SBJ/June 9-15, 2014/Media

Abraham’s idea for sports interview show gets its chance on Epix

Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

More than three decades after first coming up with the idea for an interview-style show, sports media veteran Seth Abraham’s idea finally will see the light of day.

Epix CEO Mark Greenberg greenlit two episodes of the series “Personal with Bill Rhoden” following a 20-minute meeting with his former HBO colleague 10 months ago.

Seth Abraham’s show will make its debut this week.
Photo by: PATRICK E. MCCARTHY

Abraham worked with Greenberg at HBO in the 1980s and the two kept in touch, even as Greenberg moved to HBO’s rival, Showtime, in 1989. Abraham called Greenberg last summer to set up the meeting to pitch his idea.

“Because we knew each other, at the very least, I didn’t have to sell myself. I had to sell the idea,” Abraham said. “We went in with two pages. When you meet with smart people, they don’t need more than two pages because they get it.”

The 30-minute “Personal with Bill Rhoden” debuts this week on Epix with an interview featuring a famous sports family: former NFL player Calvin Hill and his son, Grant, a former NBA player. A second show with former boxer Oscar De La Hoya will run next month.

Abraham first came up with the idea for the series — featuring an interviewer sitting off camera with the focus solely on the subjects — in the early ’80s while he was at HBO. But his idea never gained any traction at HBO. Abraham said he found it particularly difficult to find a good interviewer who felt comfortable staying off camera. Abraham said the show’s structure did not fit with the styles of HBO’s on-air talent, like Bryant Gumbel, Bob Costas and Jim Lampley.

“You need a special type of on-air host who is OK being off camera,” Abraham said. “It just didn’t fit at HBO. It never got off the ground. But I never gave up on it.”

Epix will decide whether to order more episodes after the first two shows. Epix is a 4-year-old premium cable channel, similar to HBO, that is owned by Hollywood studios Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate. 

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