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Showtime Gets Its Game Face On

Showtime has jumped in to the ring.

With original programming projects involving
mixed martial arts, the National Football
League, Major League Baseball and NASCAR
— as well as distribution of its first pay-per-view
boxing events since 2005 —the pay TV service
is hoping to make names like Manny Pacquiao
and Tim Lincecum as familiar to its subscribers
as Dexter and Nurse Jackie.

“Sports continue to be a driver of so much
of television programming,” said Showtime
Sports executive vice president and general
manager Ken Hershman. “And we want to
make sure that as part of the value proposition
of Showtime that there is a healthy compliment
of interesting sports
programming that you can’t get
anywhere else.”

Hershman said the 18 million subscriber
network is offering “something for everyone”:

Boxing: The network offers live monthly boxing
events via its Showtime Championship
and ShoBox fight series. The network
will also distribute via PPV the March 12
Miguel Cotto-Ricardo
Mayorga super
championship fight
and the May 7 Manny
Mosley welterweight
championship fight.

Mixed Martial Arts:
Showtime’s two-yearold
Strikeforce franchise
offers monthly
live matches on the
network, including
an upcoming World
Grand Prix heavyweight

Football: Showtime
in 2009 acquired the
rights to the longrunning
weekly profootball
highlight and
recap series Inside the
, which formerly
aired on rival pay TV
service HBO.

NASCAR: The network
last year introduced Inside
, a weekly
highlights series that
corresponds with the
stock-car circuit’s 39-
week NASCAR Sprint
Cup season.

Baseball: Showtime
will take a behindthe-
scenes look at
the 2010 World Series champion San Francisco
Giants and the team’s star players, such
as pitcher Tim Lincecum, as part of a reality
series announced last month in partnership
with MLB.

While Showtime has historically has been a
major player in the boxing business, Hershman
said the network’s expansion into other facets
of the sports world is an attempt to broaden the
network’s appeal to viewers beyond its original
series like Weeds and The Big C.

Boxing promoter Bob Arum, who promotes
current PPV boxing champion Pacquiao’s
fights, welcomed Showtime’s aggressive push
into the sports-programming ring, particularly
with regards to PPV boxing. Arum went
with Showtime and CBS for distribution and
marketing of the May 7 Pacquiao-Mosley
fight after working with HBO for Pacquiao’s
11 prior events.

“Showtime used to be the company associated
with PPV boxing, so I think it’s very healthy
that Showtime is getting back into the PPV
business,” Arum said. “Showtime is growing
as a [sports content] network.”

Hershman said the network expects to remain
aggressive in the PPV boxing space,
adding that it “will be inevitable that we’re
back with Manny the next time he wants to

But Showtime won’t step on the bidding field
for expensive major pro sports packages when
they become available in the near future.

“I wish we could, but I don’t see that, given
the economics of those packages and our business
model,” Hershman said.

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.