New WB drama ‘Supernatural’ gets Internet jum

The new WB series "Supernatural" will debut online before it airs on television, another sign of broadcast TV's increasingly aggressive promotional schemes.

The new WB series "Supernatural" will debut online before it airs on television, another sign of broadcast TV's increasingly aggressive promotional schemes.

Yahoo! users will be able to stream the first episode for a week beginning Tuesday, WB and the Internet company said. "Supernatural," about two brothers who encounter evil forces as they search for their missing father, begins airing on the network Sept. 13.

"You have to scream really loud and really compel the audience to choose your show over the array of other shows being presented to them at the same time," said WB Entertainment President David Janollari. "You have to find nontraditional ways to reach the audience."

The six broadcast networks will field 65 new and returning shows during the Sept. 19 premiere week and quickly build to about 130 total, he noted, adding: "And we're not even talking about cable."

With WB lacking the heftier on-screen promotional strength of the bigger and more established CBS, ABC and NBC networks, so-called "guerrilla" marketing tactics are especially vital, he said.

But the major networks also are going beyond the traditional on-air promos, radio ads and billboards: ABC's "Desperate Housewives" made a splash last year with dry-cleaning bags touting the series and is repeating the tactic, this time throwing in the occasional free T-shirt.

Besides the online streaming of "Supernatural," which stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, WB is employing a host of standard and innovative measures to make viewers want to tune in and sample the drama. Among the offbeat ones:

_ At 500 cafes in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, coffee cup sleeves inscribed with a spooky image drawn in thermal ink that appears when the beverage heats up the cup.

_ Promotional messages on bar mirrors, in video game stores and movie theaters, with "Supernatural" napkins and coasters in hundreds of bars in the top 10 TV markets.

_ "Supernatural" signs on tops of gas pumps and hoses at stations in seven markets.

_ Rubber glow-in-the-dark bracelets distributed in front of movie theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

Streaming a show online before its TV debut was something WB inaugurated last year with its drama "Jack & Bobby." The network believes the pre-broadcast exposure on America Online helped boost its initial audience, although the show couldn't hold viewers and was canceled.

For a horror series like "Supernatural," designed to appeal to young adult viewers 12 to 34, debuting online makes sense, according to Janollari.

"That's where they're living," he said of the target audience.

WB and its affiliates are betting that those who sample the show will want to repeat the viewing experience on TV. Besides, network executives said, the goal is to build an audience for the season and beyond, not just the debut episode.

Earlier this year, Yahoo! streamed the pilot of Kirstie Alley's "Fat Actress" at the same time it debuted on Showtime and showed series clips. The promotions combined were viewed 1.4 million times.

The value for Yahoo! comes in providing richer content for its users, said company executive David Katz. It also creates a source of valuable data for the entertainment industry.

"It helps Yahoo! users make more informed decisions about what they want to view and gives networks and studios more information about what users are really most interested in," said Katz, vice president of entertainment and sports.

Details about "Supernatural" also will be sprinkled throughout Yahoo! including on its heavily trafficked home page.

Source: Mercury News