How do you get a new TV show to really take off ? Show the first episode in cinemas and on college campuses - before it premieres on television . That's one tactic Walt Disney's ABC channel is planning in the US with its new thriller "The River".
It's part of a broader effort by TV executives to get their shows noticed "in an increasingly splintered entertainment world," says the Wall Street Journal.
The River, starting on TV in the US on February, tells the story of a TV personality who goes missing deep in the Amazon filming a new show. Family and friends set out on a "mysterious and deadly journey" to find him.
Paul Lee, president of ABC Entertainment Group, said he wanted to build buzz leading up to the show's premiere, rather than relying simply on curious viewers tuning in to the first episode.
"You're going to see us do it on a number of the shows that are coming out," said Mr. Lee, talking to reporters from the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, California.
Pre-sampling, as it is called, is also being used at Fox and NBC. NBC's musical "Smash" will appear three weeks before its premiere online and on on-demand. The networks' dilemma is basically : How do make your shows stand out with the growing number of cable and Web outlets.
"Mr. Lee, for instance, has been staggering premieres throughout the year to avoid having too many marketing campaigns compete for viewers," said the WSJ.
The Texas-based soap "GCB," based on the book "Good Christian Bitches," and another show "Don't Trust the B— in Apartment 23" will be promoted in this way.
On broadcast 'bitches' is not a word you want to use in the title, Lee said laughing - except that he referred to use the "b word."
"At the same time, we'd love to have people saying, 'there's something here edgy and interesting that I'd like to be a part of.'"