U.K. Channel Airs Geek TV Show First On The Web - InformationWeek

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U.K. Channel Airs Geek TV Show First On The Web

The program chronicles the life of IT staffers Jen, Roy, and Moss, who work out of the basement of fictional Reynholm Industries and are scorned by co-workers.

Channel 4 in the United Kingdom is debuting its new show "IT Crowd," which is about the life of three IT workers in a big corporation, on the Web a week before it premieres on TV.

The Web-first showing takes the publicly owned channel, which is funded by its own commercial activities, outside the norm. TV networks in the United States have simulcast programs on the Web and on TV, but not first on the Internet.

"This is not the typical way to roll things out," Steven Kovsky, an analyst for Current Analysis, said. "It's a novelty."

The episode shown on the Web begins without any advertising. The program chronicles the life of characters Jen, Roy and Moss, who work out of the basement of fictional Reynholm Industries and are scorned and mocked as geeky losers by co-workers in the company high-rise towers.

To generate buzz on the Web for a new TV show or movie, U.S. entertainment companies often release trailers or snippets on the major portals, such as Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and America Online Inc. Companies have also simulcast a show's debut on the Web and TV.

Yahoo, for example, webcast last year the debut of Showtime Networks's comedy series "Fat Actress," starring Kirstie Alley. The simulcast with the TV showing was preceded by two weeks of promotions on Yahoo, that included video clips, photos, upcoming episode information and a link to "Fat Actress" on Showtime's website.

Showing a program first on the Web, however, is risky, given that it could mean fewer people would watch it on TV. While advertising growth is higher on the Web, the revenue is small compared to what networks make selling TV advertising.

Nevertheless, a Web-first strategy could make sense with some shows, particularly non-established programs trying to build an audience. In the case of "IT Crowd," the subject matter lends itself to a Web audience.

"It makes sense to do this, because they're reflecting and apparently trying to appeal to a tech audience," Kovsky said.

A better test of the Web-first strategy would be to use an episode of a popular TV show, such as "American Idol," or "Lost." It's possible that in some cases any audience drop could be made up in Web ads and the selling of show-related products.

"The economics could make sense, but it hasn't been tested yet," Kovsky said.

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