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How DirecTV is keeping 'Damages' alive for fans

Season four of the critically acclaimed show Damages will premier it’s fourth season tonight exclusively on DirecTV’s AUDIENCE network, channel 239. After three seasons on FX, the show was canceled. But now the satellite provider came to the beck and call of many of the show’s super fans as they scooped up the property and offered it another life.

Back in the summer of 2007 the show opened to amazing reviews as Glen Close, Rose Byrnes (recently a star in the blockbuster film Bridesmaids) and Ted Danson captivated audiences’ attention with the fast-paced, creatively written and unpredictable story lines.

Since non-satellite providers will have to wait for season four to come out on DVD to (legally) watch season four, the question remains if the hardcore fans of Patty Hewes and Ellen Parsons (Close’s and Byrne’s characters) without satellite will find ways to tune in, get spoiled by their friends on Twitter and Facebook as they await the DVDs or find ways to catch each episode on DirecTV.

Chip Ross, DirecTV’s senior manager of social media and Jason Berman their director of online marketing said “friends don’t let friends miss the premiere of Damages. We encourage viewers with DIRECTV to invite friends over tonight and throw a little viewing party. Perhaps some wine or fine spirits that Patty Hewes herself would enjoy.”

Luckily, Village Pourhouse here in NYC has made a room available for about 20 fans to watch. Ross and Berman were happy to answer some detailed questions on how they’ve been approaching social as tonight’s launch drew nearer (including how the characters will have their own feeds).

How has DirecTV planned for the Damages premier with social media? Any partnerships?

We’ve prepared for the big premiere by developing dedicated Facebook tabs for fans of the show on our DirecTV and Damages Facebook pages plus an entire microsite on Directv.com/damages. We have a sweepstakes that kicks off tonight (premiere episode) on Facebook.com/DIRECTV that encourages people to watch each episode and answer a question about the episode to win prizes from Sony (our production partner on the show) like an HDTV or Vaio Notebook, or jewelry and apparel worn by characters on the show.

Another collaboration was with the YouTube superstar George Watsky, aka “The Fast Rapper” who fell in love with the show and made a great rap video wrapping up the first three seasons to get people primed for the premiere.

Lastly we are working with GetGlue on a number of exclusive stickers viewers can earn for checking in early and then for each episode.

How did you take over the fan base that FX built and keep the momentum as the show moved to a new network?

We have a great relationship with Sony (who we produce the show with). They had built up the Facebook page during the first three seasons and knew a lot about the fan base. That helped us on how to best communicate with the fans and inspire engagement. We started posting about the new season back in October 2010 to get people excited and aware of the change that the show was now on DirecTV’s AUDIENCE Network instead of FX.

We introduced “Damages” to a whole new set of fans by-way of promoting our exclusive airings of Seasons One through Three starting early January. We interacted a lot with those fans to get them primed for the all-new season.

How are you dealing with fans of the show that won’t be able to watch because they don’t have DirecTV?

We know that Damages fans are passionate about the show and that extends to those here and abroad who don’t have DirecTV and thus can’t watch the shows first-run. Other fans have been great about explaining that DirecTV saved the show after FX canceled it so that the producers could keep telling the story for another two seasons.

We also point out that the shows will be available on DVD eventually.

Are any of the talent in the show big on social media, promoting the premier a lot?

The talent (Glenn Close, Rose Byrne, John Goodman, Chris Messina) has been great in sitting down for exclusive interviews that we’ve featured on our Facebook page. Before our premiere party we asked our fan base to give us questions to ask of the stars which they were very gracious in providing replies.

For tonight’s premiere we have the show’s producers, KZK Productions (Glenn Kessler, Daniel Zelman, Todd Kessler) making live tweets about the episode with tidbits about what inspired certain creative choices.

Will there be any internet/social media related story lines within the season?

We are very excited to give fans access to the characters through their own Twitter profiles which will be very active during the season -@PattyHewes, @EllenParsons and @HowardErickson – with their tweets complimenting the action seen in each episode or teasing what’s to come.

With the Facebook sweepstakes we have weekly prizes about the show tied to each episode.

How will DirecTV be tracking the conversations about the show?

We’ll be all over metrics tracking through Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to see engagement, video views and sharing. We license a tool that will let us track overall conversation volume about the show and our social media features too.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We are huge TV fans and are so excited to be debuting a show with the star power and critical acclaim of Damages. We believe that even if you haven’t tuned into the first three seasons you should check out Season Four without hesitation and get hooked.

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