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July 30, 2009

HBO renews 'Hung,' 'True Blood,' 'Entourage'

Trueblood09HBO announced the renewal of its entire summer original programming lineup, ordering another round of freshman comedy "Hung," veteran comedy "Entourage" and hit vampire drama "True Blood."

Network executives addressing the critics at the Television Critics Association's semi-annual press tour said "Hung" will get a second season, "True Blood" a third and "Entourage" a seventh. The new seasons will debut sometime next year, with "Blood" firmly planned for summer.

The freshly formed Sunday-night lineup has given HBO two consecutive hours of hit programming for the first time in years. "True Blood" in particular has managed to increase its audience with nearly every episode, giving the network its most-watched show since "The Sopranos."

"True Blood" has averaged 3.8 million viewers (11.2 when you add repeats, DVR and On Demand viewing), "Hung" has averaged 3.1 million (10.2 million cume) and "Entourage" brings in about 3.0 million (7.4 million cume).

Programming head Michael Lombardo and co-president Richard Plepler also dropped hints about the fates and air dates of other HBO programming during the network's executive session. (Full HBO executive session live blog here...)

Next year HBO intends to air "Big Love" in January and roll out its highly anticipated WWII miniseries "The Pacific" in March. The war epic will eventually serve as lead-in for "Treme," the New Orleans drama from "The Wire" creator David Simon.

Emmy-nominated "Flight of the Conchords" will also likely return, with executives making a third season sound very probable.

"When they're ready, we're ready," Plepler said of the show's musical comedy duo Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement. "They have the added challenge of writing an album ... we're waiting for them to tell us they're ready."

Though HBO's full development pipeline is expected to give the network some tough choices in the coming months, one project looking almost certain to make the air is Martin Scorsese's "Boardwalk Empire."

"By everything we've seen, it's fantastic," Lombardo said. "It's big; it's everything we hoped it would be."

Executives were less certain about critical favorite "In Treatment" and "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency," the latter program having lost executive producer Anthony Minghella during a cancer operation, but didn't rule out either show returning.  

"We're trying to put it together," Lombardo said of "Treatment." "It's adapted from a series which there were only two seasons ... we're trying to see if it's possible."

The session opened with communications executive Quentin Schaffer setting the tone for the Q&A: "Two years ago we were feeling beat up, now we're feeling upbeat."

Plepler described the network's current business model as "resilient," noting, "We feel cautiously very optimistic ... All of our viewership is up across all categories ... We don't have more money to spend, but we have an enviable amount of money to do the projects we want to do."

When asked about the recent success of premium cable competitor Showtime, Plepler said he doesn't think of the playing field as "a zero sum game."

"Other people can do good work; it doesn't negate our good work," he said.

Here's the ratings for each of the renewed shows:

True Blood
SD+1 (six episodes) -- 3.8 million viewers
Live+7 (four episodes) -- 4.5 million viewers
Gross Audience, including On Demand, repeats, DVR (four episodes) -- 11.2 million viewers

SD+1 (four episodes) -- 3.1 million viewers
Live+7 (two episodes) -- 3.7 million viewers
Gross Audience (two episodes) -- 10.2 million viewers

SD+1 (three episodes) -- 3.0 million viewers
Live+7 (one episode) -- 4.1 million viewers
Gross Audience (one episode) -- 7.4 million viewers

More Live Feed coverage of the 2009 summer TCA press tour


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