Entire upcoming season to run on April 7

MTV is taking sneak previews to an unusual extreme, running the entire season of a hit show ahead of its regular primetime slot.

Viacom net announced Monday that it will run all eight segs of the upcoming season of “Punk’d” on the afternoon of April 7.

Season will then unspool as planned in its regular 9 p.m. slot on April 10, running weekly over the next two months.

Net’s calling the block a “Sneak Peek Marathon” even though it’s in fact showing a lot more than a peek.

Brian Graden, MTVN Music Group’s prexy of entertainment, said the experiment is a way to use the linear network to generate interest for a series much the way digital sneak previews are increasingly used by nets.

“We think this could be a great linear television event,” Graden said. “In a world of so many promotional opportunities, you take all the promotion you would put in over weeks and concentrate it on one event.”

Ad packages will reportedly be sold separately for the Saturday marathon, ensuring a second revenue hit for the program.

Despite some slippage in total viewers and viewers 12-34 over the past few seasons, “Punk’d” still turns in relatively solid numbers. But this season will be its last and net is eager to maximize interest ahead of its bow.

If the marathon is too successful, however, that could erode the value of the more coveted primetime slots. Execs said they couldn’t be certain that primetime wouldn’t be cannibalized.

But their experience with showing sneak peeks of “The Real World” episodes — and the fact that many viewers watch “Punk’d” in relatively small chunks — helped reassure them that cannibalization wouldn’t be a factor.

Among the celebs who fall prey to the pranks in the upcoming eighth season are Hilary Swank, Nelly Furtado and Magic Johnson. Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg produce the show.

Net is hoping “Punk’d” anchors a Tuesday-night block that includes new series “Scarred” and “Living Lahaina.”

MTV has been pushing ahead with a number of programming and scheduling innovations in an effort to pump ratings; recently, the net picked up the teen-rocker show “Kaya,” its first scripted series in more than five years.

It has also tried to use its digital platforms to give the net a boost, offering episodes of “The Andy Milonakis Show” weeks ahead of its debut on MTV2.

Nets from FX to NBC have made select episodes available on new-media platforms, but MTV’s “Punk’d” move reps the first known instance of an entire season running ahead of time on a linear net.

“We’re entering a time when the model is going to melt down to some degree,” Graden said. “I want as many stakes in the ground as possible.”

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