HBO close to naming new CEO

Cabler looks internally for dual topper jobs

HBO is closing in on naming a replacement for Chris Albrecht — or will it be replacements?

It still could be weeks before Time Warner officially announces the pay cabler’s new corporate hierarchy. But with the shakeup at NBC finally settling down, attention is again turning to who will run HBO.

In one scenario, the net could cleave the position in two, with one exec taking charge of the business operations as CEO and the other overseeing the pay web’s four programming divisions.

That would mirror how HBO was run back when Jeff Bewkes headed the channel and Albrecht served as programming honcho.

Net is leaning toward upping existing HBO execs into the top spots rather than recruiting an outsider. The shortlist is exec veep and strategy guru Richard Plepler; chief operating officer Bill Nelson, who currently has the title of interim CEO; sales and marketing prexy Eric Kessler; and exec VP of business affairs and general counsel Hal Akselrad.

All were instrumental in business and strategy issues under Albrecht, who came out of the programming side and delegated some of the business tasks.

On the programming side, the leading candidate to run the four divisions is long-running HBO Films chief Colin Callender. Carolyn Strauss, who as HBO Entertainment topper heads up original series, is considered a more remote choice.

Many of the candidates have been with the net for years and that longevity is also what makes them attractive.

Still, a number of outsiders have been interviewed. But recently ankled NBC entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly isn’t a candidate, say insiders familiar with the situation.

Those playing the HBO guessing game had suggested that former Viacom topper Tom Freston is in the running, but the exec is and always has been a highly unlikely choice, say those familiar with the situation.

An announcement on the new CEO could come as early as next week but is more likely in mid-June.