'The Wire' Goes Up Early

"The Wire" is scheduled to begin its fourth season on HBO Sunday, Sept. 10. But you may be able to see it six days before that.

Starting Sept. 4, and continuing throughout the show's run, the network will post episodes of "The Wire" to its HBO On Demand service six days before they air in their regular Sunday-night slot. The move is one of several schedule tweaks HBO is making to its fall schedule; episodes of the returning "Def Comedy Jam" will also debut on HBO On Demand before they air on the linear channel, and the network has also moved its movie premieres from Saturday to Sunday.

"We decided to experiment with our schedule, so we can learn more about how our viewers prefer to watch our programming," says Dave Baldwin, who oversees program planning at HBO. "Having the luxury of not having to worry about premiere night ratings, as well as the ability to now measure HBO On Demand usage, we decided to test the waters with episodic premieres on HOD and shift theatrical movies from Saturday to Sunday night."

The switch of movie premieres from Saturday to Sunday will be a temporary one, HBO Chairman/CEO Chris Albrecht says. Starting in January, when "Rome" rejoins the schedule, original series will reclaim the 9 p.m. timeslot.

"We wanted to make sure that there was a vibrant lead-in into ['The Wire'], and so we thought putting the big theatrical movies there, which we have never done, was a great opportunity for the HBO subscribers to enjoy a full sign-in on HBO, and it seemed like a fun idea," Albrecht says. More people watch TV on Sundays than Saturdays, so it's also a chance for HBO to boost its audience for the movie premieres.

Most of HBO's other series will be on hiatus or filming in the fall, leaving "The Wire" more or less on its own. Moving the theatrical premieres solves that problem.