'Wire' plugs in VOD vignettes


"The Wire" is going back in time to promote its future.

The critically acclaimed HBO series has given a multiplatform launch to three filmed shorts produced by "Wire" creator David Simon that explore the backstories of some its characters.

The three "prequels" already have launched on Amazon.com — not on its Unbox service but as a free stream available on the page for the DVD set "The Wire: The Complete Fourth Season."

The prequels also are being used to whet the appetite of "Wire" fans in advance of its fifth-season launch Jan. 6 on HBO. Beginning Jan. 15, the shorts will be available on HBO On Demand, HBO.com, podcasts and affiliate portals.

The shorts will air on HBO at the close of each fifth-season episode, beginning with the third installment.

In addition, HBO will make all episodes of "Wire" available on VOD one week before their linear premiere (with the exception of the finale). "Wire" is known to be a big draw on VOD, second only to "The Sopranos" among HBO series.

Two of the shorts are devoted to the characters Prop Joe and Omar, depicting them as children who show flashes of their adult personality traits. A third short features William "Bunk" Moreland (Wendell Pierce) and Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) in McNulty's first day on the job.

Simon produced the shorts at the same time he worked on the series finale, though they don't have any specific relevance to this season's story lines.

"When we approached David about doing additional scenes, he got it right away," said Rishi Malhotra, vp HBO On Demand and multiplatform marketing. "Immediately, he came up with these characters."

"Wire" isn't the first HBO series to produce extra vignettes. "Entourage" featured some of its characters in shorts that were available exclusively on AT&T's wireless content platform. Last year, "Big Love" created flashback-themed shorts exclusively for HBO on Demand, where they racked up 2.5 million views — on par with the actual episodes.

"We set the bar with 'Big Love' last year," Malhotra said. "It was really an incredible test for us to evolve our marketing to storytelling (and) multiplatform marketing."