Early Start for 'Sleeper'

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Fans of Sleeper Cell, Showtime's series about terrorists among us, may not get much sleep themselves on Dec. 10.

That's the day the network will offer all eight episodes of the second season of the show on-demand. And it happens to be the same day the first episode of the second series premieres on the pay service's evening schedule.

Showtime will become the first programmer to offer a full season of a series on-demand before all the episodes are shown on the air.

The premium channel hopes the scheduling stunt will help build awareness and viewership for its Showtime On Demand service, which half of all Showtime subscribers currently use, according to executive vice president of sales Tom Christie.

The sophomore season of the limited series, about the inner workings of a U.S.-based terrorist cell, will air on Showtime on consecutive evenings, beginning Dec. 10 and ending Dec. 17.

“We're offering a tremendous convenience for subscribers, and for operators it provides a great opportunity for them to promote their VOD offerings,” Christie said. “Overall, it's a great value for all involved.”

With this scheduling strategy, Showtime is giving cable operators another programming advantage to tout in their battle for subscribers with satellite TV services, such as Dish Network and DirecTV.

Other networks, such as HBO and Nickelodeon, have offered a single episode or film on demand several weeks in advance of their network premieres. This past July, Showtime, itself offered the pilot of original series Brotherhood on video on demand, two weeks before it debuted on its premium network.

Christie said the dramatic nature of Sleeper Cell, along with its limited-episode format, is especially suited for early on-demand airings.

“Now, more subscribers will have the chance to be drawn into the intrigue and suspense that makes Sleeper Cell such compelling viewing,” Christie said.

Christie added that he doesn't believe the VOD stunt will hurt viewership for the evening episodes, but he would not predict how many viewers would take advantage of the ability to watch an entire season right off the bat, in one sitting if desired.

“Over the last couple of years, we've seen steady growth of VOD, and I would expect similar numbers for Sleeper Cell that we've seen with our other originals,” he said, although he would not reveal specific details.

Showtime will provide to operators additional on-air and print marketing materials to help promote the offering, according to the network.

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