HBO shakeup continues: Colin Callender steps down


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Colin Callendar, the man most responsible for HBO’s ambitious, sophisticated and hugely expensive original movies, announced this afternoon that he was leaving his corporate home of the last 20 years.

‘This was solely my decision to leave and return to my entrepreneurial roots,’ the former independent producer told a klatch of reporters during a telephone conference call. ‘This is one of those rare occasions where the story that you are being told really is the story.’


The move was not entirely unexpected. The gravy years of HBO are over and the premium channel is under pressure to find The Next Big Hit. Recent attempts such as ‘John From Cincinnati’ wiped out. And most of Callender’s trademark productions, including the upcoming $200-million World War II drama ‘The Pacific’ from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, make corporate executives nervous because making the money back in foreign sales and DVDs is no longer such a sure thing.

Callender also lost some of his power in a management shake-up after former HBO Chairman Chris Albrecht was forced to resign last year. Albrecht’s departure led to the installation of a top-heavy management structure. Instead of reporting directly to the head of HBO, he was knocked two levels down, reporting to Michael Lombardo, president of West Coast operations, who in turn reports to Richard Plepler, co-president of HBO. Callender’s departure follows that of another top Albrecht lieutenant, Carolyn Strauss, who stepped down in March.

Callender, who guided such mini-series as ‘Angels in America’ and ‘John Adams’ to the small screen, said he would form his own company in 2009. He said he was excited by the intersection of traditional media with digital media, and would likely do business with HBO. However, he said he would not have an independent production deal at HBO, one of the most profitable divisions of media giant Time Warner Co.

HBO executives said Callender would not be replaced. Instead, two of his subordinates will assume his duties. Kary Antholis will become president of HBO Miniseries and Len Amato will become president of HBO Films. Both will report to Lombardo.

Callendar said today that he would assist in the transition for about another month before leaving HBO.

-- Meg James