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Study: Watching Shows Before Airdate a Hit

Almost one-half of young adults are willing to pay to view TV shows one week before they air on traditional linear networks.

According to new research from Larchmont, N.Y.-based companies Points North Group and Horowitz Associates Inc., 47% of adults 18-34 said they would pay to watch a show before it was scheduled to air on a linear network.

Moreover, research based on an independent online survey of 500 Internet users showed that 34% of all respondents would pay 99 cents to see an episode the week before.

The findings could bode well for companies like Apple Computer Inc., DirecTV Inc. and Fox Broadcasting Co., which have moved or are moving into this advance viewing space.

Apple, through its “iTunes Music Store” (www.itunes.com), offered the pilot episode of the latest Law & Order spinoff series, Conviction, free-of-charge to video iPod viewers one week before it bowed March 3 on NBC.

Later this month, DirecTV is slated to begin offering such FX series as Rescue Me and The Shield 24-48 hours before they bow on the cable network for $2.99 per episode.

“For young early adopters, the opportunity to watch a show before it airs is about as edgy as technology gets,” said Stewart Wolpin, senior consulting analyst for Points North Group, in a prepared statement.

“Pre-air TV holds promising new revenue potential for media owners and distributors,” he added. “But unless they find ways to bring advertisers and affiliates along, they risk jeopardizing already-eroding revenue streams.”

Also notable: Among both younger and older viewers, TV is the vehicle of choice to watch pre-air episodes. More than one-quarter of all respondents, 26%, want to watch on their TV, compared with 17% on a PC or laptop and just 3% on an iPod or portable video player, according to the study.