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Premiering Pilots Online – Help or Hurt?

September 4, 2007 by  

Premiering Pilots Online - Help or Hurt?

In response to ABC announcing it won’t be premiering its most talked about new show PUSHING DAISIES online before it’s October 3rd premiere, Rae of Ramblings of a TV Whore explored the pros and cons an early online release of new shows.  (Read Rae’s take here)

In a recent trend, more and more networks have been premiering their Fall shows online in hopes of generating some positive buzz.  But TV is a ratings game, and if people watch the show online do the networks risk losing viewers on the important premiere night?

I’ve seen almost all the Fall pilots so far, some of them multiple times, so I can’t say that I’ll be rewatching all of them again on their actual premiere dates. I’m just one person so it doesn’t really make a difference, right?  Maybe, but what if you took a step back and counted all the people that have watched the new Fall shows online either through legal streams, like the Fox premiere of K-VILLE (which you can view in its entirety here) or most commonly, illegal downloads.  Don’t those numbers start to add up? Even if the buzz is good, is it worth risk to the ratings?

ABC marketing chief Michael Benson told the Associated Press that presenting the full episode online could cannibalize the ratings for the actual show.

“I have the same approach that Coca-Cola might have when they’re launching a product,” Benson said. “The idea is to get people to sample a product, then come in and buy more. You don’t give a six-pack; you give a sample and hope they’ll buy a six-pack if they like it.”

Is Mr. Benson forgetting the concept of “NEW Coke”? The early sampling of that product from its consumers could have prevented the corporate disaster that ensued.  And on the flip side, what if premiering the show early to fans can help boost its profile.  Think back to last year and how much early, positive buzz there was when NBC decided to release the first episode of STUDIO 60 through Netflix weeks before it’s premiere on the network. Despite it’s fall from glory, it was one of the most highly anticipated shows of the Fall season, and viewers turned in…well at least in the very beginning.

I know, I know, I’m arguing both sides of the coin here, but that’s because I really don’t know what the right answer is, or if one even exists. As fellow TV lovers I thought it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on the subject.  So do you think premiering pilots online helps or hurts a new show? Share your views in the comments.

Filed under TV News


4 Responses to “Premiering Pilots Online – Help or Hurt?”

  1. Kristi on September 4th, 2007 4:41 pm

    Oh shoot, I posted in the other thread before you made it into it’s own topic. I’ll repost it here and add some more of my thoughts though 🙂

    Well… it really doesn’t matter if ABC wants the pilot of “Pushing Daisies” online (officially) – it’s there and pretty easy to find. I don’t see why they wouldn’t though.. it brings in alot more hype and gets people talking. I recently blogged about alot of the pilots being on Torrent lately and I think it’s a good thing. When I see a new show – I talk about it whether it be good or bad and that makes others want to check it out as well.

    I think people who actually take the time to DOWNLOAD an episode of a new show are the really dedicated kind anyways. The average viewer wouldn’t go through the trouble… and being the avid TV watchers we are we’ll recruit 4-6 new people for the one viewer who won’t be watching.

    Here’s a link to the journal entry I wrote about the subject and my thoughts on the premieres I watched if anyone cares to check it out.

  2. Premiering Pilots Online - Help or Hurt? — All This Nonsense on September 4th, 2007 5:10 pm

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  3. Rae on September 4th, 2007 6:41 pm

    Look at me go, two links from you in one day! 😉 As you’ve already read, I can’t really answer the question either. It really has increased my desire to look into audience research and see just how much of it has been done for those who watch online.

    I suspect, right now, it probably doesn’t actually hurt them either way but Benson is choosing to air on the more cautious side… just in case. As Kristi pointed out above, the people who will get access to the show regardless of ABC making it available are the ones who are really more dedicated to TV so, either way, those people are still going to be creating a buzz either way.

    I think there are plenty who like the convenience of being able to catch up with shows online but I just don’t know if I think there are that many of your average viewers who are going to take the time to watch a show online BEFORE it’s aired. I think about the “average” viewers in my life and most of them don’t even know what shows are going to be showing up this fall much less care enough to find out whether they can watch them early or not. (This is where I start to question the decision because, if I’m right, then it seems like the only thing you’re doing is keeping the show from being available to the people who will talk to others about it. But, as I said, ABC has put the show out there a great deal this summer so maybe they’ve kind of evened out the scales.)

  4. Lisa (aka lmr722) on September 5th, 2007 12:14 pm

    As The Office (and other shows) has shown, there are some huge benefits to an online community. If I were marketing a new show these days an online component would be a big part of the marketing mix. I may go so far as to have an extended version of the pilot ONLY online ahead of time. Run the regular one on the appointed network at the appointed time. Word of mouth from savvy online viewers could pave the way for a successful season premier.

    Online viewing hits the demographic that most advertisers are clamoring for and so it shouldn’t be difficult to find a sponsor. Case in point, I wouldn’t even have heard the name Pushing Up Daisies if it weren’t for you, GMMR, and other onine sources

    Just my .02.