September 8, 2006
If You Can't Beat 'Em...

CBS has made the first move of any network at providing content in a special deal just for TiVo service subscribers.

The broadcaster will be partnering with TiVo to make the premiere episode of new situation comedy The Class available to TiVo subscribers a week before it will air in the broadcast lineup. The show will be available next week to TiVo subscribers and will air on Monday, Sept. 18 as part of the launch of CBS's fall primetime lineup.

But, wait..that's not all. TiVo subscribers are also going to get the chance to watch sneak previews of the three new and heavily promoted CBS dramas, Jericho, Shark, and Smith.

And, as part of the partnership, TiVo will offer a one-click option for which subscribers will be able to record the premieres of all four of these series.

Great to see the networks' guns continue to go down against services like TiVo, as broadcasters and cable networks alike are embracing cross-platform distribution incrementally, anyway. Since the networks are beginning to realize they aren't going to be able to do anything to stop services like TiVo, the question is not how can we hold up timeshifting services in court but rather how can we best work with them and adapt to the continued changes in the industry.

This new move from CBS is along the lines of NBC's partnership with NetFlix to promote Kidnapped and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip over the past month.

The idea here is to make good content available ahead of time, so that the network can both embrace new platforms and show their innovativeness while also giving content to viewers ahead of time in hopes that the content is so good that these folks will act as grassroots advocates for the show's debut so that allowing a few people to watch the show early will actually lead to more viewers, not less, when the content is first broadcast.



One has to believe that CBS is pretty damn bullish on these TiVo partnered pre-releases, as a poor debut might have the effect of the first ever pre-cancellation of a series.

TiVo subscribing Pre-Viewers, a First Adopting group by nature, may roundly spank a bad show in the blogosphere, and most certainly at the water cooler.

It'll be interesting to see how the shows fare in the wake of the TiVo precipitated buzz, and how this translates into the future expansion or retraction of this rollout structure.

I wonder if the commercials will be the same, cost the same, or change before live broadcast depending on their own buzz. This may be the birth of a whole new tier of advertising cost structure.


Don, very good points. I agree that CBS will probably want to promote this to be as big a deal and as successful as possible, but you make a very good point about the importance of quality programming when it comes to innovative marketing. Giving a chance for first adopters or lead users to see a program first only works if the new series is good enough to inspire positive word of mouth because these people will have no problem with spreading the word NOT to see a show as well.

I'm hoping that they have selected carefully in the content they are going to send out and are confident in audience reception for it, especially taking time to consider the attributes of the TiVo userbase.

On September 11, 2006 at 9:12 AM, Henry Jenkins said:

This is the perfect idea but with the wrong example. I always hear about people who are reluctant to pick up a show so much as one episode into the run because they don't want to join a story in the middle. CBS is giving Tivo owners the chance to sell their friends and family on the show before they have the chance to say "I don't like starting in the middle." The really unfortunate problem is, I had the opportunity to watch all of these shows over the summer and I've gotta say not only wasn't there a true home run in the bunch but The Class was pretty terrible, especially given the high expectations that the words "from the creators of Friends and Mad About You" would arouse. It was exactly the kind of three camera, two set stage sitcom about an ensemble cast of cardboard characters that crashes and burns and rises again from the ashes every season. The jokes weren't funny. The laughtrack was outdated. It just wasn't a good show. Shark was fluffy and enjoyable but forgettable, not the kind of show that generates big buzz. Smith had a convoluted plot. I wouldn't mind seeing Jericho again but I'm not sure whether I'll actually pick it up as a Season Pass or not. CBS should have tried this strategy with a much bigger ace up their sleeve. Hopefully this will serve as a test run for when they really have a new hit in the making and, at worst, this attempt will fade quietly into the night.

On September 12, 2006 at 9:24 AM, Sam Ford said:

Henry, since I haven't seen these shows, I will not pass judgment on my own yet. But as I mentioned in my original post, I can't imagine that they would try something like this unless it was with products they particularly believe in because bad word-of-mouth can be pretty damaging. The problem is that, if this doesn't work out, it could discourage them from trying somethingl ike this again, and that would be a shame. What's hard to understand, though, is if they pick a weak product to do this with. Then again, it's hard to imagine including a weak show on your fall lineup if you really think it's not good and won't get an audience, so maybe--if some of these shows really aren't particularly good--the error was made some time back and not just in the decision of which shows to offer to TiVo users early.