For the first time, HBO is offering free access to full episodes of its original programming on Facebook, a move that if nothing else shows the growing clout in the video space of the social-media giant.
The premiere episodes of “Ballers” and “The Brink,” the premium cabler’s newest comedy series, will be available starting Wednesday on Facebook for a limited time, after their June 21 TV debuts.
“Ballers” star and exec producer Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson will host the episode directly on his Facebook page, which includes an intro by Johnso.
According to HBO, the episodes will not be available on YouTube or any other third-party digital platform, nor will they be available on cable, satellite or telco TV services (except to HBO subs). In addition to Facebook, the episodes are also available on HBO Now — its recently introduced over-the-top service — and HBO Go, for pay-TV customers.
In one sense, this is nothing new: TV programmers have long employed a strategy — known as “sampling” in the industry — of distributing free premiere episodes across multiple pay-TV and digital outlets. The idea is to raise interest in the shows so people will watch the full seasons.
However, by working with Facebook, will HBO gain enormous reach for the sampling of “Ballers”: Johnson has 49 million followers on the social service. HBO will also promote the free episodes on Facebook on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as on Johnson’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for “Ballers.”
“Ballers,” created by Stephen Levinson (“Entourage”), stars Johnson and explores the lifestyle and real-life problems of a group of former and current football players. The show is exec produced by Stephen Levinson, Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Peter Berg, Evan Reilly, Rob Weiss, Julian Farino and Denis Biggs.
Dark comedy “The Brink” focuses on the effects of a geopolitical crisis on three disparate (and desperate) men: Secretary of State Walter Larson (Tim Robbins), Foreign Service officer Alex Talbot (Jack Black) and ace Navy fighter pilot Zeke Tilson (Pablo Schreiber). The series is exec produced by Jerry Weintraub, Roberto Benabib and Jay Roach, who also directed the pilot, and was created by Roberto Benabib and Kim Benabib.