HBO Names Sue Naegle Head of Series Programming

HBO officially named Sue Naegle as its new president of HBO Entertainment Wednesday afternoon.

Naegle, the former TV chief at United Talent Agency, replaces Carolyn Strauss as the premium cable network's top series-programming executive, a position Strauss left last month.

“We just think it’s a perfect fit,” said HBO co-president Richard Plepler and programming and West Coast operations president Michael Lombardo in a statement. “Sue has great taste, superb relationships in the creative community and an innate sense of what makes a great HBO show. We are thrilled to welcome her into the family.”

“I am delighted to be joining the team at HBO,” Naegle said in a statement. “I work in television, but I am also a great fan of television. At UTA, I was part of an amazing team dedicated to helping writers to fulfill their creative ambitions. HBO has always set the standard for excellence in programming and as the leading place for artists to do what they do best. The opportunity to be a part of that process from development to execution was something I could not pass up.”

Naegle’s name had been in the mix of Hollywood gossip as a front-runner for the job since Strauss left. She was a partner at UTA and had worked closely with HBO on several series, including packaging Six Feet Under.

Strauss’ departure came as something of a surprise to top HBO executives, who had to announce the move without a successor.

Naegle has been with UTA since 1994.

In an interview, Naegle characterized her relationship with HBO as “very comfortable” and said she was specifically looking forward to both making and producing shows. In addition to Six Feet Under, she packaged the network’s upcoming Alan Ball series, True Blood.

“It’s a departure from what I’ve been doing, but I knew I was going to walk into a place that’s filled with great executives and has a great vision, so in that way it was not as scary as some other change might have been,” she said.

In terms of priorities, Naegle called the network’s current development slate “really strong” and said she was eager to work with new talent.

“I’m fortunate to walk into great potential shows and what we’d like to do is just to open up the doors and bring in writers I’ve worked with and writers I haven’t worked with and always wanted to get to know, and see what’s out there and who’s got a point of view and a show in them that’s right for HBO,” she said. "I’m most excited to kind of jump on in and get to it.”

HBO tapped Naegle because her thinking in terms of the network’s strengths and weaknesses was on par with that of its senior executive team, Plepler said, adding that she had already played an instrumental role in arranging a meeting last Friday with an actor the pay cable network was considering for a lead role in one of its pilots but had not yet been able to meet with until then.

“We were looking for somebody with exquisite taste who had superb relationships in the creative community with writers and producers and fellow agents, who was widely respected and who would fit into the fabric of HBO, and in Sue, we really did find the perfect fit,” Plepler said. “She’s gone quickly from a friend of the court to our partner and we’re thrilled.”

Naegle cited as strengths the network’s current programs and those in development and as a weakness the continued perception among many that HBO is hobbled by its loss of The Sopranos -- something, at least in terms of subscriber count, that hasn’t proven true.

“Anytime you had a Sopranos and you don’t have a Sopranos, it could be seen as a weakness,” she added. “But HBO should be proud of the programs they have had on. They have been extremely well done and more of them would be great.”