Inside Move: Leave ’em wanting more ‘Sex’

HBO gets less skeins but sked's still virile

HBO can’t help but get lucky with “Sex and the City.”

Heading into the show’s July 21 season preem, the pay cabler’s scheduling flexibility has allowed it to turn a potential trouble spot — the pregnancy of star Sarah Jessica Parker, which forced a shuffle in the show’s production sked — into an asset.

The show, which landed 10 Emmy noms last week, is making the most of — even embracing — its babies theme, which as it turns out was conceived before the news broke that Parker and co-star Cynthia Nixon are expecting. Promos featuring buggies and bows have been reminding viewers that Nixon’s character gave birth at the end of the six-episode mini-season that aired in January.

HBO is rolling with punches created by the show’s shortened fifth-season run. The show’s preem was pushed back from June to late July, and the episode order was shortened when news broke that Parker was pregnant.

Yet HBO’s flexibility has allowed it to turn the hubbub into heat.

“We’ve always had a much less rigid model,” says Carolyn Strauss, HBO senior veep of original programming. “Some shows are 10 (segs), 13, ‘Oz’ was eight. So when we figured we could only do eight, we sat down with the schedule and just figured out what to do.”

If the pay cabler were a broadcast network, it would have had reason to wobble on its Jimmy Choos in the face of an abbreviated season and scheduling snafus.

But HBO’s flexibility is inherent to its economic model, in which advertiser guarantees are nonexistent and ancillary program sales are something of an afterthought.

“It’s the success of stuff on the air that drives the ancillary business,” Strauss adds. “It’s all about the strong schedule.”

HBO, which also reworked its sked last season due to strike threats, does plan to get back to a regular sked of summer “Sex” next year, but you can bet your best outfit they’ll be ready for another wrinkle.

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