NBC and MTV band together to promote "quarterlife"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Television networks NBC and MTV unveiled an unusual plan on Thursday to promote a new TV show, “quarterlife,” that will premiere on MTV, but air weekly on competitor NBC.

The deal between the two rivals comes as broadcasters like NBC compete with the Internet, video games, DVDs and other forms of entertainment for viewers’ attention.

“We are all vying to get our programs and ideas exposed,” said Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment. “You hope to get shows seen in as many places as you can and having it sampled online or on a sneak peek on cable is great.”

“Quarterlife,” which portrays struggling artists in their 20s living and working in a big city, will premiere on MTV the afternoon of February 26. That night, it will have its first airing on NBC. Regular episodes begin March 2.

On MTV, “quarterlife” will reach many of the young viewers at which it is aimed, and that could benefit NBC if those viewers tune into the network for regular episodes.

MTV hopes the premiere of the high-profile show will generate excitement and attract attention.

“We get to have the premiere of the TV show before anybody else, and NBC gets to tap into our audience,” said Tony DiSanto, executive vice president of series development and programming at MTV.

The groundbreaking “Quarterlife” was created for the Web in 8-minute segments and produced by Emmy-winning writers and directors Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick.

NBC picked up “quarterlife” to air as a mid-season network replacement after it ended its run on the Web, and the 8-minute episodes were combined into hour-long shows.

Herskovitz and Zwick are no strangers to MTV. Their teen drama “My So-Called Life” was dropped by broadcaster ABC in the mid-1990s, but MTV picked it up for reruns. Thanks to the cable network’s young viewers, “My So-Called Life” became a cult hit and boosted the careers of its stars Claire Danes and Jared Leto.

Herskovitz said he and Zwick were “eager for MTV viewers to rally once again” behind one of their programs.

Silverman and DiSanto said the unusual promotion signals the TV industry is changing, and that competitors can work together when it benefits both.

“The rules (in TV) have changed and the business models need entrepreneurial thinking,” Silverman said.

NBC is part of General Electric Co., and MTV is owned by media giant Viacom Inc.