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…