PBS documentary 'Earth Days' to run on Facebook before it airs on TV

PBS will showcase its feature-length documentary "Earth Days" on Facebook before it's shown on the airwaves, marking another first Earth Days documentary on Facebookfor the hugely popular social site and helping to push online video delivery onto center stage. The documentary, part of the PBS "American Experience" series will stream on Facebook at 8 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 11; it's set to be broadcast over the airwaves April 19.

The 102-minute program will be shown to Facebook viewers across Boston-based Brand Network's social screening application that will allow users to participate in polls, and have live chats with each other and with filmmaker Robert Stone and American Experience exec Mark Samels.

Samels told the New York Times that using Facebook to show "Earth Days," which was the closing film of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and has been theatrically released in 40 cities to generally positive reviews. was an opportunity for the series to reach out to a new audience--a younger audience--that the show doesn't normally attract.

He also said the interactivity would allow the AE team to get feedback that TV doesn't offer. "It's such a distancing medium that we work in, in television," he told the Times. "You put all this work into something, and then it goes into this black hole, the ether."

MediaPost, meanwhile, has an interesting take on the PBS play, looking at the broadcaster's attempt to reach a younger audience it feels it's not otherwise connecting with on TV; it points out that 18-24-year-olds watched 5 hours and 11 minutes of online video a month, compared to 5 hours and 33 minutes of time-shifted content on DVRs in 2Q09. Overall, those same viewers watched nearly 109 hours of traditional TV.

The question, of course, is just how many Facebook users will the PBS debut draw? As of this morning, the Facebook RSVP page showed there were 778 people who said they'd be watching and 459 who said they might watch, not exactly a massive draw, but it's early and there's still plenty of time for thebuzz to build. And, in truth, those numbers are pretty meaningless since viewers don't have to sign up to watch, just log on.

For more:
- watch this trailer
- see this Times article
- see this MediaPost blog post
- check out the Facebook RSVP page