For the first time, TV networks are going online in their annual campaigns to get shows nominated for Emmys.
The move comes less than a year after the major networks began to offer programs to viewers over the Web and is another sign of the Internet's growing importance to the TV industry.
NBC and CBS are experimenting by offering online episodes of shows to the TV industry insiders who nominate and vote for the Emmys. The networks are also taking the traditional route of sending episodes on DVDs.
"These DVDs pile up in Emmy voters' households," said CBS spokesman Chris Ender. "This way, you don't have to open any boxes. It's just point, click, watch."
In October, ABC became the first network to sell downloads of shows at Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes music and video store. Other networks also rushed to accommodate viewers who wanted shows to be available for viewing on iPods, cellphones and other portable devices.
NBC Universal has launched the highest-profile online campaign so far to grab the attention of Academy of Television Arts and Sciences members who help select the nominees and then vote for Emmy winners.
The network recently bought the front cover of the trade paper Variety to promote the comedy "The Office."
Glued to the cover was a gift card with a code on the back that allowed viewers to download an episode from iTunes free.
"We thought it made great sense for 'The Office,' " said NBC Universal spokesman Curt King, explaining that the show's ratings improved after NBC started selling it online.
The producers of NBC's "The Apprentice" took out their own trade paper ad this week to promote a website where voters could view an episode from the program's fourth season.
"I guarantee you the one group that will never be fired will be the academy," host Donald Trump says before the episode streams online.
CBS opted to use the Web exclusively to supply voters with episodes of its "Crime Scene Investigation" series rather than send out DVDs. Ads in the trade papers include websites where voters can find episodes of "CSI," "CSI: Miami" and "CSI: NY."
The online campaign gave CBS the chance to "zig when everyone else is zagging," Ender said.
NBC also used the Web exclusively to distribute an episode of its reality show "The Biggest Loser."
To win nominations, networks give Emmy voters what they consider the season's best episodes and performances. Nominations will be announced July 6, with the awards presented during a live ceremony Aug. 27.
Members of the television academy who nominate and vote for the Emmys are actors, directors, producers and others working in the TV industry.
Online viewing of all entries -- and perhaps even voting for Emmy contenders -- might someday replace the current system of sending out DVDs in fancy packages, but it is probably years away.
"I love the idea of being able to post a URL on an e-mail to our members and say, 'Go here and watch all the shows you need and cast your vote,' " said John Leverence, senior vice president of the television academy.