Media companies are scrambling to get their fall television shows recognized when many people seem to be tuned out to traditional TV advertising promotions. The latest innovative promotional effort comes from Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) AOL, which will stream two television shows on the Web prior to their TV premieres.

AOL will feature two new shows from General Electric's (NYSE:GE) and Vivendi's NBC Universal, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Twenty Good Years. Both are produced for NBC by Time Warner's Warner Bros. Television. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip will be available online today, while Twenty Good Years will be available on Oct. 4. Both online premieres will be available on AOL one week before their TV debuts.

Such experiments are all the rage these days -- and if Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip sounds familiar, it could be because NBC and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) queued up a deal earlier this summer, through which Netflix subscribers could get the premier episode of that show as well as Kidnapped on DVD (and Netflix supplied related advertising on its site to drum up interest as well). (I can't help but wonder if that experiment wasn't much of a success, since Studio 60 is getting additional exposure through AOL.)

Meanwhile, just last week, TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) announced a deal with CBS (NYSE:CBS) to show The Class to subscribers directly through their TiVo boxes, and ahead of the network's broadcast TV premiere.

The major TV networks are obviously well aware that through digital video recorders and the Internet, people are increasingly watching programs and content when they want to instead of making appointments with their televisions at pre-determined times. To fail to address these new trends could very well leave their fall TV lineups out in the cold.

And of course, deals like this one shine some additional interest on the platforms through which people are increasingly accessing video content, like AOL and other highly trafficked Internet sites.

Given the big changes afoot and the fickleness of audiences, the TV networks are experimenting with what works and what doesn't. It'll be interesting to see which ideas are hits and which miss with increasingly self-determined viewers.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.