In a somewhat uncharacteristic move, Fox (s NWS) has released one of its new fall shows early on the iTunes Store. (s aapl) You can now download the full pilot episode of Fox’s New Girl, a half-hour comedy starring Zooey Deschanel, for free with a U.S. iTunes account.
It’s a bit of a surprise, because Fox is one of the networks that seems most interested in blocking or at least delaying the online presence of its content, and also because pre-releasing broadcast shows on iTunes is extremely rare. In fact, Fox calls it the “first ever network TV show available on iTunes before its broadcast premiere.” So what’s behind this exception to Fox’s usual way of doing things?
Considering that New Girl promotional material to date hasn’t really seemed to be able to pin down what to expect from the show, it seems like Fox is just trying to see if it might be possible to drum up some interest through other means. The show bets heavily on star Deschanel (whose previous work has mostly been in big screen hits like (500) Days of Summer), but based on early reviews, it doesn’t offer up all that much beyond your standard sitcom fare.
While iTunes is the first place you can check out the show, Variety reports it will also be appearing on platforms like Hulu, Fox.com, cable VOD and Hello Giggles, a blog endorsed by Deschanel, prior to its broadcast debut.
That kind of scattershot approach might signal desperation from Fox, which likely invested a lot in the show, but ultimately didn’t really meet its expectations and might have a hard time with broadcast audiences. Fox’s Lone Star, a series with lots of hype last year, was similarly previewed and suffered an early death despite early digital sneak peeks.
Since an HD or SD version of New Girl is only a free download away, though, you might as well judge for yourself whether Fox is pursuing a lost cause or doing something genuinely interesting with this pre-broadcast release, and then let us know what you think in the comments.