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In an effort to push its latest sitcom, New Girl, Fox launched a bold promotion strategy: the network released the pilot early on a variety of online platforms, including iTunes, Hulu, and Fox.com. The pilot premiered on iTunes on September 6th and at Hulu, VOD, and Fox.com on September 13th– a full week before the sitcom’s premiere date on September 20th.
Why would Fox take the risk of cannibalizing its audience? Who would tune in for a pilot they’ve already seen? Even with these risks, Fox’s strategy was a smart one; in fact, it’s a strategy all content marketers can learn from.
Premiere week is a noisy time for television. With dozens of new shows premiering and even more returning, it’s difficult to get a new show noticed– especially if you’re a network with a poor recent history of half-hour sitcoms. So Fox bet money on the echo effect– in theory, tech-savvy viewers who see and love the show first will take to social media and tell all their friends.
Fox’s numbers don’t matter on the initial premiere; what matters is that those early viewers return for more episodes of New Girl– and that those same viewers bring their friends along with them.
Image via Lucas Vipieski on Flickr
Fox’s strategy is akin to guest posting on a blog: they promote to another platform’s audience and hope that viewers like what they see and return to Fox for more. Though many television shows fail to deliver, a pilot should be one of the best episodes of the season. It should show promise; it should be interesting, engaging, and relatable; and (most importantly) it should leave you wanting more.
If you get the opportunity to share your content on another forum or platform, make it your best. Turn your guest content into your pilot episode– if you leave them wanting more, they’ll return.
Promoting blindly on every possible source isn’t just time-consuming– it’s foolish. There’s no sense promoting to an unresponsive audience– after all, would you promote your flank steak recipe on a vegan forum? The saying “work smarter, not harder” applies doubly to promotion.
Fox’s platform choices are smart ones. The network catches its natural audience on Fox.com, the Glee-loving audience on iTunes, and the I-Watch-All-My-TV-Online audience on Hulu. But perhaps the smartest (and certainly most original) platform Fox chose was “Hello Giggles,” a blog backed by the show’s lead actress, Zooey Deschanel.
Choose high-profile target platforms that make sense for your content’s target audiences instead of promoting your content wherever you can insert a link. Promote smarter, not harder.
Viewers were promised they’d get to see the pilot “early” as a special “sneak peek.” These viewers were still treated to a sense of just-for-you exclusivity– while the rest of us were cluelessly setting our DVRs for September 20th, they’d already seen the episode.
This kind of exclusivity can help build loyalty in your content. It breeds excitement (after all, they’ve seen something only a few others have). Try releasing an e-book only for blog subscribers or producing an article solely for a certain forum– you may find people are more likely to promote something they feel exclusively connected to.
While Fox’s early episode release for New Girl made sense, promotion-wise, its other advertising strategies didn’t. Fox has plastered their channels with so many ads and trailers for its latest sitcom that the network also runs the risk of making viewers sick of Deschanel before they’ve seen a single episode.
Don’t follow all of Fox’s marketing strategies this season. Remember, it’s always better to give away one finished product that 30 teasers. No one goes to the movies to see trailers– and no one will come see your content if it doesn’t deliver the whole package.