On the heels of USA testing a new broadcast model with comedy Playing House, whose Season 2 episodes will debut on-demand before airing in the network, the network’s NBCUniversal cable sibling Esquire is taking that model a step further with new docu-reality series The Short Game.
Taking a page from binge viewing-promoting streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, which debut entire seasons of their series at once, on December 22, the first season of Esquire’s The Short Game will be released on the network’s mobile app Esquire TV NOW, online at esquiretv.com/NOW, and on multiple partners, including Comcast, Charter, Time Warner, DirectTV, Verizon and Cablevision. (Fittingly, the series about elementary school-aged golfers is based on the 2013 documentary of the same name acquired and distributed by Netflix.) After being available on demand for a month, The Short Game will begin running on Esquire on January 20.
This will mark the first time a network has premiered an entire series On Demand before a single episode had aired on TV — Playing House will have each individual episode debut on demand a week before its broadcast premiere on USA — and may provide a glimpse at how shows on traditional TV may be distributed in the future.
“We know that our viewers want to watch Esquire Network programming whenever and wherever they choose,” said Esquire president Adam Stotsky. “And The Short Game is the perfect series to premiere in its entirety On Demand. The relationships that these young golfers have with their fathers – who also serve as their caddies – is incredibly intense, and the high-stakes nature of the competition is both dramatic and compelling. You’ll want to watch until the very end.”
The year-old Esquire already has done online premieres, debuting the opening episodes of Lucky Bastards on Facebook and Weekend Fix on Yahoo Screen. The decision to go exclusively on demand first with The Short Game was based on the fact that this already is the way a large portion of the network’s audience is watching its originals. The experiment will provide further data about viewer habits in the digital age.
The On demand model is attractive to commercial networks because, while viewers can fast forward through ads on DVR-ed shows, that usually can’t be done to series available on demand.
The Short Game follows eight top 7-and 8-year-old golfers in the United States as they navigate school, family life and the series of tournaments that lead to the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship. These young phenoms, hailing from a broad range of socioeconomic backgrounds, face real pressures on the course from their own sense of competitiveness, but also from their parents. The series is produced by Goodbye Pictures, with Rich Bye serving as Executive Producer and Andy Robertson as co-executive producer. Rafael Marmor and Christopher Leggett executive produce for Delirio Films. Josh Braun and Lisa Singer Haese also are executive producers.
The Short Game joins another Esquire original series about children in competitive sports, Friday Night Tykes.