June 14, 2006
New Series Debut on Web Before Network TV

Considering my previous post about what has been labeled "gated" channel distribution, such as is the case with the SoapNetic series only being available on Verizon, comes something more along the line of the model I'm thinking of--Sundance will be launching a new series on the AOL Black Voices Web site before it debuts on its show.

Of course, AOL helped pioneer the "gated" channel concept on television, as I can remember the stress one had in the mid-1990s if some of their favorite media content was available exclusively to AOL members and others were available exclusively to Prodigy members.

But this newest initiative shows how much their thinking has switched. Sundance will be launching its new series House of Boateng, which is based on fashion designer Ozwald Boateng launching his first clothing line in America. The series will debut on the AOL site on June 20 and will play that Tuesday and Wednesday before debuting at 9 p.m. next Thursday night.

AOL Black Voices is a major online initiative to reach African-American audiences.

I think this is just the right idea to create buzz for a new show among a target audience. Of course, that type of approach only works if the show you have is worth creating the right kind of buzz for. Sometimes, movies that don't release their films early for reviewers have the right idea--they don't want to kill any buzz for their release. In this case, though, I think Sundance has the right idea, as long as they believe in their product.

It will be interesting to see how many downloads it gets in the two days prior to the series premiere on television with the numbers the show brings in. Will the exposure on Black Voices create a grassroots word-of-mouth for the target audience in time to get more views for the program's opening on television?

And, if so, will the Nielsen numbers be able to reflect that word-of-mouth, which depends on your faith in current measurement systems, I guess.

Either way, I think Sundance has the right idea.