Showtime recently launched a new comedy series entitled “The United States of Tara.” This hour-long show comes after a string of comedy hits from Showtime that includes “Californication,” “Weeds” and “Dexter”. The show itself has an impressive pedigree – it is created by Steven Spielberg, written by recent Oscar winner Diablo Cody and stars past Oscar nominee Toni Collette. Showtime’s issue with the show, like any media company trying to launch a new show, movie, website, etc., is trying to figure out how to get people interested. Today’s media landscape is oversaturated with hundreds of entertainment options that battle for our attention. When launching “Tara,” Showtime had to ask itself, “What do we do to get the show in front of potential viewers who might be interested in watching our product?” The answer isn’t wall-to-wall publicity coverage, or a “viral” online stunt, and it might come as a surprise to many.
The best way to get people interested in your show is to simply give it away to them. For no cost at all. Showtime took this tactic to a whole new level for the launch of “Tara”. They researched where potential fans of the show spend their time and found out that there isn’t one particular website or channel that they are using or viewing. They soon realized that streaming the show for free on their website, or any single website, for a couple of days wasn’t going to do the trick. So Showtime came up with a very unique strategy: put the show everywhere that their audience might be. Their strategy put the first episode of the show on 100 multimedia platforms before its debut on Showtime. The platforms included online outlets such as popular blogs and social networks, as well as mobile video and on-demand cable outlets. Sites such as TV.com, EW.com, BestWeekEver.com and Gawker.com featured the debut episode. Mobile outlets such as Verizon’s VCast and Joost’s iPhone app offered the debut as well. Additionally, Showtime offered the show on its SHO.com site in HD. This strategy has paid off quite well – “Tara” has averaged 2.1 million viewers over its first few episodes, which is far better than “Weeds” or “Dexter” averaged in their first seasons. Showtime has already renewed it for a second season.
This is a great strategy for getting eyeballs focused on a new show when it launches. Rather than plaster every website (not to mention billboard, bus bench, etc.) with advertising for the show, give people something they might actually want. Give them something that might actually get them interested in watching more of the show and might get them to tell their friends about it. People appreciate getting a little piece of something for free, and if they like it, they are very likely to come back for more. “Tara,” with its award-winning writer and actors, should have no problem entertaining its fans. The trick is to get those fans there, and Showtime succeeded with their innovative and consumer-friendly marketing initiative.