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HBO yesterday decided “not to buy fights from Golden Boy Promotions, one of the sport's two biggest promoters, for the foreseeable future,” according to Kevin Iole of YAHOO SPORTS. That will mean the “exodus of a number of Golden Boy stars,” including Adrien Broner and Bernard Hopkins. The “irony in this decision is that Golden Boy was founded in large part because of the close relationship between the network” and Golden Boy President Oscar De La Hoya. HBO Sports President Ken Hershman, who formerly ran the boxing operations at Showtime, made the decision "to part ways with Golden Boy after running into issues” with Golden Boy execs. Showtime in November '11 hired Stephen Espinoza, the “former Golden Boy legal counsel, to run its boxing program after Hershman left for HBO.” Since Espinoza joined Showtime, the “vast majority of its televised boxing offerings have come from Golden Boy.” Boxers Amir Khan, Danny Garcia and Canelo Alvarez are promoted by Golden Boy, and “all made the move from HBO to Showtime." Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer “reacted philosophically to Hershman's decision.” He said that with the “breadth and depth of Golden Boy's roster, it is a mistake for HBO to walk away from it.” Iole noted Khan, Garcia and Alvarez “have done far better ratings on HBO than Showtime.” But Schaefer said that those numbers “don't concern him.” He pointed out that Showtime's ratings are “improving and have been since Golden Boy began providing it with the bulk of its boxing content” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/18).
WRITING ON THE WALL: ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael reported Hershman called Schaefer yesterday morning “to inform him of the decision.” Schaefer said, “I'm hardly surprised. I cannot be surprised, and I am not surprised. The president of HBO Sports did not have any conversations with me since last November or December about anything.” Schaefer added, "It's an ill-advised strategy because the only ones that are getting hurt are the HBO subscribers, which were used to seeing the best fighters on HBO.” Sources said that HBO had “grown tired of demands from Schaefer for specific dates and matchups and constant threats to take fighters to Showtime if he did not get his way.” The relationship “hit bottom last month” when Floyd Mayweather Jr. “left career-long television home HBO and signed a multi-year deal with Showtime” (ESPN.com, 3/18). After being notified by Hershman of HBO’s stance yesterday, Schaefer phoned Espinoza to ask whether Showtime would be interested in a planned June 22 bout between Broner and Paulie Malignaggi, previously assumed to be headed to HBO. Schaefer said, "I told him what happened and his answer was brief: 'Count me in.’ There was no hesitation. If you are a network which is involved in boxing and you get the opportunity to be involved with Adrien Broner, it's like Christmas in March" (Bill King, Senior Staff Writer). An HBO official said, “We just felt it was best to align ourselves with people who share the same common goals as us. ... We are just not on the same page right now (with Golden Boy). But this is boxing, so you never say never” (Long Beach PRESS-TELEGRAM, 3/19).
GOING MANO A MANO: In N.Y., George Willis writes the situation is “a game of chicken.” HBO is “hoping its status and healthy subscriber base will hurt Golden Boy’s recruitment and marketing of fighters, who want to be seen by the largest audience.” The “last thing HBO wants is for Showtime to become the place for boxing.” But this “split gives Showtime a real shot” (N.Y. POST, 3/19). Also in N.Y., Tim Smith writes it “seems almost inconceivable that HBO, with its 32 million subscriber base and branding itself as the gold standard of boxing broadcasting, would not deal with a promoter that has one of the biggest inventories of stars in the sport” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/19). SI.com’s Chris Mannix wrote, “If this signals a shift in philosophy at HBO, well, it's about time.” For years the net “catered to” Golden Boy adviser Al Haymon, “paying millions for mismatches.” HBO “built stars before.” And with 29 million subscribers and ratings “that significantly exceed Showtime's, it can do it again” (SI.com, 3/18).
A one-hour documentary crafted by former HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg that will air on CBS in primetime will anchor more than 20 hours of original programming Showtime will unveil today when it announces promotional plans for its May 4 PPV card featuring Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Roberto Guerrero. Greenburg, a winner of 51 Emmys who launched the popular "24/7" franchise for HBO as a way to broaden interest in the '07 Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya fight, will serve as Exec Producer on both “Mayweather,” an original film that will tell the stories of both fighters, and “All Access,” the four-episode series that will follow both fight camps in the lead-up to the bout. “Mayweather” airs at 8:00pm ET on April 27 on CBS. The choice of Greenburg likely will be cast in boxing circles as another exchange in a tussle between Showtime and HBO. Yesterday, HBO announced that it no longer would do business with Golden Boy Promotions, which co-promotes Mayweather. In the last year, several Golden Boy fighters who built their profiles on HBO have moved to Showtime, saying the network offered better terms. Showtime secured Greenburg’s services last month, well before the final falling out between HBO and Golden Boy. He headed HBO Sports from '00-11. “Ross almost single-handedly created a genre over the last decade in television. It’s not exaggeration to say that,” said Showtime Sports Exec VP & GM Stephen Espinoza. “When we determined he was available and able to work with us, we immediately reached out. How could you not?”
IMPROVING UPON PACQUIAO EXPERIMENT: Showtime tried a similar primetime tactic to promote its last PPV foray, a one-off with Manny Pacquiao in '11 that ended with the fighter returning to his long-time home at HBO. CBS aired an episode of the same behind-the-scenes show that aired on Showtime. The show flopped, registering a 0.9 rating. This time, Greenburg has been charged with creating an original show targeted to mainstream viewers. “The easy thing would have been to take what was done for Pacquiao-Mosley and do it again,” Espinoza said. “But in order to take advantage of a primetime audience, you have to produce for that audience. Taking programming that is produced for an audience of boxing fans and putting it on in primetime probably isn’t the best fit. This is Ross’s baby. He’s producing it himself. It will not be reconstituted behind-the-scenes footage. It will be produced for a primetime audience from the start.” Showtime on April 3 also will air the one-hour documentary film “30 Days in May,” which explores Mayweather’s two-month term in a Las Vegas prison, again featuring exclusive footage and interviews.
FIGHT LEAD-UP WELL COVERED: Fight week will feature programming integrated daily across Showtime, Showtime Extreme and CBS Sports Network, including live weigh-in coverage, pre-fight coverage and undercard fights, as well as All Access marathons and archived fights from Mayweather-Guerrero. Programming on CBS’ digital properties will include live streaming of the pre-fight press conference on May 1, a “Staredown” interview show hosted by Brian Kenny, archived fights featuring Mayweather and Guerrero and replays of "All-Access." In addition to programming, CBS has unlocked promotional assets across the company, including integration with CBS’ NCAA Tournament coverage, in CBSSports.com’s popular NCAA tournament bracket game, through outdoor advertising and on CBS Sports Radio. “CBS and Showtime have made available many assets that hadn’t been available before,” said Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer. “Now the sponsors and the distributors and the venue all know that CBS is behind this. And that motivates everybody. When people see that CBS, the No. 1 network in the country, is involved and supporting it, it’s much easier for them to get behind it.”
Turner Sports is “predicting a bigger audience this year for March Madness Live, despite last year’s traffic dip,” and a further embrace this year of “user authentication to watch games on digital platforms,” according to Eric Fisher of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. MML last year drew 51.6 million "total broadband and mobile visits," down 6% from ’11. That included a "fallback option of paying $3.99 to watch the NCAA men’s basketball tournament games.” MML this year “does not include the fee option, and users who do not authenticate themselves will have the option of a four-hour free preview, time which can be spread over the tournament.” Turner Sports Senior VP & GM of Operations Matt Hong said, “We definitely think we will be at or above last year’s numbers. We think there’s now a far greater maturity in the market with regard to user authentication and TV Everywhere.” Turner Sports also is “banking on a traffic boost from Bleacher Report, which it acquired last summer” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/18 issue).
EVERYWHERE EXPANDING: MULTICHANNEL NEWS’ Mike Reynolds cites Turner officials as saying that its TV Everywhere “universe now exceeds 80 million households, up from 75 million at this time” in ’12. That total “does not include Time Warner Cable video subscribers.” Turner, which has been “unable to reach a long-term TV Everywhere deal with TWC, has inked an ‘interim solution’” that will enable the MSO’s subs "to stream games -- but no other programming -- during the tourney.” Turner Sports VP/Business Operations Mark Johnson said that the “digital play this year includes smartphones and tablets running on the Android 4.0+ operating system, as well as Apple’s iPhone5 and iPad mini.” Johnson added that “thanks to NBCUniversal’s expansive multi-platform coverage” of the ’12 London Games and entertainment websites, consumers are “now attuned to authentication.” MML is “sold out” of ads and is “expected to generate” $70M, up from $60M in ’12 (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 3/18 issue).
ONE SHINING MOMENT: In N.Y., Greg Bishop writes the live shots of teams selected for the NCAA Tournament during CBS' Selection Show "can rank among the most emotional and valuable, especially for the smaller universities." The shots are the "equivalent of a free commercial, a way to sell an emerging program." CBS decides "which teams to highlight," and the net "prefers a mixture: bubble teams and teams that are locks to make the bracket, but also unknown programs and traditional powers." Execs "debate which universities to feature for the better part of a month." CBS Sports Exec Producer & VP/Production Harold Bryant: "We're trying to capture that instant emotion" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/19).
NBC Sports Network is averaging 448,000 viewers through 27 NHL games this season to date, putting the net on pace to have its best season yet. The net saw its previous high during the last rights deal with 348,000 viewers for games during the ’10-11 season. The net’s average during this lockout-shortened season also is up 35% from last season’s average of 332,000 viewers. Wednesday night rivalry games have helped aid the average this season. The games, which are exclusive to NBC Sports Net, are averaging 682,000 viewers through seven telecasts. Five of the net’s top six most-watched NHL games ever also have occurred this season, including the top two. Meanwhile, NBC is averaging 1.7 million viewers through eight games. Despite not having a Winter Classic this season to include in that average, NBC is ahead of the 1.6 million viewers it averaged for 12 telecasts last season. NBC is in the second season of a 10-year TV deal with the NHL.NHL GAME VIEWERSHIP THROUGH MARCH 10
(COMPARED TO FULL '11-12 SEASON)NETGMSRAT.% +/-VIEWERS (000)% +/-GMS ('11-12)NBC81.110.0%1,74010.1%12NBCSN270.350.0%44834.9%90
Silver Chalice and IMG College are partners on a new college sports-based website called CampusInsiders.com, which will be the platform for a variety of original video and written content. CBS analyst and SI writer Seth Davis will have his own hour-long weekly show on the site beginning in August, and more on-air talent will be added by the start of the college football season, according to Campus Insiders Exec VP & GM Crowley Sullivan. Silver Chalice is a Chicago-based digital media business that is a subsidiary of the White Sox. The company has been working with IMG College to develop the site since last summer and the partners are planning a formal announcement and launch this week. Sullivan describes Campus Insiders as an independent site whose coverage will fall somewhere in between a school’s official website and edgier, cynical sites like Bleacher Report or The Big Lead. Campus Insiders is in the process of developing team and conference pages that will feature exclusive video and written content. Oregon is the first team page that is up and running, while the West Coast Conference is the first league to have a home on the site. There will be some live audio and video programming for conferences like the WCC that do not have exclusive digital outlets. Campus Insiders, as part of its soft launch, already has broadcast 10 WCC games live, using the site’s own production team. These were games that were not picked up by other outlets. Campus Insiders has a staff of 10 on its production team and that will grow to more than 20 by the start of football season. Other games were streamed on the site through agreements with RSNs like Root or carriers like Time Warner Cable, Sullivan said.
ANCHOR PROGRAM AIRS TUESDAYS: The anchor program for the site will be “CI Live,” an hour-long studio show originating from Chicago’s Harpo Studios. The weekly show will run live on Tuesdays at 1:00pm ET and will attempt to capture the lunch-time crowd that is looking for “a quick fix on college sports,” said Sullivan, a former ESPN exec. The fast-paced show will develop a network of “insiders” that it will feature in its quick-hitting reports throughout the hour. Those insiders could be IMG College’s radio talent, local bloggers or newspaper beat reporters in the market. Davis’ show in August will be more of an opinion-based program that focuses on big issues on the college sports landscape. Additionally, Sullivan said that Campus Insiders has acquired College Football News, which in the past has had affiliations with Scout and Fox. Content from CFN will migrate to Campus Insiders this summer and be central to a full rollout of written content and team/conference reports by the start of the college football season.
DEADSPIN's John Koblin cited sources as saying that SI.com is "developing a new brand and website" similar to ESPN's Grantland, with Peter King as the "centerpiece." While the "in-house nickname for the new site is Kinglandia," the actual name for the site is "still under discussion." King's site, which will be "football-only," will launch "in the next few months, and SI will own it." Sources said that King will "have his own stable of writers working with him" (DEADSPIN.com, 3/18).
THE SOCCER SWINDLE: The GUARDIAN's Josh Halliday noted the London Times admitted it was "duped into publishing a hoax exclusive about plans for a Qatar-based Dream Football League." The Times described the incident as a "journalistic nightmare" (GUARDIAN, 3/18). The Times' apology was published under the header, "When We Are Wrong, We Will Hold Our Hands Up. It's The Right Thing To Do" (LONDON TIMES, 3/18).
PAY-PER-VIEWER? Verizon VP/Content Strategy & Acquisition Terry Denson said that the company has "begun talks with several 'midtier and smaller' media companies" about paying for its FiOS TV channels based on audience size. However, Denson "declined to identify any of the media companies." The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Shalini Ramachandran noted under existing arrangements, cable and satellite operators "pay a monthly, per-subscriber fee to carry channels based on the number of homes in which they agree to make the channels available, regardless of how many people watch those channels" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/18). SI.com's Grant Wahl today tweeted, "BeIN Sport does deal with Verizon FiOS, will be available in HD in English & Spanish. (As a FiOS user, today feels like Christmas.)"