While NBC boldly promotes its new programs through avenues like Netflix and AOL Video and streams shows through its own site, CBS enters in deals with Comcast to air episodes for a month after their initial shows through VOD, and ABC provides many of its top episodes through its site and free iPod downloads, Fox is trying a pervasive multi-platform release campaign of its own to try and garner as many new viewers as they can for programs early in the season.
Just a few weeks ago, Fox tried an initial campaign like this, making the first three episodes of its popular show Prison Break, as well as the first three episodes of Vanished, available across several Web platforms.
Based on the initial success of that campaign, the network has now decided to extend this promotion to an extensive distribution campaign for the first episodes of new series Happy Hour, Justice, and 'Til Death. One episode of Justice will be provided and two episodes of the other two shows.
These will be made available through more than 40 different online platforms, including competitors like Google Video and Yahoo, as well as a variety of other episodes. Each episode will be provided without a fee and without commercials, posted the next morning after the show initially airs on broadcast and made available for the full week until the afternoon before the next episode is set to air, in the case of 'Til Death and Happy Hour.
I don't know what implications this has in the long-term or if this will become a prototype for permanent cross-platform content throughout seasons for Fox, but the impact this could have at the beginning of a season is important. When the new lineups come out and viewers are trying to decide what shows to start watching on a weekly basis, Fox has everything to gain by creating as many avenues as possible to hook viewers early, especially considering how quickly a show can be considered a failure these days.
The question is whether shows like Happy Hour or 'Til Death are strong enough to capture people's attention. Most people praised NBC's various promotions for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip because the show was perceived as being good enough to be worth the promotion, but we had readers on this site questioning whether CBS would have as much success with their initiatives to promote good shows because their new offerings aren't universally considered as strong as Studio 60.
In the meantime, though, if Fox believes whole-heartedly in these shows, they are smart to get as many people hooked as possible in the first few weeks to be able to sustain those viewers throughout the season, considering how important it is to be prioritized on viewers' weekly shows. (This is more the case with shows that have seriality than with episodes that are almost completely self-contained and which viewers can just watch casually from time-to-time).