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AOL Gives ‘Connected’ Reality Series Early Premiere on Roku

AOL will give a sneak peek of “Connected,” its first longform original series, to users of Roku devices starting Tuesday. The teaser strategy leads up to the show’s official March 31 launch.

Roku customers will be able to watch the pilot “Connected,” a half-hour reality show featuring six New Yorkers who document their lives on handheld camcorders, exclusively on March 24 through the AOL On Roku streaming channel. Adapted from the Israeli docu-drama series of the same name from Koda Communications, AOL’s “Connected” is set to roll out with a schedule of four episodes every two weeks, with 20 episodes overall.

“Since Roku is a leading streaming platform with millions of customers, it is a natural fit for us to deliver an exclusive experience for viewers around our groundbreaking ‘Connected’ series,” said Robert Delacruz, VP and g.m. of consumer video experiences for AOL.

AOL first announced the deal for “Connected” last year, promoting it at the 2014 Digital Content Newfronts. Executive producers are Dermot McCormack, president of AOL Video and AOL Studios; Ram Landes and Ami Teer of Koda; and Morgan Spurlock of Warrior Poets.

The producers behind “Connected” touts the series as breaking the mold of reality TV series, with the format providing a more authentic and personal look into the subjects’ lives than what airs on traditional television. Stars of the series — not exactly drawn from the ranks of regular New York denizens — include Jonathan Bricklin, aspiring writer and owner of Spin club in New York, whose segments feature his girlfriend, actress Susan Sarandon.

Documentary filmmaker Spurlock (“Super Size Me,” CNN’s “Morgan Spurlock: Inside Man”) joined the project as exec producer because he saw “Connected” as delivering on the promise of reality television from 15 years ago.

“It’s not a contrived scenario,” Spurlock said. “In the last couple of years, there’s been this sea change in fiction programming, but not nonfiction programming. This show has an opportunity to change expectations about nonfiction programming.”

McCormack, who last fall joined AOL — where he most recently ran Viacom Music & Logo’s Connect Content Group — said “Connected” represents a tipping point in AOL’s programming strategy to draw in more viewers and boost the time they spend viewing video.

“We really felt we needed to move to longer-form programming,” he said. “We don’t have the budgets to compete against Netflix and TV, so part of our strategy has been innovative formats.”

AOL will “shoot for the gap,” to develop new kinds of shows similar to “Connected” that wouldn’t make it to TV. “The reason I decamped to AOL was because of what we could do that what was not being done on TV,” McCormack said.

Episodes of “Connected” will be released on the following biweekly schedule: March 31, episodes 1-4; April 13, episodes 5-8; April 27, episodes 9-12; May 11, episodes 13-16; and May 25, episodes 17-20.

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