The network is currently airing the first episode of the comedy on four airlines — Delta Airlines, American Airlines, Virgin America and United Airlines — through the end of the month. The pilot began airing first on Virgin on Aug. 1, and Sept. 1 on the other carriers. It will be available on flights through Sept. 30.
ABC also took flight with a similar strategy to introduce “Modern Family” to viewers, presenting its pilot to passengers before the show launched in 2009.
The network said airlines provide broadcasters with a captive audience who are willing to sample a series when it’s offered as free entertainment on the seatback screen in front of them during a flight. But ABC has been selective over the years, choosing only shows that might get others sitting around a viewer interested in what they’re watching when a comedy gets them to laugh out loud.
At a time when viewers are more distracted than ever, airlines certainly provide networks with a potentially powerful marketing vehicle. Getting their shows seen isn’t a guarantee, however. In order to generate some positive word-of-mouth for an unknown new series, networks still need to get passengers to watch the episode, which unfortunately can require some extra marketing support.
ABC also began streaming the first episode of “Trophy Wife,” produced by ABC Studios, on its website, via the Watch ABC mobile app and on Hulu three weeks before its bow on Sept. 24.
“Trophy Wife” revolves around a reformed party girl Kate (Malin Akerman), who becomes the third wife of a slightly older man (Bradley Whitford). Cast also includes Marcia Gay Harden, Bailee Madison, Ryan Scott Lee and Natalie Morales.
In addition to the inflight entertainment airings, the comedy also received some additional non-traditional marketing support from the daytime talker “The Chew,” with the series preparing breakfast menus reflecting the personalities and parenting styles of the three mothers in “Trophy Wife” during an “ABC Fall Preview Special” that aired Sept. 1.