In an effort to build an empire of viewers for its upcoming Rome, HBO has moved the epic drama's premiere date up from September to Aug. 28.
The move will enable the show to debut closer to a free preview the network is offering the following weekend. The preview will include Rome’s first three episodes on HBO On Demand for all digital-cable customers.
As a result of the scheduling change, episode three will be available on demand before it runs on the linear network – a first for HBO. The preview weekend is Sept. 3-7; episode three debuts on the linear network Sept. 11.
HBO invested a whopping $100 million in the 12-episode season of Rome, a co-production with the BBC. The network says this campaign for viewers is the largest it has done around a new series.
To woo subs, the premium network regularly offers free preview weekends, although it does not usually schedule new show premieres to coincide with the freebies.
But with Sex and the City gone and Six Feet Under and The Sopranos soon to depart, HBO is hungry for a new hit.
The network also finds itself in the position of having some of its thunder stolen. Rome will debut after ABC’s summer Rome miniseries Empire, though the ABC show did not make much of a runble, premiering last night to a modest 6.5 million total viewers and falling short of CBS’s Fire Me…Please and 48 Hours.
New episodes of Rome will premiere Sunday at 9 p.m. after a re-run of the previous week’s episode at 8.
HBO will also schedule each of the first three episodes so they can be seen any day of the week on either HBO or spin-offs HBO2 and HBO Signature.