A new television 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, TV network 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."
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.