ABC series will have simultaneous preems overseas

Disney is going big with a worldwide day-and-date premiere of its Oren Peli-Steven Spielberg thriller “The River” thanks to lessons the Mouse House learned from “Lost.”

Disney Media Distribution has lined up its largest simultaneous preem for an ABC series to date, as outlets in Canada, South Korea, Israel, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and a handful of other territories will launch ABC Studios’ “The River” within 48 hours of its Tuesday bow on ABC. India, Hong Kong and Spain will join the “River” expedition within weeks.

The decision to carefully coordinate a worldwide launch was driven by the Mouse’s desire to prevent viewers in overseas markets from seeking pirated copies of the drama, which has built-in aud awareness thanks to Peli’s “Paranormal Activity” franchise as well as the Spielberg pedigree. That approach mirrors the tactics Disney and others have taken on the feature side to mitigate piracy’s drain on the B.O.

“The River,” which revolves around a family’s quest for their missing explorer-father in the Amazon, also trades in the kind of mystery elements that undoubtedly will be widely discussed on the Internet and in social media, thus giving away some of the drama for engaged fans who might have had to wait months for the show to arrive in their territories.

Piracy and the spoiler effect became a problem for Disney’s international TV partners during the 2004-10 run of “Lost.” The show’s long-awaited finale wound up running day-and-date in more than 60 foreign markets in order to maximize its potential aud and combat illegal distribution of the feature film-length seg.

In the U.K., the first seg of “The River” will be made available Wednesday on iTunes, a move that is equal parts promotion and piracy-fighting effort. The show has yet to settle on a TV home in the U.K., Germany, Japan and other major markets, as Disney undoubtedly wants to use the buzz and ratings from the U.S. preem to drive up the price among multiple bidders.

Peli, for one, is happy that the studio is giving such a concerted global push to his first TV series.

“This very unusual global premiere makes the whole thing even more exciting,” he told Variety. It’s also appropriate for a series that has “a very international flavor to its cast and doesn’t take place in the U.S.,” he added.

“The River” begins its eight-episode run on ABC with back-to-back segs, both helmed by rising feature star Jaume Collet-Serra. The international markets bowing Tuesday will run only the first episode, because Disney made the decision to go day-and-date too late for many of them to sked the second hour.

Peli co-created “The River” with Michael R. Perry. Showrunner Michael Green exec produces with Peli, Spielberg, DreamWorks TV’s Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey, Zack Estrin, Jason Blum and Steven Schneider.

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