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Fox frees Prison Break without ads

Fox is starting to stream free episodes of some of its top shows, leading with Prison Break and Vanished, from more than 50 websites including AOL, Google and Yahoo!, as well as its own extensive network.

The move coincides with the return of Prison Break and the debut of new abduction drama Vanished earlier this week, plus a deal sealed with local affiliates allowing them to match the strategy via their own websites.

The first three episodes of both series will go online the morning after their initial airing on Fox and remain available for a week. Not only will they be offered free but they will also be ad-free as part of a “unique marketing initiative.”

This latest development in Fox’s digital strategy comes after parent News Corp said earlier this month that it was planning to significantly increase the number of shows it sold online as downloads, priced at US$1.99 per episode.

Prison Break, plus other Fox hits like 24 and House, are included in this strand of the plan and will be added to Fox websites including MySpace, IGN.com, GameSpy and Rotten Tomatoes in the near future, beginning withDirect2Drive.com in October.

Explaining the thinking behind the company’s latest move, Fox executive VP of marketing Chris Carlisle said it was critical to get viewers hooked into thrillers such as Prison Break and Vanished as early as possible. “Our strategy supplies as many opportunities as possible for viewers to sample the first few episodes across the internet. Since the internet is so communal, we also hope they will immediately buzz about them to their friends online,” he said.

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