Cabler mulling 'Sopranos' pic
The marching orders for newly appointed HBO chairman-CEO Chris Albrecht are to expand the network brand into as many areas as possible while protecting its core businesses and maintaining its standards.“We look at HBO as a brand name that will carry us into many other marketplaces,” said Albrecht, a 17-year HBO vet who most recently served as prexy of original programming. HBO is likely to become increasingly active in such sectors as features, video-on-demand, homevideo and television production for other networks, Albrecht said. As chairman-CEO, Albrecht succeeds and continues reporting to Jeff Bewkes, who was elevated to chairman of AOL TW’s new Entertainment and Networks Group. Eyeing ‘Sopranos’ feature On the feature side, HBO has been mulling a “Sopranos” film that would be rolled out after the final season of the series. If that comes to fruition, the cabler’s first stop in seeking a distribution partner likely will be Warner Bros., Albrecht said, although that is “not the only way to do it.” HBO also co-produced “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and is talking to distributors about releasing its pic “Real Women Have Curves” in theaters. The cabler would like to lead the charge in the use of digital content delivery technology such as VOD and continues to scope out what those deal structures should look like. The company already has been experimenting with VOD on systems across the country. Homevideo business on “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City” and “Six Feet Under” is under way, and “Oz” is about to launch. Expect that area to continue to accelerate. On the production side, HBO Independent Prods. co-production of CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond” has been encouraging as well, Albrecht said. The elevation of Bill Nelson from exec VP to chief operating officer at HBO is key to executing the cabler’s strategy, Albrecht added. Teamed with Nelson “Bill and I will work like a partnership,” he said. “He is a brilliant operations guy who is based in New York, and we’re going to be shifting some reporting lines to make sure he has a firm day-in and day-out handle on things.” Nelson had been in charge of finance, information and operations technology and business affairs. Among the areas newly reporting to him are sales and marketing, international and legal, Albrecht said. The rest of the exec structure, which is thick with staffers who have been with the network for more than 15 years, will remain relatively the same. While Bewkes is Gotham-based, Albrecht will continue to be based in Los Angeles, flying to New York every other week. He will not directly replace himself at this time; however, some promotions are possible. Meantime, Bewkes has directed him to continue focusing an eye on the original programming that has been at the forefront of HBO’s success. Moore taking over n the wake left at Time Inc. by Don Logan’s appointment as chairman of the publishing and Internet side of AOL TW, former Time Inc. exec VP Ann Moore can expect considerable latitude under the new Time management structure. Promoted to CEO of Time Inc. and reporting to Logan, Moore takes over in a dicey ad market, with the costs of paper and distribution rising sharply. But Time Inc.’s 140 titles, spearheaded by industry leaders People, Time and Sports Illustrated, continues to dominate the U.S. magazine biz. Moore, praised by one InStyle insider for her “infallible gut,” was responsible for launching Time Inc.’s highly successful niche titles Teen People, People en Espanol, Sports Illustrated for Kids and Real Simple. She also created InStyle, whose rate base has climbed from 500,000 to 1.6 million since launching in 1994.