If you aren't buying into SHOWTIME's edgy new show revolving around a personable serial killer in Miami, can you spare a penny for Dexter? Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is teaming up with SHOWTIME parent CBS (NYSE:CBS) to offer the pilot episode for a single cent on its new Unbox video downloading site.

CBS will also be selling episodes of other shows from the popular premium cable network, including Weeds, Fat Actress, and The L Word. However, those will retail for the same $1.99-per-episode price that many other fledgling services have been charging for televised episodes. That is, of course, assuming that the networks aren't bent on giving current episodes away for free through an ad-supported model on their own sites.

Just last week I missed the debut of 30 Rock but was able to stream it for free through General Electric's (NYSE:GE) NBC site. A few months ago, I was able to do the same with an episode of Lost on Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ABC.com.

Selling TV shows through sites like that of digital-distribution juggernaut Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been tricky. It's not just that the networks are often giving the latest installments away. It's also the perception of televised content as being free. That perception may prove to be different for the premium networks, where tollbooths are already in place. I don't have HBO, but would gladly pay $1.99 a pop to catch up with Curb Your Enthusiasm.

A penny Dexter isn't enough to make Amazon's Unbox fly, of course. Media reviews have been mixed when it comes to the downloading process itself. That will make it that much harder to win over the skeptics. Could it have given away Dexter? Sure, but it's not just a collection tray of pennies here. It's Amazon making a connection with you as the source of a payment -- no matter how small -- for a digital download. It's a smart move. With my apologies to Dexter, it's a killer move.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been shopping online for about as long as Amazon.com has been in business. He does own shares in Disney. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. T he Fool has a disclosure policy.