Strauss steps down at HBO

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UPDATED 9:45 p.m. PT March 16

Carolyn Strauss, a 22-year HBO veteran, has stepped down as entertainment president of the pay cable network.

Word of Strauss' exit from her post began making the rounds Friday and was confirmed by HBO on Sunday. She is expected to continue at HBO in some capacity probably under a production deal and will continue to have input on development. Details about her new role are to be worked out during the next weeks.

"No one has made a more significant contribution to the success of HBO than Carolyn," HBO co-president Richard Plepler and president of the programming group and West Coast operations Michael Lombardo said in a statement Sunday. "We cannot imagine HBO without her, and we are thrilled that we will continue to have the benefit of her judgment and unique talent."

Rumors about the possible departure of Strauss, a longtime top lieutenant of former HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht, have been circulating during the past six months following the major executive reshuffling at the pay cable network in June that was prompted by Albrecht's ouster.

The restructuring saw executive vp business affairs, production and programming operations Lombardo elevated to the No. 2 programming position under Plepler, with Strauss and HBO Films president Colin Callender reporting to him.

Plepler and Lombardo are said to be looking to build their own development team and are expected to name a new entertainment president. Callender's role is not affected by Strauss' departure, but his long-term future within the company is said to be a question mark. With HBO Films scaling back its involvement in the theatrical business and with a larger assessment of Time Warner's entertainment operations apparently under way observers are watching HBO closely for changes in other units.

During her tenure at HBO, Strauss oversaw the development and production of such HBO series as "The Sopranos," "Sex and the City," "Six Feet Under," "The Wire," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "En¬tourage," "Oz" and "The Larry Sanders Show" and late-night entries "Real Time With Bill Maher," "Dennis Miller Live," "Def Comedy Jam," "Ali G" and "The Kids in the Hall."

Once the trend-setter in series television, HBO has struggled to launch a strong successor to hits "Sex," "Six Feet" and "Sopranos," though its upcoming series include a drama from "Six Feet" creator Alan Ball. HBO is the only company Strauss has worked at since graduating from Harvard in 1985. She began as a temp in the documentaries department in 1986. Ten months later, she became an assistant in the original programming department and began her executive ascend in the department three years later.

Strauss, an unassuming and press-shy executive with a solid reputation in the creative community, always has been loyal to HBO, regularly dismissing suggestions that she would move to another company.

"You're constantly hearing of the perils of staying in one place for so long," she told Broadcasting & Cable three years ago. "A breadth of experience is one thing, but I'm wise enough to know when I have it good."

Steven Zeitchik in New York contributed to this report.
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