WB, Discovery Utilize Internet Like TV: Premiere Shows, Run Promo Spots Online

Based on announcements made Monday, the biggest development in TV marketing may well be the Internet. The WB Network and Discovery Channel each unveiled new methods for incorporating the Internet into their marketing strategies in ways that either supplant or extend the traditional use of television.

The WB said it would utilize sibling Time Warner unit AOL to preview "Jack & Bobby" to high-speed Internet subscribers about two weeks before the show debuts in September on the WB. This is the first time a major network TV series has premiered in its entirety on the Internet.

"Jack & Bobby"--a new dramatic series about a single mother raising two sons, one of whom grows up to become President of the United States--has been the talk of TV critics and media buyers alike.

The commercial-free episode will be available online and on-demand exclusively to AOL for Broadband subscribers at AOL Keyword: Jack & Bobby. The initiative will also include an integrated promotional push on AOL focused toward the series' premiere on The WB, slated for Sunday, Sept. 12 at 9:00 pm (ET).

"In a crowded environment, we have to be aggressive in finding ways to get our shows sampled, and this is definitely aggressive," said Suzanne Kolb, executive vice president of marketing at The WB, likening the stunt to a "theatrical preview" screening. "This will stimulate word of mouth for an exceptional program in the weeks prior to premiere."

Meanwhile, the Discovery Channel said it has been utilizing Unicast's so-called Video Commercials to extend its on-air promotional reach off-air to Web users to promote its annual "Shark Week" programming stunt. The video commercials deliver broadcast-quality 15- and 30-second ad units over the Internet in a way that is seamless and transparent to users, much the same as the way TV viewers see conventional TV spots. The units have run on ESPN.com, SI.com, and TVGuide.com--but interestingly, not on Discovery.com.