Will an Xfinity launch help NBC make 'Smash' a smash?

"Smash," NBC's new drama about the making of a Broadway musical, won't premiere on TV until Feb. 6, but the Comcast-owned network is making the series premiere -- which stars Debra Messing -- available through Xfinity On Demand (yes, that's Comcast, too) starting Jan. 16.

Want to watch on an iPad or online at XfinityTV.com? That's happening Jan. 23.

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Debra Messing and Christian Borle star in NBC's "Smash" Credit: Mark Selliger/NBC

NBC entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt, who used to run the show at Showtime, knows that broadcasters get nervous about putting stuff online before it's aired -- though Fox, he reminded us, surprised itself by employing that as a winning strategy in launching "The New Girl" last fall -- but he often did it in cable, where getting a show sampled is more important than the premiere numbers.

He didn't say it, but I will: NBC, dealing with cable-like ratings in many of its time slots, can probably afford to take cable chances.

I asked Greenblatt if the previews would be limited to Comcast-owned platforms, and he hedged, saying all the "details aren't ironed out yet," but that at the very least, Xfinity would probably be the "leader."

"I'm not sure if we're going to be expanding beyond that," he said.

Update: Later in the day, Greenblatt said "Smash" would also get a preview on other, non-Comcast platforms. According to NBC, which apparently was taken by surprise by a Comcast-issued press release on Thursday (so much for synergy), those platforms include  Apple iTunes, Amazon Video on Demand, Xbox/Zune, Playstation, Samsung MediaHub and Vudu.

In addition, there will be pilot screenings in several major cities, including Philadelphia, on Monday. I'm not sure if tickets are still available for the 7:30 p.m. event at the Ritz East, but here's a link if you want to try:


Other notes from Greenblatt's meeting Friday with the Television Critics Association:

-- Harry Connick Jr. will do a four-episode arc on "Law & Order: SVU" as a potential love interest for Mariska Hargitay's character. Hargitay, by the way, is not leaving the show, Greenblatt insisted. In case that was keeping you up nights.

-- Also not leaving, at least for this season: "Community." Not canceled. Also not yet scheduled to return on a particular date, but "it will definitely be back this spring," Greenblatt said.

-- The ratings failure of "Prime Suspect," which starred Norristown's Maria Bello, was "probably the biggest disappointment" of the fall for Greenblatt, who noted that he'd tried it in multiple time slots. But then NBC had  "a really bad fall," he said, "worse than I hoped for, but about what I expected."

-- Greenblatt's bullish on having Howard Stern on "America's Got Talent," and insisted he won't be losing sleep over having the controversial shock jock in prime time. "We met with Howard. We sat with him. Aside from his radio persona, he's a very thoughtful, very intelligent person…I think he's going to be a great judge."