According to a Reuters story that just came through a few minutes ago, NBC announced today that it will make a couple of its new teelvision shows available through Netflix several weeks before the shows' broadcast debuts.
The new shows Kidnapped and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip are both going to be offered through the Netflix direct mail DVD rental system six weeks before the first broadcast airing, in hopes to drum up strong support for the shows before they ever air through grassroots word-of-mouth marketing.
The first episodes of both of these shows, in addition to trailers of other upcoming shows on NBC, will be available for rent from Netflix starting August 5.
In the past week, both Jason Mittell and I have written about the missed opportunity to promote pilots online and let viewers choose from among them. And, while some have attacked Netflix for using the outmoded snail mail system of distribution, the marketing phenomenon have changed people's relationship with movie content, damaged the bottom lines of traditional video stores, and helped enable Chris Anderson's Long Tail theory of consumption.
Will many viewers be inticed to use one of their Netflix rentals for these sample episodes and assorted trailers? My guess is that they will and that, if these shows are good, the company will get a substantial award in positive support. Of course, that support does hinge on the show's quality and--again--these types of distribution deals only work well if there is a product worth discussing. Of course, using an Aaron Sorkin show and a suspense thriller is probably a smart move on the network's part, as they are two shows that NBC already feel strongly about and are building around for the fall lineup. Once the initiative launches in August, it will be interesting to track rental numbers, but my guess is that this could further popularize these types of campaigns to gain support for shows before they ever hit broadcast television.