Cabler renews skein for a second season

NEW YORK — HBO has renewed “Rome” for a second season of 12 hourlong episodes, although they won’t make it to air until 2007.

“The show has built momentum with our subscribers and with the critics,” said Carolyn Strauss, president of HBO Entertainment.

The first episode, Aug. 28, harvested 8.9 million total viewers over the course of 11 plays on HBO and HBO2 spread across the entire week. The 9.1 household rating “Rome” chalked up for the Sunday primetime run alone was the best number for a new-season debut episode since the fourth-season premiere of “Six Feet Under” in 2004.

Although “Six Feet Under” and “Sex and the City,” each a big hit, have ended their HBO runs, the network still has 20 more episodes of “The Sopranos” scheduled for 2006, and the new season of the successful “Curb Your Enthusiasm” will begin Sept. 25 with 10 fresh half-hours.

Strauss said “Rome” also joins two continuing HBO series recently picked up for third seasons: “Deadwood” and “Entourage.”

Two skeins are joining HBO’s schedule, the half-hour comedy “Extras,” starring Ricky Gervais, and “Big Love,” a one-hour drama about polygamy, with Bill Paxton.

Sunday is the traditional night for HBO’s original series, but Strauss acknowledges that ABC’s runaway hit on the night, “Desperate Housewives,” has led HBO’s subscribers to seek out the channel’s originals in rerun on another night, or on HBO on Demand.

Production of the new season of “Rome” will begin in March. Series is a co-production of HBO and the BBC. Bruno Heller, John Milius and William J. Macdonald are co-creators and executive producers. The other exec producers are Anne Thomopoulos, Frank Doelger, Jim Dyer and Eugene Kelly.

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