HBO, Showtime Swing in the Ring

New York — In a dose of good news for boxing
fans, the sports heads of both HBO and
Showtime are committed to supporting the
sweet science on their respective networks.

HBO Sports president Ken Hershman told
a gathering of writers at the premium channel’s
offices last week that the network is
still bullish about boxing and dedicated to
making this category succeed by televising
competitive, attractive HBO
World Championship

telecasts and big
ticket pay-perview

“The management
likes the
product, it works
with subscribers
and ratings have
been up double
digit in 2011,”
Hershman said.
“We’ll cont inue
to build on
that and revitalize
the category
… there’s a
strong commitment
to boxing
that’s never wavered
and I don’t expect it to under my tenure
in the future.”

Hershman, who joined the Time Warner
Inc.-owned network last month after heading
up sports for rival Showtime, wouldn’t comment
on any fights HBO is planning to develop
over the next 12 months.

But he was candid about the waning potential
for a Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather
mega-bout taking place this year.

He said the fight — which has been in negotiations
for the better part of the past two
years — could be made sometime in late 2012
or early 2013, but that is by no means a certainty,
despite its potential to garner the most
pay-per-view buys and revenue ever.

Hershman said the fight has a “sell-by”
date of late 2012 or early 2013 before it loses
its appeal to boxing fans.

He also said the fight will not make or break
the sport — but that it does hang over it.

“I would love to see the fight as a fan, but
it does get in the way of fights being made a
good business being done for everybody, because
you do get stalled as everything gets
sorted out,” Hershman said.


Showtime Sports executive vice president
and general manager Stephen Espinoza told
Multichannel News last week his network is
doubling down on its commitment to boxing
in 2012 as it looks to give the sport more exposure
on a number of different platforms.

The CBSowned
will use its
Showtime Extreme
to televise undercard
leading up
to Showtime’s
main event
telecasts, beginning
the Feb. 18
telecast of
Paul Williams
vs. Nobuhiro
Ishida and
Tavoris Cloud
vs. Gabriel

“It makes too much sense not to air those
fights for our hard-core fans,” he said. “There
isn’t any downside for anybody. It also supports
the sport.”

Espinoza, the former lawyer for Oscar de
la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, believes
boxing is still among the most exciting and
thrilling sports to experience, particularly
live in an arena. Networks in general have
to find better ways to translate that excitement
onto the small screen to help broaden
the sport’s appeal, he said.

“The [viewership] numbers from our core
audience and the value that we get [for boxing]
has not changed, particularly for African-
American and Hispanic households,”
Espinoza said. “We do have some work to
do in how we are packaging and presenting
the sport. But even with those constraints,
it’s an incredibly valuable asset that at its
highest level can capture the imagination,
press and website space for its biggest

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.