Premium cable channel Showtime will be the first TV network to make an entire series available On Demand simultaneous with the program's premiere. On Dec. 10, it launches all eight episodes of "Sleeper Cell: American Terror," on Showtime On Demand, the same day the second season of the serialized suspense drama returns.
Although individual programs and films have premiered On Demand in advance of a linear premiere--HBO is currently running episodes of its acclaimed crime drama "The Wire" On Demand one week in advance--the "Sleeper Cell" strategy marks the first time an entire series has been made available On Demand before it has been shown on the network.
"Sleeper Cell" follows the exploits of a deep-cover African-American FBI agent who is Muslim and infiltrates Islamic terrorist organizations in the United States. The first season drew controversy and mediocre ratings, but won near-unanimous critical raves and several awards.
"Sleeper Cell" is the type of program particularly well-suited for the On Demand world, says Showtime's Vice President of Corporate PR, Stuart Zakim. "It's in the same vein as '24,' only more intense. When you see one [episode], you immediately want to see more. It inspires passionate and compelling [viewership]; you might want to sit down and watch the entire program in one shot."
It's also a good sales strategy.
"This is a dramatic and exciting departure from the ways the On Demand platform has previously been used," says Tom Christie, Showtime's executive vice president for sales. "The draw of 'Sleeper Cell: American Terror' gives cable operators a powerful marketing tool to showcase the flexibility and exclusive benefits the Showtime On Demand platform offers and drive subscription acquisition for the network."