AOL to stream 'Bobby' two weeks before Sept. 12 debut

The WB’s new fall series “Jack and Bobby” won’t debut on TV.

Instead, Frog and Warner Bros. TV have signed a deal with corporate sibling America Online to have the series premiere online. It’s the first time a television show has ever aired online legally before it is broadcast.

Deal follows a test the WB conducted with AOL to stream an episode of “Everwood” last March. But that episode was a repeat that had already aired twice on the net.

Debut of a series on the Internet before it’s on TV is a riskier move, balancing the benefits of online promotion with the risk that people who watch it online, where it runs without commercials, won’t tune in to see it again on air.

But a WB rep said by making the show available only to the 3.5 million AOL broadband subscribers, it will serve primarily as a large sampling opportunity.

“We really see it more like a movie preview screening,” explained WB exec veep of marketing Suzanne Kolb. “We think we can get the audience that sees this not only to watch future episodes, but most importantly to talk to others about it.”

Keeping it within AOL and offering it only as a stream, not a download, also will help the net to control video quality and prevent piracy.

Frog execs consulted with affiliates and producer Warner Bros. to allay concerns before making the agreement with AOL.

Net decided to preview “Jack and Bobby” on AOL after finding a majority of those who saw March’s “Everwood” repeat online said they planned to watch future episodes.

WB picked “Jack and Bobby” out of its fall sked because it’s looking to reach a broader demo than its typical audience who would see on-air promos. If the test goes well, Kolb said the Frog may preview other skeins online in the future as well.

“Jack and Bobby” will be available on AOL for one week, starting two weeks before its Sept. 12 debut.

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