NBC comedy gets online preview on iHeartRadio and other places online

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Music streaming may be iHeart Radio’s best-known service, but the Clear Channel property is getting serious about video streaming starting Thursday. The first episode of A to Z, a new comedy series debuting this fall on NBC, is available for streaming on iHeartRadio. A to Z’s NBC broadcast premiere is slated for October 2—seven weeks from now.

The iHeart Radio preview of A to Z is part of a larger marketing campaign for the new show across Clear Channel digital properties, NBC announced. Beyond the Clear Channel campaign, Comcast-owned NBC is also serving up the A to Z premiere on Hulu, Comcast’s Xfinity service, NBC.com, and on-demand services from cable providers.

While iHeart Radio does stream some video content, such as music videos, concerts, and other entertainment clips, the A to Z premiere is easily the service’s biggest video title yet. Whether this dabble into video streaming indicates aspirations to expand iHeart Radio beyond its audio streaming focus is unclear.

Online Premieres, a short history

A to Z isn’t the first series to pop up online before its official broadcast premiere. In 2012, NBC offered the initial premiere of the short-lived Broadway drama Smash via online streaming providers and cable on demand services three weeks ahead of the broadcast date.

Fox also took to the Internet to premiere New Girl in late 2011 two weeks before its initial broadcast. And long before Fox or NBC were dabbling with online premieres, the CW offered the pilot episode of Gossip Girl for free on iTunes five days before its television debut in 2007. Gossip Girl is often acknowledged as the first television series to owe the majority of its success to online audiences.

NBC’s iHeart Radio embrace comes just as network rival CBS announced much bigger intentions for the Internet. CBS recently said it would soon produce a television series for an unnamed subscription-based online video provider instead of airing the new show on its own network first.

CBS’s expected online series deal acknowledges the growing popularity of original content debuting on major streaming services like Amazon on Demand and Netflix. During the company’s recent earnings call, CBS chief Les Moonves said non-broadcast revenue streams, which includes creating series for third parties, are now just as important as selling commercial slots during broadcasts.

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