HBO Hires Showtime's Ken Hershman To Succeed As Sports Division President
Showtime Sports Exec VP & GM Ken Hershman has been named HBO Sports President effective Jan. 9. Hershman will report directly to HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo and will be responsible for the strategic direction and overseeing the HBO Sports division. Hershman replaces Ross Greenburg, who announced in July that he was stepping down after 33 years with the cable outlet. Broadcasting & Cable first reported the story (THE DAILY). ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael noted Hershman was “often credited with keeping Showtime competitive with industry leader HBO even though it had far fewer marquee fighters and virtually no pay-per-view business.” Now Hershman will “take over the biggest budget in boxing, making him the de facto most powerful person in the sport.” He will be the “kingmaker, deciding which fights, fighters and promoters to invest the network's roughly $35 million annual boxing budget in.” Hershman created Showtime's “ground-breaking Super Six World Boxing Classic,” but the “six-man, round-robin super middleweight tournament has been troubled by numerous injuries, delays and drop outs, meaning Hershman has left Showtime before he could see it finish on his watch.” Hershman in his role at Showtime was also “responsible for making mixed martial arts a significant part of the network's sports menu beginning in 2007, something Greenburg was strongly opposed to at HBO” (ESPN.com, 10/13). Showtime in a statement said, “We have no announcement about a successor at this time” (THEWRAP.com, 10/13). Boxing promoter Lou DiBella called the move "a good hire." DiBella: "Kenny has done a great job and done very well at Showtime Sports, and I think that it's important to have someone in place who can immediately run with the ball. I think that it's a relationship business. To learn a new industry and to not have those relationships is a huge disadvantage to somebody. Kenny has those relationships and he has the experience" (RINGTV.com, 10/13).
PATHWAY TO SUCCESS: YAHOO SPORTS’ Kevin Iole wrote the HBO Sports “dogma during the Hershman regime needs to be simple: Fight your way onto the network and fight to remain on the network.” There should be “no appearances because you’ve signed with a powerful manager or an influential promoter.” The standard by which a potential fight should be judged is “whether it will make a compelling match on television.” If Hershman “pursues that philosophy and doesn’t grant most favored nation status to any promoter or manager like the previous regime did, then this hire will be a smash hit.” Iole: “Putting on competitive, evenly matched fights is the most important thing Hershman can do, but he needs to do more to help boxing regain its significance at the network and in the minds of its viewers” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/13).