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HBO’s ‘Big Love’ goes small

Mini episodes debut on on-demand service

HBO will combine original content with new media platforms in an unusual way, creating three miniature episodes of polygamy drama “Big Love” and debuting them via its on-demand service.

The three eps, collectively titled “Big Love: In the Beginning,” will be scripted by series creators Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer and have been shot in conjunction with scenes from the rest of the show.

All will debut on HBO on Demand on June 4, with Comcast subs getting a first look a week earlier. Eps will later be available as a podcast and on mobile phones even to non-HBO subs, before finally airing on the net on June 24.

Episodes will fill in various elements of the backstory of the Henricksons, the three-in-one family presided over by patriarch Bill (Bill Paxton).

The episodes include “Post-Partum,” a segment set five years ago when Bill’s wife Nicki (Chloe Sevigny) suffers a breakdown after her child is born; “Meet the Babysitter,” set three years ago when youngest wife Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) comes into the picture; and “Moving Day,” an incident set a little over a year ago when the family considers a move to the suburbs.

Eps all play off references made in the linear show; they will run between three and five minutes.

HBO had previously done “making of” videos and other companion pieces for its series, and original “Entourage” mobisodes have been featured exclusively on mobile phones.

But this marks first time for the pay net that original content shot as part of the production process is bowing on alternative platforms.

Net hopes that it can deepen the narrative beyond what’s possible in a typical hourlong series — even as it also offers a marketing benefit to HBO.

“It’s the perfect melding of the interest of our programmers with the interest of our marketers,” said HBO’s senior veep of affiliate and product marketing Bernadette Aulestia. “For our programmers, it’s a unique way to tell a story, and our marketers can capitalize on this unique form of storytelling to further engage viewers.”

Net also wants to reward affiliates who carry HBO on Demand — and the subs who receive it — with original content.

Other nets have been looking to off-network platforms to extend backstories and reel in viewers; the producers of CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother,” for example, created a fake MySpace page that riffed on one of the character’s childhoods.

But HBO, which as a pay net focuses more on subscriptions than on ratings, hopes episodes do more than just generate interest. “The intent is to get this in front of as many consumers as possible so we can build subscriptions,” Aulestia said.

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