Two years after taking over the controls from Chris Albrecht, HBO programming heads Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo have firmly re-established momentum at the pay cable channel.
That momentum was further crystallized Thursday at TCA, when the execs announced season renewals for three series currently enjoying strong summer runs: veteran “Entourage,” sophomore “True Blood” and rookie “Hung.”
Now freely adding up its audience across encore viewings, DVR use and on-demand, HBO says it’s averaging about 11 million total viewers for each episode of “True Blood” this season, a 40% uptick from last year.
Likewise, “Hung” is averaging over 9 million viewers across all platforms.
“Entourage,” meanwhile, had its best season premiere number in two seasons earlier this month, attracting 3.4 million viewers upon its first airing.
“Even DVD sales for ‘John Adams’ and “True Blood’ have done well,” noted Plepler, adding that HBO series are currently ranking high on iTunes sales charts, too.
For HBO, the strong viewer demand comes after a fallow period following not only the departure of former programming guru Albrecht in 2007, but also seminal hits “The Sopranos" and "Sex in the City."
“I think (the struggles) of two years ago were about us being new at our jobs,” Lombardo said. “There was a very sudden and dramatic transition as far as executives, and we were newbies. Our (TCA) session was much more stressful two years ago.”
Lombarod and Plepler did not have answers regarding the continuing fates of several other series.
The fate of “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,” for example, is still up in the air, with the network still trying to figure out what to do with it following the death of executive producer Anthony Minghella last year.
Also unanswered was whether it will greenlight Martin Scorsese’s “Boardwalk Empire.”
“We just wrapped the pilot and we’re waiting to see a cut,” Lombardo said. “Our fingers are crossed.”
Also On Thursday, HBO previewed new comedy "Bored to Death," with stars Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis appearing on stage, and Jason Schwartzman showing up on a remote satellite feed.
Also showcased was "Curb Your Enthusiasm," with Larry David appearing solo to talk about the series’ upcoming sixth season.
A fictional “Seinfeld” reunion will be a regular arc next season, featuring Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
“I always get asked about a ‘Seinfeld’ reunion, and I decided it’s a lame idea, but it might be kind of funny to do that on ‘Curb,’” David said. “So, I called Jerry about it, and he thought it was a good idea, too.”