NEW YORK: Sampling TV shows online is something networks have done via YouTube as they seek to attract audiences but a new trend sees them moving the practice onto Facebook.

Digiday highlighted the examples of Amazon ("a new breed of TV network") and HBO in making whole episodes of certain series available for free on Facebook.

"Networks need to evolve at a pace that will find consumers as quickly as their behaviours change," said Jim Marsh, vp/digital and social media at HBO.

"Digital sampling is an effective way for us to introduce our programming to our current and potential subscribers. Ultimately we're trying to create new fans."

Among the potential subscribers are 10m households that currently do not take cable or satellite TV but which may be tempted into adopting the OTT channels now widely offered.

He added that Facebook's recent changes to its video capabilities meant it was now possible "to leverage the massive reach of their platform".

One of the reasons for that, explained James Nail, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, is that it is better at surfacing content.

"The thing that [Facebook] offers that YouTube doesn't is an [algorithmic] feed that people check in on multiple times a day," said Nail. "YouTube, it's still, 'Gee, I've got to go to YouTube and search for stuff and maybe I'll stumble on to something new'."

Early results suggest the approach is paying off. HBO uploaded the first episode of a new series, Ballers, two weeks ago to the Facebook page of one of the lead actors and has already garnered some 5.5m views.

"The digital video ecosystem is so interconnected that there is no single best way to get exposure," said Marsh. "It's important that we work closely with all of our partners to reach people on multiple fronts."

Data sourced from Digiday; additional content by Warc staff