Netco offers early look at Peacock pair

In an unusual experiment, Netflix will make available episodes from two of the Peacock’s new fall series six weeks ahead of their TV bows.

Netflix will offer subscribers the opportunity to order debut episodes of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “Kidnapped” beginning Aug. 5, well before their mid-September premieres.

The episodes will be packaged on one disc, which will not be a promotional giveaway and will count toward a Netflix customer’s allotment of DVDs. Customers will be required to put the disc in their queues as they would any theatrical release.

While nets have been giving away DVDs of upcoming shows for some time — NBC itself has deals with Continental Airlines and People magazine — and also streaming pilots on iTunes ahead of airdates, move is closest yet to a traditional DVD release ahead of airing. In addition to the disc counting as a regular Netflix rental, it will contain bonus features a la full-season packages of TV on DVD.

Making the effort more unusual is that the skeins aren’t produced inhouse but by Sony (“Kidnapped”) and Warner Bros. (“Studio 60″).

NBC U Television chief marketing officer John Miller said the net wanted to use its own new series for an area on its Web site that will show sneak peeks ahead of broadcast airdates, and its deals with Warners and Sony allowed for promotions ahead of their shows’ airdates.

“Kidnapped” is the Michael Dinner creation centering on the kidnapping of the son in an Upper East Side family; “Studio 60″ is the celeb-drenched drama about Hollywood from Aaron Sorkin.

No money is changing hands in the deal, but the companies will reap substantial marketing benefits. Netflix will be flogged in on-air network promos, while the NBC shows will be featured on the Netflix site and in marketing materials.

The program will also provide an early feedback mechanism on the skeins. Netflix, which is known for its sophisticated system of collecting information, will share its data on customers who rent the series with NBC throughout August and September.

Move highlights how urgently fourth-place NBC feels the need to turn its new shows into hits; insiders said it was the net that approached Netflix. The Peacock was also willing to splurge on a more elaborate DVD than usual to get the disc into the Netflix rotation and into the right hands.

“We just don’t reach enough people with the show on the air,” Miller said. “What we need to do is create an army of evangelistic fans.”

Move also suggests that toying with windows can be as much of a weapon as alternative platforms like iTunes in the battle to win back customers who don’t watch traditional television. Last season DirecTV launched a promotion with Fox and FX that made episodes of shows like “Nip/Tuck” and “Prison Break” available to subscribers before their airdates, and NBC has also made promos available via iTunes.

Netflix left open the possibility for deals that would offer episodes on DVD in the middle of the season, though after airing.

“The biggest danger a network has with a serial drama is people missing an episode and bowing out,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “We think we can offer another access point so that doesn’t happen.”

Deal is an unambiguous coup for Netflix. In addition to free network advertising and the aura of exclusivity — for which it has already been pushing with some movies — it could also save the company money as consumers rent this disc instead of a traditional film, which Netflix might have to buy from a studio or share revenue on.

Insiders said Netflix may soon negotiate with other nets for similar deals, though none are likely to happen before the start of the fall season.

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