Duo pact to offer early episodes to auds

Cabler FX will allow digital subscribers of its sister company DirecTV to get an advance showing every week of “The Shield” and “Rescue Me” for $2.99 apiece.

The Fox Entertainment Group and DirecTV are touting the early-look strategy as an industry first, unlike the deals engineered by other broadcast networks for pay-per-view buys of episodes following their plays in network primetime.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to continue to elevate the FX brand,” said Peter Levinsohn, president of Fox Digital Media. The DirecTV/FX experiment begins in March.

Levinsohn said the plan is to offer not only a duplicate of the FX-network version but, in some cases, the equivalent of a director’s cut of the episode, with footage deemed too violent or salacious for ad-supported cable TV.

In addition to the FX shows, DirecTV will also offer episodes of shows on the Fox broadcast network to DirecTV customers who pay the $41.99 expanded-basic monthly fee plus an additional monthly stipend of $5.99 for the digital video recorder.

But episodes of the Fox broadcast shows, which include “24” and “Prison Break,” will be available only six or seven days following their network-primetime run, and will cost 99¢ apiece.

For now, FX’s most popular original series, “Nip/Tuck,” is not available for advance showing because it’s owned by Warner Bros. TV. But Levinsohn said Fox and DirecTV are in talks with Warner Bros. to get “Nip/Tuck” into the mix.

Levinsohn said he regrets that the DirecTV platform was not around last year for the cancelled FX series “Over There,” created and produced by Steven Bochco and Chris Gerolmo. It was the first scripted TV show that tried to capture what it was like to be a solider in Baghdad during the Iraq war.

“Viewers could’ve seen a version of ‘Over There,’ ” Levinsohn said, “that was not subject to the rules of standards and practices.”

DirecTV and Fox also have a deal that gives free on-demand access to exclusive highlights from Fox series along with behind-the-scenes features on movies and TV shows from 20th Century Fox.

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