SBD/November 15, 2011/Media

Former HBO Sports Head Ross Greenburg Talks About New Roles With NBC, NHL

Greenburg said new projects will have same feel and texture as documentaries at HBO
After a 33-year career at HBO Sports, Ross Greenburg has landed two high-profile production jobs with NBC Sports Group and the NHL. Greenburg will bring a similar programming strategy to his new jobs, with documentaries and interview shows that will look a lot like the shows he produced at HBO. Greenburg spoke with THE DAILY yesterday about how he plans to approach his new jobs.

Q: Why did you opt to go with NBC and the NHL?
Greenburg: I really wanted to pick the people and the places that seemed to fit for me. I've had a long relationship with [NBC Sports Group Chair] Mark Lazarus and have known [NBCUniversal President & CEO] Steve Burke for about four or five years. Of course, most of the talent that I worked with at HBO are at NBC. I had worked with Al Michaels in the past, and of course Bob Costas. With the NHL, I have longtime relationships with both [NHL COO] John Collins and [NHL Exec VP/Content] Charles Coplin. I've spent a lot of time with the NHL over the last couple of years in doing the "Broad Street Bullies" followed up by "24/7: The Road to the Winter Classic." I started to spend more time with the NHL immediately after leaving HBO. I was hired on as a consultant with them. Then, that grew into NHL Original Productions, which is basically John Collins' idea.

Q: At HBO, your documentaries had a distinct look and feel. Will your NBC and NHL documentaries follow the same structure?
Greenburg: I guess an artist doesn't change the way he paints a picture. That's how I'll produce these documentaries. It will have the same feel and texture as those documentaries at HBO. That's what I know. It's how I put together a story. You develop a style over the years. After doing it that way for 21 years, I think it's proven pretty effective. People get emotional watching those docs, so I don't see any reason to do it any differently.

Q: The first documentary will be about a hockey series between NHL All-Stars from Canada and the Soviet Union national team during the Cold War. What's next on your wish list?
Greenburg: We're really not ready to announce them. We'll follow up and bring some into the fall.

Q: You produced an interview show with Bob Costas for HBO. How will his show for NBC Sports Network be different?
Greenburg: It's going to be fairly similar to the HBO show. We'll take two-to-three interviewees a month on the hourly interview show with Bob and really get into the depth of that person's life in sports or entertainment. The Town Halls will also be similar in that we'll pick one subject matter, like we will in our debut on Feb. 2 with the NFL prior to the Super Bowl. We'll focus on a lot of the issues that swirl around the league that usually aren't discussed on television, because of time or subject matter. We'll try to do it with an intellectual flair and we'll use Bob's incredible talents and skillset to make for [an] entertaining and provocative show.

Q: Are you using NFL Films as a model for what you're trying to create with the NHL?
Greenburg: If I'm half the inspirational leader of [NFL Films President] Steve Sabol, then that would be a nice start. When you look at the breadth and the kind of programming that they've generated, like "Hard Knocks" or "America's Game," the documentaries that they've done, the way they've covered the game in highlight form, that is the kind of model that you'd want to inject in the NHL.

Q: How have your feelings changed toward HBO since you left in July?
Greenburg: I'm really enjoying the freedom and the ability to create. It widens the kind of programming that I'll be able to do. I've been very determined since I left. I knew what I wanted to do. I knew the people that I wanted to work with.

Q: Did you watch the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight on HBO over the weekend?
Greenburg: No, I didn't watch the fight. I obviously went online to see who won. I talked to a couple of people in boxing who I still talk to about it beforehand. I didn't even talk to anyone after. I got a couple of calls yesterday, but I was busy. I'm not really following the sport. I love the rich history of it. I'll never forget the life in boxing that I led through the great times in the '80s. The negotiations and the ugliness and the mean-spiritedness of the business of boxing forced me to take a step away and take a break.

Q: What about the UFC? Did you watch that on Fox?
Greenburg: I didn't watch it. I heard it performed pretty well though.

Q: Ratings were good for a one-minute-long fight.
Greenburg: I've been there and done that, too. (laughs) That's the form of entertainment that fighting in general is.
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