NEW YORK — HBO said Sunday that Entertainment President Carolyn Strauss was leaving her post at the premium cable channel, where she helped develop programs such as "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under" and foster an environment that attracted top-notch creative talent.
The HBO veteran is in discussions about taking on a new role with the network, probably in the form of a producing deal, a person familiar with the talks said. Her departure was first reported on the blog Deadline Hollywood Daily.
Colleagues who talked to Strauss over the weekend said she didn't elaborate on the reasons for making the move. In the last few years, HBO has struggled to maintain its standing as a top purveyor of culturally resonant hits with the conclusion of popular fare including "Deadwood" and "Sex and the City."
The network's more recent offerings, such as "John From Cincinnati" and "Lucky Louie," haven't fared as well. The new dramas "Tell Me You Love Me" and "In Treatment" attracted some critical acclaim, but small viewership.
HBO had hoped to roll out a slew of new signature series in the coming year, but the writers strike slowed production on several shows. Network executives have reportedly been disappointed by early episodes of one of its most anticipated series, "12 Miles of Bad Road," an hourlong dramedy by "Designing Women" creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and starring Lily Tomlin as a Dallas real estate magnate. It hasn't resumed production since the strike ended.
Strauss agreed with HBO co-President Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo, president of the programming group and West Coast operations, that the timing was right for her to move into a different role, a source said.
"No one has made a more significant contribution to the success of HBO than Carolyn," the two executives said in a statement Sunday. "We are truly delighted that she will continue to be a part of the HBO family. We cannot imagine HBO without her and we are thrilled that we will continue to have the benefit of her judgment and unique talent."
Strauss could not be reached for comment.
Some industry watchers weren't surprised that Plepler and Lombardo, who assumed their posts in June, would seek to bring in their own creative executive. It remains to be seen who they will tap to replace Strauss, a choice that is sure to dramatically affect the insular network.
Strauss joined HBO in 1986 as an assistant in the original programming department and rose through the ranks. She was named president of entertainment in 2004, charged with overseeing HBO's miniseries, series, specials and late-night programs.
Until May, Strauss reported to Chris Albrecht, HBO's chairman and chief executive. Albrecht was forced to resign after he was charged with assaulting his girlfriend in Las Vegas and the Los Angeles Times reported a physical altercation he had in 1991 with a female subordinate. (Albrecht pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery in the Las Vegas case and received a six-month suspended sentence and a year of unsupervised probation.)
After Albrecht's ouster, Bill Nelson, a 23-year HBO veteran and its chief operating officer, was named chairman and CEO, backed by a trio of co-presidents: general counsel Harold Akselrad, marketing and distribution head Eric Kessler and programming chief Plepler. Lombardo, a lawyer who had been head of business affairs, was named to his current position, reporting to Plepler. The management change was viewed as a downgrade in status for Strauss and Colin Callender, president of HBO Films, who have reported to Lombardo.
The circumstances around Albrecht's departure were "hard emotionally," Strauss told The Times in September. "There was a period where we didn't know what would happen. But I think it's all settled into a very good groove. As opposed to having that one singular, charismatic guy who was at the spear's tip, I think you have right now a very collaborative group of people working together."
The network inherited by Plepler and Lombardo, who divided Albrecht's creative chores, is very much in flux. In recent months, executives at the channel had to defend the fact that they passed on "Mad Men," AMC's Golden Globe-winning critical favorite that was brought to them first by Matthew Weiner, a former "Sopranos" writer.
In the interview in September, Strauss tried to downplay expectations that HBO would launch another series that drew a wide following such as "The Sopranos."
"Going for that big, broad hit from our point of view is a mistake, because I think it leads to bad creative choices," she said. "You start to try and second-guess what is going to please X or Y or Z, and you end up with some committee-made mush."