After more than 40 years at the helm, HBO boxing is calling it quits as per a report from MSN.com.
Peter Nelson, executive vice president of HBO Sports, made the announcement that the new network was dropping boxing Thursday morning in a meeting with the HBO Boxing production staff, a group that includes the play-by-play announcer Jim Lampley, the analyst Max Kellerman, the ringside scorer Harold Lederman and the former boxing champions Andre Ward and Roy Jones Jr., who work for HBO as freelance commentators. Of the announcing staff, only Lampley is expected to remain with HBO.
“This is not a subjective decision,” Nelson said in a recent interview. “Our audience research informs us that boxing is no longer a determinant factor for subscribing to HBO.”
The decision cuts against a recent influx of investors and broadcasters into boxing, and amid a much wider availability of fights on a variety of digital platforms.
“I think it’s a great time for boxing and to be a fight fan,” said the British boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, whose promotional company, Matchroom Boxing, recently signed a $1 billion deal with DAZN (pronounced “Da-Zone”), a new digital platform, to televise fights over the next eight years.
DAZN represents the next wave of boxing programming. Its streaming service will cost $9.99 a month and be available through the internet and smartphone apps. DAZN made its debut last Saturday with a heavyweight fight between England’s Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin before 80,000 fans at London’s Wembley Stadium. According to Hearn, a million fans watched Joshua’s victory on DAZN’s various platforms.
In August, ESPN completed a seven-year deal with Top Rank to present 54 boxing shows on its various outlets, including its ESPN+, its subscription-based streaming service. And Showtime, whose fights were once used as a feeder system by HBO, presented 22 live boxing events in 2018. It says it has committed to “a more robust schedule for 2019.”
Add in the four-year deal signed earlier this month between Fox Sports and Premier Boxing Champions, which controls many of the sport’s top performers, and it appears that others are getting into the fight game just as HBO is getting out.