For TV-aholics like many of us, the Fall TV season usually meant a big, fat, permabound issue of TV Guide that we kept with us well into the winter. If you were a truly dedicated vid-kid, you needed the Fall Preview issue as a kind of scorecard to determine which of the new shows you would watch as all the premieres competed head to head on the schedule grid. For geeks and those of us in the AV Club, this should have qualified as a varsity sport.
In the post-scarcity age, the network strategy is to leverage the abundance of viewing opportunities. This year the war takes to the devices, although the networks are as fragmented as ever in their various approaches. The new darling of TV programmers, the iPad, is getting a lot of love this time around. While ABC has been making full episodes of many prime time shows available on the platform since it launched, the rival networks have been slow to take it up. NBC finally stopped teasing us on its NBC app for iPad and issued an upgrade that now streams full episodes. iPadders responded immediately by giving the app the rare 4.5 star rating.
CBS has opted for a Fall Preview app for iPad. In this well-crafted promo that most closely resembles an interactive trade ad, the perky NCIS actress Pauley Perrette occupies the center of the CBS eye to offer little pithy pitches of the main concepts behind some of the season's lead new series like "2Broke Girls" and "Person of Interest. Each show gets its own microsite within the app, with trailers, galleries and a thoroughly forgettable and cloying new show memory game. Yes, you really do play an image match game using the new series stars. Ay, yay, yay! I find myself feeling condescendingly affectionate towards the CBS promo app, if only because it uses new tech to invoke a nostalgic view of network television. It constructs the audience as slavish brand loyalists who just can't wait to see what the beloved Tiffany network has in store for us this year. A memory challenge using CBS rising stars? Really, CBS?
Fox is leveraging the new distribution channels of device-bound media to steal a march on the competition. While in other respects, Fox appears willing to pull away from the recent practice of streaming TV episodes for free online, it is using the free channel in other ways. Last week it dropped the first full episode of "New Girl" into iTunes well in advance of its on-air premiere. Cable companies have been doing this for a while to seed interest in upcoming shows, but networks have been more reticent to risk breaking the allure of a premiere night. The series gets noticed for its star, indie film actress Zooey Deschanel. According to reports, the free view will go away as the actual on-air launch nears, however, and Fox will impose on this series the same eight-day delay it is imposing on all programming before it goes to the Web.This was a lot easier to track on a dog-eared copy of TV Guide's Fall Preview issue. Of course, back then most of the new programming had a prayer of staying on air beyond Thanksgiving.