For decades, TV networks’ promo campaigns for new series had been focused squarely on bringing in viewers to the shows’ premieres. For the first time, Fox last week broke tradition, swapping the tune-in ads for its midseason drama The Following starring Kevin Bacon for billboards urging viewers to set their DVRs.
Encouraging DVR viewing is a two-edged sword as it gives the networks extra audiences — most of which they can’t monetize since a large portion of viewers who time-shift shows skip some or most commercials when watching. But with people’s viewing preferences for this season already firmly established, Fox opted for the unusual campaign to help its new show get on viewers’ season passes as a way to bring in regular audiences. That is especially important for a serialized drama like The Following, where retaining viewership is crucial for its long-term success.
DVR play has been huge for another freshman serialized drama series this season, NBC’s breakout Revolution, which no doubt played a part in Fox’s decision to make a DVR push. After a week or so of running the “Set Your DVR” ads, Fox returned to tradition in the final days before The Following‘s premiere tonight, encouraging people to tune in for live viewing. We’ll find out tomorrow morning how many watched the opener for the thriller live or via same-night DVR viewing.