Net airs 3 'new' episodes of 'Guy'

NEW YORK — DVD gave “Family Guy” new TV life. Now it’s stealing some of its TV thunder.

In a move that turns the homevideo window on its head, Fox has decided to air three episodes of cult skein “Family Guy” even though the shows will already have been available for months on DVD.

“Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin — The Untold Story” is already a hot holiday purchase. Episodes, which revolve around antihero Stewie’s search for his father, contain connecting plotlines that Fox has packaged as an original DVD movie (though they are more akin to a traditional sitcom three-parter).

Net hasn’t yet scheduled the airing, but several sources acknowledged the episodes would run sometime in the spring.

News Corp.’s Peter Chernin mentioned the scheduling off-handedly at a recent conference.

Fox promos for the shows will contain little reference to the fact that these episodes first appeared on DVD, insiders said, even though the three shows will include less material than the disc. The DVD runs 88 minutes, while three sitcom episodes typically clock in at just over 60 minutes.

As DVD sales of TV series lag, the Fox experiment suggests a new use of DVDs that offers the enticing possibility of increasing fading sales while also test-marketing new material.

Experts say there is precedent for Fox’s strategy in the film biz’s model of limited and wide release. Where movies have trial runs before the riskier rollout, said media buyer Howard Nass, DVDs may offer content to paying viewers before a series unspools to a nonpaying audience.

But a network being preempted by its sister DVD division is unprecedented, even for a show like “Family Guy,” which came back to air in the first place because of DVD interest. There is likely to be pushback from affils and media buyers, who prefer new programming to be purely original.

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