HBO Execs See ‘Best Yet to Come’

Jul 12, 2007  •  Post A Comment

In their first public appearance since being put in charge of programming at HBO after the departure of former CEO Chris Albrecht, Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo said they would not be making any strategic changes at the network.
“I think the best is yet to come,” said Mr. Plepler, who became co-president responsible for programming at a time when the network must replace its biggest hits, including “The Sopranos.”
“There’s nothing that will ever top ‘The Sopranos,’” he told the Television Critics Association gathering in Los Angeles. The question is, “Do we continue to put excellent programming on the network so that its 30 million subscribers feel it is something worth paying for?”
Mr. Lombardo, president of the programming group and West Coast operations, said he missed Mr. Albrecht on both a personal and a professional level.
He added, “The genius of Chris is he assembled a group of great programmers. It feels like we are just continuing to do the work we had been doing.”
“The last thing that Mike and I are going to do is impose ourselves on a first-class group of programmers,” Mr. Plepler said. “There wasn’t a Jeff Bewkes philosophy or a Chris Albrecht philosophy. There’s an HBO philosophy” of creating programming that “differentiates us from the rest of television.”
Mr. Lombardo said HBO spent more money on series programming this year than in the past, and promised that figure will increase again next year as the network produces more series hours.
The two executives said the likelihood of producing movies to wrap up the “Deadwood” saga was about 50-50.
“Our intention is to do them,” Mr. Lombardo said, adding the network doesn’t have holds on most of the actors, who have since moved on to other projects. He said they plan to revisit the movie question with executive producer David Milch at the end of the summer.
HBO helped put together the script for the “Sex and the City” feature film that will be produced and distributed by New Line. “I’m a huge fan. I miss it. I can’t wait to buy a ticket. It continues the journey of those women into their 40s and 50s,” Mr. Lombardo said.
“No fan will be disappointed when they see it,” Mr. Plepler added.
As for the “Sopranos” finale, Mr. Plepler said when he got a copy of the show about three weeks before it aired, he called HBO Entertainment President Carolyn Strauss to see if she’d withheld the last 50 seconds of the episode. “They said no, that’s the ending,” he said.
Like other people, it took a little time before he appreciated the show’s controversial cut-to-black ending. “As people sat with the ending, they got more comfortable with it and less aggravated,” Mr. Plepler said.
(Editor: Horowitz)

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