Hi-Tech and the new TV Season

The Upfronts is the traditional week for the major and minor networks to show off their new series for the television season, which runs from September through May 2007-2008.

Of course, the model keeps changing and evolving so the television season has really gone to a twelve-month cycle with September being an increasingly arbitrary starting point. It used to be, seasons began in September and new series would run for 39 weeks with 13 weeks over the following summer for reruns or replacement shows. Then, in 1966, ABC startled the world with the notion of a “second season.” What they basically did was acknowledge that failed series were yanked over Christmas and new shows debuted right after New Year’s Day. Their second season concept came about because most of the network’s Fall 1965 offerings failed to win fans (one exception being a show called FBI kicked off with a little project called Batman and things haven’t been the same.

Flash forward to today. In addition to the new season planned for the fall, all the major networks now have to come up with new strategies to keep people interested in their branded programming. Given the arrival of DVRs and the ability to watch shows on line, on iPods, on DVD, et. al., the new shows have to be accessible.

This week, NBC announced their Digital Entertainment division will promote their shows in a variety of ways. The Office 360, coming this fall, will allow visitors to open branch offices of Dunder-Mifflin Company and perform tasks on line or at the show’s WAP site.

For their new prime time series, fans will be invited to sample:

Lipstick Jungle – an online publication co-branded with iVillage.com, complete with fashion profiles, relationship advice, articles, quizzes and forums.

Bionic Woman – will show action geeks how each week’s biggest scenes were filmed using camera tricks, special effects and other production secrets.

Chuck – will offer hotspots revealing top-secret government information and bonus video.

Journeyman – visitors will be able to track Dan’s travel through time with an interactive video timeline. Additionally, there will be scene comparisons reveal how show producers recreate the authentic look of locations from earlier years.

Life – Fans of the series will be able to further investigate Billy’s conspiracy wall, hidden in his home.

The NBC.com website will also have an exclusive soap, Coastal Dreams.

ABC, on the other hand, is pushing their established hits across as many platforms as humanly possible. This week, they announced that streaming will be possible for normal web visitors in addition to an HD version (1280 X 720 resolution ) on a branded video player come July. Series will include Lost, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy and Ugly Betty. By September, the network announced plans for a wider variety of programming including national and local news. Advertisers will like that the new HD player will offer geo-targeting capabilities, allowing ads and content to be customized for each user.

Fans who happen to use Sprint, will be able to access episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty via phone starting now. In the near future, Disney-owned series Hannah Montana, The Suite Life of Zach & Cody, Cory in the House and Kim Possible will also be included in their Vision TV Pack. These will be available either On Demand or through streaming channels.

That is, if you like watching TV on 2” screens.

The eagerly awaited iPhone, though, will allow users to purchase TV episodes from the iTunes store.

That is, if you like watching TV on 4” screens.

CBS, usually late to the technology party, has announced series episodes will be available through its new CBS Interactive Network, whatever that is. At least they are offering, on CBS.com a toolkit to enable users to embed or email their favorite clips of the Tiffany Network’s new fall shows.

That is, if you find any of them interesting. (OK, I admit, I like the cast for Cane and will likely try it. A vampire detective? I’ve already seen Angel, thank you very much.)

Over at Fox, their most interesting technological announcement was that they will be basing their advertising rates on regular network viewing plus DVR audiences. So, those of us watching House or Bones at a later date, will finally be counted.

As for the creative side of the new offerings and the timeslot battles, I’ll get back to you.