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New Chief Unpacks HBO Pilots

Apr 13, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Despite the loss of its mega-hit series “The Sopranos” and a dearth of new blockbuster shows, HBO’s new entertainment chief thinks the premium cable network is in a different league than its competition.
Sue Naegle, who had been co-head of the television department at United Talent Agency, last week was named president of HBO Entertainment, succeeding Carolyn Strauss, who shepherded “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City” and other hugely popular series that justified the slogan “It’s Not TV. It’s HBO.”
In recent years, HBO shows haven’t always measured up with critics to the high standards set by those series, while better-received dramas began appearing on basic cable networks as well as pay rival Showtime.
Ms. Naegle, who will oversee series and specials, acknowledged that programming at other networks is getting more attention now.
“I think the press over the last few years has been looking at Showtime, or AMC, or FX nipping at HBO’s heels,” she said. “But if you know the facts in terms of subscribers and market share, they are in two different leagues.”
Since the “Sopranos” finale, HBO has actually increased it subscribers by a small amount, according to SNL Kagan Research. Those subscribers help the network generate more than $1 billion in profits for parent company Time Warner.
Richard Plepler, co-president responsible for programming at HBO, added, “This notion that if other people produce good work, that means it’s diminishing to us simply isn’t true. … I think there’s room for a lot of people to do some good work. With Sue’s contribution, we’ll do even better work.”
HBO’s management was shaken up last year when Chris Albrecht left following a well-publicized public altercation with his girlfriend after an HBO-televised boxing match in Las Vegas. A new management structure of longtime HBO executives was set up to replace him, and Ms. Naegle is the first outsider to be brought in to a top programming post at the network in years. Whether her arrival will mean a bigger shakeup at the entertainment division was something on which HBO executives declined to comment.
Close Ties
Ms. Naegle, however, is a familiar quantity at HBO. As an agent, she worked on HBO projects including “Six Feet Under” and the upcoming vampire drama “Blood Ties,” also from writer Alan Ball.
She also has close ties with Showtime Entertainment President Bob Greenblatt, who was executive producer of “Six Feet Under.”
“He’s a close friend of mine and someone I enjoy very much,” Ms. Naegle said. “I would say, though, in my mind an HBO show and a Showtime show are slightly different. Certainly focusing on HBO’s brand was a little bit easier for me because I’ve had a longer history with them.”
Ms. Naegle said there are already a lot of strong shows in the development pipeline at HBO.
“I’m fortunate in that way to be walking into some really great shows, potential shows, pilots at this point,” Ms. Naegle said. “I think that what we’d like to do is open up the doors and bring in writers that I’ve worked with before, writers that I haven’t worked with before that I’ve always wanted to get to know, and see what’s out there and see who’s got a point of view and a show in them that could be right for HBO.”
Mr. Plepler said Ms. Naegle’s input into the programming process will be felt from day one because HBO hasn’t greenlighted the shows for which it has ordered pilots.
“She will have an opportunity to unpack all of the development slate and put her stamp on where we’re headed with those,” he said.
Already she’s on the same page with him and Michael Lombardo, president of the programming group and West Coast operations.
After their initial conversations, “Mike and I felt it was as if Sue had sat in over the course of the last six or seven months on our private conversations about strengths and challenges that we had, and we really were comfortable that we had found somebody with a shared vision and a shared sensibility about what we needed to do,” Mr. Plepler said.

26 Comments

  1. Hellow HBO, I need your help.I have a pilot idea for a great documentory or a tv series that I feel is perfect for HBO.I’ve been corrisponding with a composer that feels that this pilot is heart warming and loves the idea and said that I needed to write a treatment,so I did and it’s sitting right here in my computer.I am not an accomplished writer nor screenwriter, but I do have a wonderful idea, so I need your help.I am also not represented by anybody,so as you know I need assurances that my pilot will be recignized and protected to me.The NYTVF – New York TV Festival people also loved the idea, but they told me I needed to make the pilot and enter it to the networks and the festivals.I am unable to proceed, because of the financing of such a venture. I was hoping that Sue Naegle would like to get behind this,so we can proceed.As I said , their is a compore and a director that are already interested, but I want to come to HBO and pressent it to you. HBO is my choice.I hope the this will be your choice also.
    thank you Leonard Moulton
    1-850-699-2551 or lenleslie@hotmail.com

  2. Hello HBO, I need your help. I am a wannabe writer who cannot spell or form coherent sentences using proper grammar. You could make make an analogy to a carpenter who uses the wrong side of the saw.
    thank you “Sugar Ray” Leonard Moulton
    1-850-699-2551 or lenleslie@hotmail.com

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