SBJ/March 19 - 25, 2007/SBJ In Depth

HBO boxing series gets prime real estate

The intersection of sports and entertainment will hit HBO next month when the network launches a reality sports documentary series in one of television’s most coveted entertainment time slots.

The show will promote the
May 5 Oscar De La Hoya-
Floyd Mayweather bout.

When HBO launches the four-episode series “De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7” at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on April 15, it will become only the second HBO Sports production to break into the network’s legendary Sunday night lineup that has featured hit series such as “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City” and “The Wire.” The only other HBO Sports production to debut on Sunday night was the 2005 documentary “Dare to Dream: The Story of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team.”

For the past two months, HBO has been filming behind-the-scenes footage as boxers Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather train for their May 5 pay-per-view fight in Las Vegas. The half-hour series will run in the 10:30 p.m. time slot on three consecutive Sundays: April 15, 22 and 29. The series finale will debut on a Thursday (at 9:30 p.m. May 3), just two days before the pay-per-view fight.

In making the decision to put the series on Sunday night, HBO executives focused on the fact that “24/7” would attract the same young male demo as its lead-ins: “The Sopranos” and “Entourage.”

“We want to build another generation of boxing fans,” said Dave Baldwin, HBO’s executive vice president of program planning. “Using ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Entourage’ as lead-ins brings a terrific young male demo.”

While Baldwin was more interested in the demo that “24/7” would bring, HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg was pushing to get the series on the prime real estate of HBO’s highest-rated night. He knew the added exposure would only add to the promotion of the fight and could boost pay-per-view buys.

HBO officials aren’t offering predictions for the number of buys, but privately they expect to register more than 1 million, since De La Hoya’s last two fights hit that mark. They are hoping to eclipse the record for the highest-performing nonheavyweight fight: De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad in 1999, which had 1.4 million buys.

Greenburg pitched the series as similar to “Hard Knocks,” an acclaimed 2002 series that took a behind-the-scenes look at several NFL training camps that is similar to “24/7’s” behind-the-scenes look at the buildup to De La Hoya-Mayweather.

“I decided it was worth going in and really pitching this to Dave Baldwin and [HBO Chairman] Chris Albrecht and convince them that this was going to be an extraordinary series of half hours and it deserved placement on a Sunday night,” Greenburg said. “They immediately grabbed onto this idea. It wasn’t a tough sell.”

Now that HBO Sports has been allowed into one of television’s highest quality entertainment nights, the producers are beginning to feel pressure to make a high-quality series.

“[Executive producer] Rick Bernstein and his staff know the stakes may be as high for HBO Sports as they are for De La Hoya and Mayweather,” Greenburg said.

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