Naegle new HBO series chief?

Announcement could come Wednesday

HBO could name its new entertainment president as soon as this week.

Insiders said the pay cabler has narrowed its search, with several names meeting with the channel in recent days. No offers have yet been put on the table, sources at the channel stress.

But the focus in the race to succeed Carolyn Strauss as HBO’s top series exec this weekend began to focus on UTA partner Sue Naegle, who co-heads the tenpercentary’s TV department.

Also said to be on the shortlist: USA Network original programming exec VP Jeff Wachtel, 25C principal Sarah Timberman, Universal Media Studios prexy Katherine Pope and Regency TV topper Robin Schwartz.

HBO’s new leaders — including CEO Bill Nelson, HBO co-prexy Richard Plepler and West Coast topper Michael Lombardo —had quietly been working on an entertainment division succession plan for some time, scouting for an exec to take the No. 2 development post under Strauss. But she was said to be uninterested in bringing aboard a lieutenant, and instead started negotiating a new role (most likely a production deal) with HBO.

When word leaked last month of her impending departure, HBO was forced to confirm her exit early, before the channel had a replacement. The HBO job could generally be considered one of the most coveted in TV, since there are no concerns about sponsors’ needs; talent who avoid “TV” are eager to work at HBO; and there is a premium on thinking outside the box. But it won’t be easy. The challenge for whoever succeeds Strauss will be to inject fresh blood into the HBO culture and, more important, to plot the channel’s next generation of hits.

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