Why ‘Mr. Robot’ season premiere hit online three days early, then got pulled back

Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson in the Season 2 premiere of USA's breakout hit "Mr. Robot."
(Peter Kramer / USA Network)

On Sunday night, the Season 2 premiere of USA’s paranoid cyber-security thriller “Mr. Robot” found its way online, but for a limited time only. 

In contrast with HBO and Starz, the latest networks to make show premieres, including “The Night Of” and “Outlander,” available to stream ahead of time, USA made the “Mr. Robot” episode available within a very narrow window before pulling it offline.

The episode’s availability was announced with little fanfare via a video within the “Mr. Robot” Facebook Live event held Sunday night with members of the cast, including Rami Malek and Christian Slater.

The pretense of the video was a security breach as perpetrated by fsociety, the fictional hacking group from the “Mr. Robot” universe around 4:20 p.m. Pacific Time. 

Shortly after, the official “Mr. Robot” Twitter feed posted a schedule listing times and locations where the episode would be streaming, noting that it would be the only opportunity available until the official Wednesday airing.

At the conclusion of each airing, the stream was deleted and fans were left to wait for the official premiere on television. 

Further, the stream was only the first of two new “Mr. Robot” episodes scheduled to be shown Wednesday night, and it concluded with a title card that read,  “Intermission.” 

The show’s Twitter account was also actively monitoring reactions to the streaming news, tweeting unnerving personalized messages to individuals who had shared the news.

Streaming the premiere in an unconventional way felt like the right choice for the show, said Alexandra Shapiro, executive vice president, marketing and digital for USA Network.

“The series, at its core, is against conformity and anti-rules. We try to embody this same ethos in our marketing approach,” she said.

Shapiro added that the choice to limit the amount of time the premiere would be available was a pointed strategy intended to create excitement that “comes from both the people who were lucky enough to see it as well as the ones who didn’t.”

Numbers have yet to be released regarding how effective the publicity strategy was for the series, whose first season scored a 98% on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

The series averaged 1.39 million viewers per episode in its first season, and those numbers often doubled when factoring in streaming views and delayed viewing. 

The first two episodes of Season 2 of “Mr. Robot” will be shown starting at 10 p.m. July 13 on USA.

‘Mr. Robot’

Where: USA

When: 10 p.m. Wednesday

Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)


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