TV Shows Should Go Viral

What Everyone Is Talking About Today

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Viral video site YouTube.com got a lot of attention when NBC asked it to pull down the "borrowed" videos posted by its users of "Saturday Night Live" sketches. Today comes the news that Weinstein Co. is viewing YouTube differently. It's working with YouTube.com to feature trailers of some of its most recent or upcoming releases, like "Lucky Number Slevin" and "Clerks II." Which here at Watercooler strikes us as a really smart idea, and makes us wonder, Why haven't more TV shows used the viral sites to promote their shows?
Weinstein Co.'s 'Clerks II.'
Weinstein Co.'s 'Clerks II.'

Movie trailers have done very well on the viral sites, and the formalizing of the postings to make it clear that the movie company has provided the clips means the users know perfectly well what the motivation is behind it. Does that mean users will not watch the clips because other users haven't posted them? Not necessarily. Remember the news stories of "Star Wars" fans buying tickets to movies that featured the trailer to "Episode I: The Phantom Menace?" Fans tend to seek out everything associated with their obsessions and share them with friends, making YouTube and other sites like it a perfect venue for a movie marketers favorite get: word of mouth.

The fan bases of certain TV franchises have already taken it upon themselves to upload their favorite clips, be they the SNL "Chronicles of Narnia" sketch or outtakes from "The Family Guy" or "The Simpsons" -- or even "SpongeBob SquarePants." So it makes us curious as to why TV broadcasters and cablers haven't embraced these sites as a way to promote their series.

CBS unveiled a strategy this week to promote up and coming sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" via online set tours, releasing outtakes from the show, such as actors getting their hair and makeup done and interviews with writers. The outtakes will appear on CBS.com. Given the show seems squarely targeted at the 20-something crowd, we think this is a brilliant idea. But it would be even more brilliant if they went beyond their own Web site. We're not sure how many new viewers are cruising CBS.com. There's a whole audience that doesn't think of Web video in terms of who's behind it. They just want to see what other people think is good. Just think how well outtakes of NBC's "The Office" or ABC's "Lost" would do set loose on a viral site. An added advantage would be for the networks to really see how their shows are resonating, and could be a way to gauge early reaction to new shows. If a clip goes viral, you can be pretty sure you've got something that's gonna be a hit.
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