- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Showtime,NetFlix team

Showtime is partnering with movie-rental company NetFlix to preview its new series “Californication,” part of an aggressive campaign to promote its original programming now that dominant pay-cable player HBO has lost its signature series, “The Sopranos.”

Starting July 24, three weeks prior to its Aug. 13 debut, NetFlix will offer “Californication” — a comedy starring David Duchovny as a troubled novelist and single father — through both its DVD mailer service and online streaming, Broadcasting & Cable magazine reports.

Although Showtime, a division of CBS Corp., has worked in the past with several online outlets for similar early-premiere promotions, this is the first time the company has paired with a single partner. Likewise, the “Californication” deal marks the first time NetFlix will offer an exclusive preview both on DVD and through Watch Now, its streaming platform.

Showtime also is using the digital campaign to reinforce a new scheduling strategy. On July 24, it will also release the DVD for season two of “Weeds” as a prelude to its plans to use the hit series’ third-season (on Aug. 13) as a lead-in for “Californication.” The network will similarly pair dramas “Dexter” and “Brotherhood” when both return for their second seasons in September, Broadcasting & Cable said.

Showtime became the first network to offer a full episode of a series to an unrestricted online audience prior to the series’ premiere, when it distributed the Kirstie Alley comedy “Fat Actress”through Yahoo! in March 2005. Since then, the network has offered nearly all its major new shows early online, through multiple partners.

The premiere of “The Tudors,” for example, was available in March through more than 20 online outlets, including AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, imdb.com, CNET and NetFlix. The preview generated more than 2 million cumulative streams of the episodes over three weeks across those sites.

With some 15 million subscribers, Showtime has roughly half the reach of HBO. However, along with its recent efforts to steal some of HBO’s original-programming thunder, Showtime has been far more aggressive than its rival in offering episodes online to nonsubscribers.

Going to ‘Prison’

“Prison Break,” already boasting one of TV’s largest casts, will have at least two additional regulars next season, says Zap2it.com.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Jodi Lynn O’Keefe and Robert Wisdom will take regular roles for the drama’s third season, starting this fall.

Miss O’Keefe will play a character named Betty Crocker (seriously, that’s what the Hollywood Reporter claims), an operative within the Company, the organization at the heart of said conspiracy.

Mr. Wisdom, a District native, will play one of Michael’s fellow prisoners, a drug kingpin named Luchero.

Miss O’Keefe’s TV credits include “Nash Bridges,” “The Evidence,” as well as episodes of “Criminal Minds” and “CSI: NY.”

Fans of HBO’s “The Wire” know Mr. Wisdom as risk-taking Major Howard “Bunny” Colvin. His feature film credits include “Ray,” “The Hawk Is Dying” and the upcoming “Ball Don’t Lie.”

NBC’s ‘Talent’ is tops

The broadcast networks’ annual summertime slumber is providing opportunities for the smaller cable networks.

Sunday’s premiere of “Ice Road Truckers” reached the biggest audience ever for an original program on the History Channel — 3.4 million viewers. Likewise, TNT’s third-season premiere of “The Closer” on Monday had 8.8 million viewers. That’s believed to be an all-time high for a series airing on a basic-cable network, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Yet NBC, which could use the good news, had the week’s most popular show for a second straight week: “America’s Got Talent.”

CBS won the week with an average of 7.3 million viewers. NBC had 6.5 million, and Fox had 5.7 million but won again among 18-to-49-year-old viewers. Following were ABC with 5.1 million, the CW with 1.9 million, My Network TV with 850,000 and ION with 620,000.

For the week of June 11 through 17, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: 1) “America’s Got Talent,” NBC, 11.8 million; 2) “So You Think You Can Dance” (Thursday), Fox, 10.6 million; 3) “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” Fox, 9.97 million; 4) NBA Finals Game 4: San Antonio vs. Cleveland, ABC, 9.91 million; and 5) “NCIS,” CBS, 9.7 million.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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