“Odd Squad,” a new series about problem-solving kid detectives, won’t appear in full on PBS’s airwaves until late November – but the audience most likely to watch the program will be able to get clues about it starting today.
In the latest signal that TV shows are no longer relegated to merely existing on TV, PBS is making videos from the show and games related to it available to kids who will make up its audience, another attempt by TV players to use digital media to build audience anticipation for a coming program.
Six full-length 11-minute “Case Files” from the series, as well as many additional clips that include profiles of the agents, agent training videos, recruitment videos and more, are being made available for free on pbskids.org, the PBS Kids Video App, and PBS KIDS on Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast and Amazon Fire. In addition, two games and parent resources are now available on the series’ website, pbskids.org/oddsquad. The release marks the most full-length content the network has made available to date in advance of a series premiere.
“Exposing parents and kids to the content a month beforehand is really going to drive that awareness and urgency to watch it on television,” said Ira Rubenstein, senior vice president and general manager of digital at PBS, in an interview. “What we want to do ahead of time is create that buzz with the kids who are really going to want to see the show once the broadcast starts.”
PBS is calling attention to its “Odd Squad” on the heels of a successful digital extension of its hit primetime documentary series, “The Roosevelts.” In the case of that Ken Burns series, PBS made the series available via Roku and its website, among other venues, right after the first episode aired in hopes of getting viewers who missed a traditional viewing a means of catching up and, subsequently, a chance to join the community watching the show.
Other networks have tested “pre-releases” of programming. ABC made the first episode of sitcom “Selfie” available via video on demand and video streaming before it debuted late last month. NBC has used big events like the Olympics to run “sneak peeks” of coming shows like 2012’s “Animal Practice.” And NBCUniversal-owned USA has made episodes of “Sirens” and “Graceland” available through VOD in advance of those series’ launches.
“Odd Squad” aims to teach kids math skills by having them follow the case files of Olive and Otto, two members of the detective agency of the title. The pair attempts to solve a vandalism spree against symmetrical objects and the mysterious disappearance of people from inside an Italian restaurant.
The show launches as its viewing audience is drawing an intensifying amount of attention from big media companies, including Time Warner, Amazon, Netflix and Comcast. Many big companies see the kids market as one that can drive revenue not only from advertisers and video-distribution affiliates, but also the viewers themselves, who are much more likely to buy books, games, toys and clothing associated with the shows than, say, viewers of “NCIS” or “Gotham” on CBS and Fox.
“Odd Squad” is created by Tim McKeon and Adam Peltzman, and produced by Sinking Ship Entertainment and The Fred Rogers Company. “Odd Squad” is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the U.S. Department of Education through an effort that supports the development of innovative educational television and digital media targeted to preschool and early elementary school children and their families.