The New Thing For TV Shows: Debut the Pilot Episode Online In Advance

Because millennials.

a to zThese days, consumers get endless teasers before the actual debut of the thing that’s teasing them. A song comes out before the album drops. (Two songs, two albums if you’re Prince.) Movie trailers keep coming and they get longer and longer as opening day approaches.

TV has to tease its programs too. And apparently the new thing is to make the pilot available online before it’s actual premiere date. Just in the past couple of weeks, we’ve had the pilot of Selfie, the ABC show starring John Cho and Karen Gillan, and the NBC show A to Z starring Ben Feldman (better known as Mad Men‘s Ginsberg, the guy who gave Peggy his nipple in a box) and Cristin Milioti. Both are comedies geared toward a younger crowd. Which might explain the online premiere.

Actually, back in April, we watched the first episode of Penny Dreadful online, the Showtime drama that stars Josh Hartnett (aka Hotnett… still… amirite?) and Eva Green. For that show, the online debut makes sense for a different reason. It airs on a premium channel. A lot of people (myself included) don’t have Showtime. Catching an episode online for free increases the chances of either streaming it online or watching it on Netflix.

Network television is more accessible, so debuting these shows a month in advance serves another purpose. Both are shows where the internet plays an important role. Selfie, a modern retelling of My Fair Lady, is about a woman looking to be rebranded by a marketing exec. She has tons of online followers but no real friends. Cue the “awww” machine. Feldman’s character on A to Z works for an online dating service.

So it stands to reason that the Web would play a key role in the marketing of these programs. Especially since the shows are clearly going after a younger viewer. By offering up an advanced screening, they’re looking to build a following that, if they’re not watching it live when it airs, will tune in some other way.

If I may offer a piece of advice to the folks at ABC: tone down the commercials. Part of the reason people don’t watch broadcast networks and basic cable are all of the ads. Twice I had to suffer through five commercials while trying to watch Selfie. And once through four. And the ads were the same four or five commercials.

And just as a follow up to our earlier post predicting that Selfie would be “pretty bad.” Hmm… her hosiery is stellar. And A to Z has a hoverboard in the premiere. So there’s that.

I admit: I’m in the process of watching Breaking Bad, so I’m in a pretty dark mood these days.