thursday, October 2, the network said.