Starz Previews Comedies

Hoping to build awareness
of its two original comedy
series, Starz will offer the first
two episodes of sophomore Party
and new offering Gravity
to affiliates two days before their
April 23 debut on the channel.

The preview episodes of Party
, about out-of-work actors
who become party caterers,
will be available to more than 53
million households on April 21
through such distributors as Blue
Ridge Communications, Buckeye
CableSystem, Cablevision Systems,
Charter Communications,
Comcast, Cox Communications,
Mediacom Communications,
RCN, Service Electric and Verizon
Communications’ FiOS TV,
network officials said.

Starz will also make two season one
episodes of Party Down available
to affiliates, executive vice
president of marketing Nancy
McGee said.

AT&T will offer U-verse TV subscribers
a Party Down preview via
its “Buzz in HD” on-demand service:
the package contains the
two new episodes, one episode
from last season and behindthe-
scenes footage. U-verse will
repeat the Party Down block on
April 28.

With the exception of Comcast,
Cablevision and AT&T, all
of those cable and telco affiliates
will also offer the first two episodes
of Gravity, an offbeat series
about a support group for
people who have attempted suicide,
prior to the show’s April 23

On the satellite side, DirecTV
will air the Party Down and Gravity
premiere episodes on April 22,
the day before their linear debut,
and the second episodes a week
later (also a day ahead) on its The
101 channel, Starz said.

Comcast’s Fancast Xfinity TV
and sites, as well
as, will make the Party
and Gravity full-episode
previews available for streaming
beginning April 21.

Amazon VOD, Apple’s iTunes
Store, PlayStation Network and
Microsoft’s Zune/Xbox Live will
make the season-premiere episode
of both series available for
free download in podcast format
on April 23.

“It’s a great partnership for us
and the affiliates — it’s a really
terrific way to partner with our
affi liates, because it gives them
compelling and substantial content
to work with,” McGee said.
“They’re always looking for full
episodes of new shows and returning
popular shows that they
can promote and feature in their
on-demand and digital platforms.
For us, it’s a terrific way to expose
these shows to people that may
not be aware that we’re offering
original programming or doing
the original shows that we are.”

The early-preview strategy for
Party Down and Gravity comes
from the same playbook the network
used to help launch drama
series Spartacus.

Since Starz offered the first two
episodes of the gladiator series
three days prior to its Jan. 22 debut
on Starz, 3.3 million unique
viewers have seen the first episode
on demand or on online
and 2.3 million unique watchers
viewed the second episode on
VOD and the Web.

McGee said she expects the
preview shows to draw a young
cross section of male and female
viewers who hopefully will tune
in to future episodes.

“We obviously hope the shows
will bring in a large audience and
sampling plays a part in that,” she

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.