EXCLUSIVE: HBO is shutting down its casting department, with its staff, led by 14-year HBO veteran, SVP Carrie Frazier, and VP Amy Jo Berman, exiting. HBO uses outside casting directors on all of its projects, with the in-house casting executives playing a supplemental role, mostly on the longform side. With the pay cable network’s movie and miniseries output decreasing over the past few years, HBO brass have made a decision to close that department. The network may revisit their casting needs in the future.
HBO’s decision is the latest in a growing cost-cutting trend over the past several years on both the TV and feature side that involves the downsizing/eliminating in-house casting departments or the phasing out of seasoned senior staff casting executives. Rick Jacobs left Lifetime 2 years ago as part of the company-wide layoffs. NBC’s Marc Hirschfeld was let go from NBC in the 2008 executive shakeup. Walt Disney Studios dropped Marcia Ross in February. Beth Klein exited Showtime in April after 23 years. (She has since landed at Universal Television) The list goes on. “Sometimes they are replaced by junior casting execs at a fraction of the cost. Many times they eliminate the position entirely,” one industry insider said. “Hiring a casting consultant as a freelance is a way to keep your headcount low.” Newer players in the original programming arena forgo the casting department route altogether. Starz, for instance, has never had one. Instead, the network has a non-exclusive deal with Hirschfeld who serves as their casting consultant.