Aaron Sorkin and Jeff Daniels at the Los Angeles premiere party for HBO's… (Angela Weiss / Getty Images )
In a bid for Internet buzz, premium cable channels HBO and Showtime have released free premiere episodes online of their highly anticipated summer series, HBO's"The Newsroom"and Showtime's "Weeds" and "Episodes."
HBO on Monday began offering Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom," which premiered on television Sunday night and drew a respectable 2.7 million viewers. The pilot episode of the show, which takes a sneering look at modern media, will play on several new-media sites, including HBO.com, YouTube and TV.com.
The television start of "The Newsroom" ranks among HBO's highly watched premieres. HBO said the outing ranked third behind "Boardwalk Empire" (4.8 million viewers) and "Game of Thrones" (2.2 million viewers). "The Newsroom" surpassed the first-episode audience for its current cult hit "True Blood." (1.4 million viewers).
Networks increasingly are trying to ride the wave of Internet trending topics by allowing millions of Internet users -- not just paying customers -- to sample an episode for free. The hope is that newly minted fans will sign up for their channels. HBO, owned by Time Warner Inc., began the practice with such series as "Veep," "Girls" and "Flight of the Conchords."
Showtime, meanwhile, offers previews of the season opener of "Weeds," starring Mary-Louise Parker and "Episodes," starring Matt LeBlanc. Unlike HBO, Showtime introduced the episodes online two weeks before their July 1 premieres on television.
In a departure from previous sneak peeks, "Weeds" will be offered online exclusively on Facebook. The reason: cable and satellite companies are doing more of their messaging to customers through Facebook, according to a Showtime spokeswoman.
"Weeds," which created a splash when launched in 2005 because of its edgy plotline -- a suburban mom turns to dealing pot to maintain her pampered lifestyle -- is entering its eighth and final season. The show, created by Jenji Kohan, will finish its run this summer in 13 half-hour episodes.
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