DirecTV to deliver nets’ ‘Sneak Peeks’

Promo shows will be available to satcaster's subs

NEW YORK — All of the broadcast networks, including UPN and the WB, are putting together half-hour highlights of their 2005-06 primetime schedules to air on a new platform: DirecTV.

Joining the broadcasters will be HBO and Showtime for these first- ever upfront promotional shows, called “Sneak Peeks,” which will be available to all of DirecTV’s 14 million satellite dish owners. Plan kicks off in early August with the first network’s half-hour presentation.

Each net gets one week exclusively, during which its half-hour reel will run across a number of DirecTV channels, including inhouse promotional channels and those not currently in use.

Michael Thornton, senior VP of program acquisitions for DirecTV, said the satcaster will promote these network upfront shows heavily on barker channels and throughout the schedule to make sure its subscribers know about the “Sneak Peeks.”

Still to be worked out, he said, is the chronological order in which the networks will receive their one-week place in the DirecTV sun.

Thornton said he first got the idea “as a bonus for our TiVo customers.” About 2 million subscribers get their TiVo built into the DirecTV box. With “Sneak Peeks,” they’ll end up with an advantage over the satcaster’s 12 million other customers because DirecTV will automatically download the half-hour reel into the TiVo box for viewing at the subscriber’s convenience throughout the week. DirecTV will erase the half-hour after the seven-day period to make way for the next upfront reel.

The networks have carte blanche to promote whatever they want as long as they keep the length to a half-hour, said Thornton, who added that the model will probably run along the lines of what the networks do during the live upfront presentations held in May to herald the announcement of the fall primetime schedules.

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