The 2018-19 broadcast TV season is still three and a half weeks away, but some networks are getting a jump on the competition by offering early looks at their new shows well ahead of their official premieres.
CBS is leading the pack this year, debuting its drama God Friended Me—about an atheist (Brandon Michael Hall) who receives a Facebook friend request from someone claiming to be God, and ends up changing the lives of other people that “God” recommends he also connect with—on a variety of social media and digital platforms this afternoon beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
The drama doesn’t premiere on CBS until Sunday, Sept. 30, but the network is making it available a month early—on the CBS app, CBS All Access, CBS.com, the show’s official Facebook page and Twitter feed, Instagram’s IGTV and platforms like iTunes, Vudu and Google Play—to build early word of mouth and help it stand out among the onslaught of other broadcast premieres in late September and early October.
“This is a show that deserves advance exposure. Once people see God Friended Me, they respond to its positive and life-affirming values,” said George Schweitzer, president, CBS Marketing Group, in a statement. “Our marketing strategy is to get it previewed a full month early—free and uninterrupted—so viewers can sample it for themselves and help spread the word to friends and family before the broadcast premiere.”
Given the challenge of trying to break through in the Peak TV era with a new show, “we’re grateful when you’re with any network that is willing to try something new or different to get as many people as possible to watch something,” said God Friended Me executive producer Greg Berlanti.
Streaming and digital platforms like the ones God Friended Me will be available on often help build word of mouth, said Berlanti, adding that another series of his, The CW drama Riverdale, didn’t find its audience until Season 1 aired on Netflix last summer.
“Starting that process early for people to find something is ultimately really helpful,” said Berlanti. “Even for me as a viewer, it takes somebody recommending something to me three times before I go, ‘I have to watch that now.’ Because there’s just so much stuff out there.”
While God Friended Me is the first full episode of a new fall series to get an early release, NBC did share the first act of its drama Manifest on Tuesday.
In that drama, which premieres Monday, Sept, 24, airline passengers encounter turbulence on an otherwise ordinary flight, but after landing, they discover that the world has advanced five years—and their friends and family have all mourned and moved on with their lives.
NBC chose Aug. 28 to release Manifest’s first act because the date (8/28) tied into the series’ fictitious Montego Air Flight 828.
That network will also offer a sneak preview of new sitcom I Feel Bad’s first two episodes on Wednesday, Sept. 19, which is two weeks before its official Thursday, Oct. 4 premiere, and five days ahead of the new TV season’s kickoff on Sept. 24.