USA Sets Broad Online Preview Strategy to Drive ‘Mr. Robot’ Viewership

USA Network hopes to amp up word of mouth and tune-in for for its renegade hacker drama “Mr. Robot” by making the pilot episode widely available through streaming and VOD sources nearly a month before its linear premiere.

The NBCUniversal cabler is also targeting Hispanic audiences with the show that stars Rami Malek as a IT whiz who is recruited by an anti-establishment org to bring down the corporation he’s supposed to protect.

Mr. Robot” will roll out May 27 on nearly two dozen partner sites, ranging from cable VOD and TV Everywhere platforms to iTunes, Amazon, Xbox, Google Play and PlayStation to IMBb.com, Crave Online, TheVerge.com and latina.com. USA Network president Chris McCumber said the goal is to make it widely available to the millennial demo, a key target for the show. The elaborate pre-launch plan underscores the importance of the June 24 linear premiere of “Mr. Robot” to USA, which is trying to shift the tone of its original dramas in an edgier direction.

“It is more important than ever to push boundaries in order to break through the clutter and reach new audiences,” said McCumber. “ ‘Mr. Robot,’ which has already garnered awards before it has even aired, gives us a unique opportunity to make some noise and drive word of mouth through this innovative pre-linear strategy.”

Major TV nets have steadily experimented with online sneak peeks of pilots in recent years, especially for shows that appeal to younger audiences. But USA’s expansive effort underscores how significantly nets are turning to new windowing strategies to drive tune-in and word of mouth, even at the expense of linear ratings. Last week NBC announced plans to make all 13 episodes of its summer drama “Aquarius” available online for binge-viewing the day after the show’s two-hour premiere on NBC.

USA’s Spanish-language siblings Telemundo and NBC Universo are key distribution partners for “Mr. Robot.” The NBC Universo cabler (previously known as Mun2) will simulcast the June 24 linear premiere with Spanish subtitles, and subtitled episodes will be available on Spanish-language VOD platforms.

“Mr. Robot,” which also stars Christian Slater, generated some heat for USA in March when it scored an audience award at the SXSW film fest. It also screened last month as an official selection at the Tribeca fest.

“Our goal is to get as many influential, diverse and passionate general market and Hispanic fanbases to watch the pilot well in advance of its linear premiere so they become evangelists for the series,” said Alexandra Shapiro. USA’s exec VP of marketing and digital.

USA is also hosting screenings at 15 college campuses around the country in partnership with Universal Pictures’ CampusU network.

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