NBC to Offer DVDs of TV Premieres Before They Air

In an unusual promotion, NBC said Wednesday it will let subscribers of online movie rental service Netflix take sneak peeks at two new drama series before the shows air on the TV network.

Netflix subscribers will be able to rent DVDs containing the debut episodes of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and "Kidnapped" starting Aug. 5, about six weeks before the shows premiere on television.

The DVDs will also contain preview trailers of NBC's other fall drama series.

NBC, which was third in prime-time ratings last season, is hoping the arrangement will generate crucial word-of-mouth buzz for the shows.

Action serial "Kidnapped" follows a single case all season. "Studio 60" goes behind the scenes of a fictional comedy show similar to "Saturday Night Live."

"The promotion takes aim at the Netflix demographic-rich entertainment consumer who is looking for this kind of high-end television show," said NBC Universal Television Group marketing chief John Miller.

Hollywood has been experimenting in recent months with simultaneous release of films in theaters, on DVD and on cable pay-per-view. The so-called "shrinking window" strategy — collapsing the time between movies released in those three ways — is controversial, particularly in the movie theater industry.

Netflix, which has about 5 million subscribers, plans to run online ads for the DVDs. NBC will promote the DVDs on network spots.