Bringing Jonah back: Chris Lilley's new ABC/BBC/HBO production reprises his role from Summer Heights High. Photo: Ben Timony
In a first for a major Australian TV production, all six episodes of Chris Lilley's keenly anticipated new comedy Jonah From Tonga will be released online before its broadcast on ABC1 next month.
The move mimics the strategies of US players like Netflix, maker of the Emmy-winning House of Cards, which is widely credited with changing the way viewers engage with TV content in the wired world.
The ABC/BBC/HBO production Jonah From Tonga has Lilley reprising the tearaway schoolboy and teachers' worst nightmare Jonah Takalua, who was last seen being expelled from school in Lilley's earlier comedy Summer Heights High.
From May 2 to 4, the entire series will be available for streaming via the ABC's online player iView on internet-enabled TVs, tablets, smartphones and gaming consoles, before starting a six-week run on ABC1 on May 7. Production partner BBC will embark on a similar release strategy the same weekend.
Despite his own initial scepticism, Lilley said the plan was ''genius''. ''People consume my shows in different ways: they get recorded and watched back later … it's not like event television where you watch straight away to find out the MasterChef winner,'' he said.
While it is a boon for fans who have become accustomed to ''binge viewing'', it signals a shift from the traditional model of TV, a change Australian broadcasters have so far been reluctant to embrace.
Foxtel has been criticised for its release of the new season of Game of Thrones that shuts out local streaming services such as iTunes until the series has aired in its entirety.
But ABC director of TV Richard Finlayson says: ''We have a very successful online platform and want to make sure … there is this very gradual transformation to internet protocol and on-demand viewing.''