HBO: Just the same, but different

Changes suggest a move away from old regime

When HBO promoted execs from within to replace ousted CEO Chris Albrecht, the pay cabler was intent on conveying a message of stability.

But stability doesn’t mean keeping things the same. Several recent changes suggest that under new CEO Bill Nelson, HBO is diverging in some big ways from the previous regime.

On June 19, the net let go three L.A.-based digital execs, including biz-development veep John Penney, exec VP of new media programming Carmi Zlotnik and digital prexy Jim Moloshok.

At Albrecht’s behest, the team had been working on a set of new-media moves, most notably developing ancillary Web businesses that would feature the HBO brand. Yahoo vet Moloshok had been recruited personally by Albrecht two years ago.

The execs won’t be replaced, with digital duties shifting to the company’s N.Y. office.

Another of Albrecht’s proposed changes seems to be on the ropes, as a pact to bring in UFC, the mix-martial arts league, may not go forward.

Albrecht had been a big champion of a deal. But HBO Sports topper Ross Greenburg and other execs have resisted, feeling it would tarnish boxing and the rest of the HBO brand.

Both plans spoke to Albrecht’s idea for the net to get younger. “We need to make sure we’re not your father’s HBO,” he said earlier this year.

The net still has youth as a goal — particularly on the digital side, where New York execs are expected to push hard on digital distribution. But without Albrecht, they may get there in a very different way.

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