ABC Debuts Three Pilots First on Hulu — Does This Strategy Matter?

/ Sep 5, 2013


In a tactic that is becoming somewhat common among television networks, ABC is scheduled to stream three pilots for its upcoming fall comedies via, the Watch ABC app, and Hulu. The streaming pilots — “The Goldbergs,” “Back In The Game,” and “Trophy Wife” — will air three weeks before their official television debut on ABC.

According to Hulu officials, additional pilots are also scheduled for early release dates on the streaming platform and will be announced once details are finalized. Although networks have been dipping their toes in streaming waters for more than two years now, it’s still largely undecided whether or not an early Hulu release date is necessarily a smart move.

The idea behind a Hulu premiere is primarily one rooted in hype building. You give pilots to select audiences — in this case Hulu users — then pray to the good television gods above that said audiences love them and subsequently talk about them via social media outlets.


Since this strategy debuted in 2011, more than a few pilots which aired early on Hulu have gone on to become genuine hits. Fox show “The New Girl” aired its pilot episode first on Hulu and has since been renewed for a third season.

Other early pilots, however, were less fortunate. NBC musical drama “Smash,” despite positive response (the pilot received the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Choreography) was canceled after its second season.

“Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23,” which premiered its first two episodes on various streaming platforms, was also renewed for a second season only to be canceled earlier this year. This seems like the vicious cycle of shows that premiere on Hulu: a strong opening followed by a gradual decline in views. But it would be as unfair to blame the strategy for that trend as it would be to credit it if the show succeeds.

As much as we would like to believe the quality of a show ultimately decides if it will live on, that’s not always the case (*cough* “Firefly” *cough). Whether a show is a hit or not is generally a blend of timing, cultural relevancy, and just a pinch of voodoo magic.

With hundreds of shows premiering every year, a leg up on the competition via Hulu honestly can’t hurt. In the end, like most things in life, the difference between sink and swim inevitably is left to chance; so why not try to stack the odds in your favor?

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