Surprise! 'Orange Is The New Black' season released early

It would be a crime to bet against Netflix
It would be a crime to bet against Netflix

Maybe the only thing better than a new season of "Orange is the New Black" is a surprise early release of the new season.

Yes, season three of "Orange" is already online, slightly ahead of schedule.

Netflix (NFLX, Tech30) surprised super-fans of the series by releasing the new batch of episodes around 9 p.m. Eastern time Thursday. The episodes were expected to come online at 3 a.m. Eastern on Friday.

"Season 3 is out on early release," Netflix's website proclaimed, as if the new season was an inmate at the women's prison where the show is set.

The announcement was made at #OrangeCon, an event for the show's fans in New York that featured appearances by cast members and panel discussions.

Various cast members encouraged their followers to start streaming a few hours early.

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Cast members of "Orange Is The New Black" in season three.

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"The wait is over. Get some," tweeted Lolita Foster, who plays a corrections officer named Maxwell.

"It's true! Season 3 is available NOW! Go! Watch! Enjoy!" wrote Kate Mulgrew, who plays Red.

For Netflix, the surprise was a way to further spread the word and heighten anticipation about the new season.

And the stunt worked: "OITNB," the abbreviation for the show's title, was trending on Twitter (TWTR, Tech30) within minutes.

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Actresses Taylor Schilling and Laura Prepon as characters Piper Chapman and Alex Voss in the latest season.

Fans by and large seemed thrilled: "Bawling my eyes out because OITNB is released early," one wrote.

"My mom heard the OITNB theme song from the living room and literally screamed," wrote another fan.

A Netflix spokeswoman declined to comment on the staging of the early release: "I'm just going to let people enjoy the experience."

"Orange" has become one of the streaming service's tentpole shows.

Netflix has already renewed the show for a fourth season. At the New York event, one of the panelists said filming will begin Monday.

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