It’s only been six weeks since the premiere of John Oliver’s satirical HBO late night show Last Week Tonight, but so far, HBO has been acting out of character by regularly posting large chunks of the show on YouTube so that non-subscribers to check out the new series. HBO explained this uncharacteristic move to Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall in a statement:
There is no cookie-cutter approach to promoting a new show; every program demands its own strategy. We are always looking for interesting ways for viewers to sample our programming and with the topicality and timeliness of Last Week Tonight we feel putting select clips on YouTube is an effective and simple way to allow audiences to see John’s unique take on the news events of the week.
Because John Oliver and head writer Tim Carvell had Oliver’s summer guest-hosting stint on The Daily Show to rev up, they really hit the ground running with Last Week Tonight, avoiding the stiff awkwardness of a new late night show and delivering what is already one of the sharpest, funniest programs in the medium. Because HBO is regularly uploading clips online (some of them exceeding 13 minutes), a wide audience that doesn’t have access to HBO is getting to see the show for free, allowing Last Week Tonight to compete with other late night shows, most of which are regularly uploaded to the internet, for YouTube views. Oliver’s meticulously-crafted, joke-laden segments, most recently on the subjects of net neutrality and FIFA (embedded below), are regularly pulling in millions of viewers a piece, which is super impressive for any late night show let alone a brand new one. Hitfix reports that HBO hasn’t decided yet whether or not they’ll keep uploading Last Week Tonight in bulk once the show settles in and has a steady audience, but if they really want to fight for viewers’ attention with network and basic cable late night shows, it’d probably be a good idea.