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HBO 'Wires’ Up VOD

Pasadena, Calif.— Can’t wait to see the next episode of Home Box Office’s The Wire and Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam? Get HBO On Demand.

The network will premiere each episode of the urban drama and the standup-comedy skein on the subscription on-demand service ahead of their first airings on the premium channel.

HBO On Demand will debut the fourth season of The Wire, as well as the first episode of Def Comedy Jam (returning to HBO after a 10-year hiatus), on Sept. 4, six days before they premiere on the linear network.

Typically, HBO adds new series episodes to the on-demand menu the day after they run on the linear network, although it did make an episode of Rome available via video on demand ahead of its network debut last year.

HBO said at its Television Critics Association presentation here on July 12 that HBO On Demand is available to 10 million homes.

“It’s an opportunity to build the audience and to make the show accessible to the audience and make the HBO On Demand product exciting,” HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht said. “Cable operators like it. It takes the technology and makes it a more integral part of HBO, rather than just another way to see repeats.”

He also said the offering should benefit The Wire, which will face heavy competition on Sunday nights from NBC’s National Football League games during Baltimore-based police drama’s upcoming 13-episode season.

“It’s an interesting experiment for us because The Wire is going to be opposite a lot of [NFL] games on Sunday night,” he said. “To be able to have it a few days before that will benefit the show’s fans.”

But Albrecht would not commit to previewing episodes of higher-profile shows like The Sopranos or Entourage via HBO On Demand, saying that would give cable too much of an advantage over satellite TV providers whose customers don’t have access to two-way services like HBO On Demand.

“We have big satellite partners in DirecTV [Inc.] and EchoStar [Communications Corp.] that can’t do this, so we have to be careful to treat everybody as equally as possible,” he said. “Having said that, we’re going to take this opportunity to try to do this.”

Albrecht also ruled out charging a fee to view episodes of Sopranos or Big Love in advance of their linear HBO debut.