Looks like Alaska Airlines is rolling out a Premium Economy experience similar to Virgin America – basically they're selling the exit/bulkhead row seats with a free alcoholic beverage for a $15 - $50 (each way) surcharge. I've flown Virgin's Main Cabin Extra and it's always comedic watching the crew try to keep people from "self upgrading" into those rows after takeoff. At one point on one of my flights, the FA found a crewmember who was deadheading and asked him to sleep lengthwise across the 3 unoccupied exit row seats.
I had my own inter-passenger seat drama when two large Russian ladies from New Jersey decided they were going to self-upgrade into my Main Cabin Select exit row from a regular Economy seat. I looked at them and said, "No. I'm in the Aisle seat and ONE of you can sit by the window, but you're not both cramming into this row with me." Of course they argued but it's amazing how cooperative they became when I reached for the FA call button...
So yes, I'm sure Alaska will give most of those seats away for free to their Elite flyers. But if I were flying them, I'd pay for it. Alaska's First Class is crappy (arguably even crappier with the new seats) and you'll actually have more legroom in the Exit row than in First. They're in a big battle with Delta right now and I just don't get why they're adding ever-longer routes and shrinking their First Class seat pitch. I personally wish they'd add an ultra-premium First Class cabin like JetBlue did with their Mint product and actually give themselves a big leg-up when going head to head with Delta.
Some more thoughts on Crappy Domestic First here.