Steven Spielberg/Oren Peli thriller series collaboration The River makes its U.S. debut on February 7 on ABC. In a first for producer ABC Studios, the shows will then be available via iTunes in the U.K. 24 hours later. There is currently no U.K. broadcaster deal for The River, although an announcement is expected soon. Meanwhile, U.K. iTunes customers can watch the series on a one-day delay during its entire run. Experiments like this are partly a means to deter piracy and are proving more frequent (they’re also welcome for frustrated fans in Europe). In 2010, for example, ITV made Vampire Diaries available on iTunes in the U.K. before it started airing the popular show. In France, leading broadcaster TF1 makes episodes of shows like House available via its own VOD service on a 24-hour delay from the U.S. TF1 also airs the series on TV at a one-season delay and the show remains a ratings powerhouse. In the U.S., Fox last year debuted the New Girl pilot on iTunes before it aired and ended up with a new hit show. The River release follows:

LONDON, UK: 31st January 2012 – The much-anticipated new US thriller series “The River”, from Steven Spielberg, and Oren Peli, the creator of “Paranormal Activity”, is set to make its UK debut on iTunes (www.itunes.co.uk/tv/theriver) on 8th February, just 24 hours after its US broadcast on ABC. iTunes customers will be first in the UK to see this chilling drama series. A Season Pass of all eight episodes of the much-anticipated show will be available to pre-order from today, with episodes one and two launching on 8th February.

“The River” is produced by ABC Studios (“Lost”, “Desperate Housewives”) and Amblin Films. It follows the story of world famous wildlife expert and TV personality Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood – “Star Trek”). After Cole goes missing deep in the Amazon, his family, friends and crew set out on a mysterious and deadly journey to find him. Led by his wife, Tess (Leslie Hope – “24”), and his estranged son, Lincoln (Joe Anderson – “The Twilight Saga”), and filmed documentary-style by Cole’s ex-producer, Carl (Paul Blackthorne – “Lipstick Jungle”), the rescue mission will take them deep into the unexplored reaches of the Amazon River. A place where nature is cruel, magic is real, and nothing is what it seems. As the journey continues, the show will take audiences along for a scary new mystery each week.

“The River”, from Amblin’s Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks Television’s Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey, and showrunner/executive producer Michael Green (“Heroes,” “Kings”), is also executive-produced by Oren Peli (creator of “Paranormal Activity”), Zack Estrin (“Prison Break”), Jason Blum (“Paranormal Activity 1, 2 and 3″) and Steven Schneider. Teleplay by Michael R. Perry and Michael Green, story by Oren Peli & Michael R. Perry. The series is produced by ABC Studios and Amblin Films, and distributed by Disney UK.

Executive producer Oren Peli said: “Right from the start, we’ve had a global audience in mind for “The River” – the show preys on universal human fears, and follows a journey to an exotic, remote setting. I’m excited to be debuting the show on iTunes.”

The River is available for pre-order from iTunes at www.itunes.co.uk/tv/theriver. Once downloaded, the show can be enjoyed at the viewer’s leisure, either at home via home computer or Apple TV, or on the move with iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. A full Season Pass is £9.99 (SD) or £12.99 (HD), and single episodes are £1.89 (SD) or £2.49 (HD).

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