Ken Hershman Begins Tenure At HBO Today With Proposed Boxing Series In Limbo
Ken Hershman begins his tenure as the new president of HBO Sports today with boxing promoters wondering how he will settle the fate of a proposed series that was tabled last year. The series, which was to air monthly on HBO2, would have divided 12 dates between at least three promoters -- Golden Boy Promotions, DiBella Entertainment and Gary Shaw Promotions -- with the network paying $150,000 per show. Designed to showcase up-and-coming talent, it was approved by former HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg in March. But after Greenburg departed in July, HBO President of Programming Michael Lombardo told the promoters that the network was not going forward on the series. In recent interviews, the promoters said they were left wondering whether the show was dead or whether Lombardo would leave the final decision to Hershman. Hershman, the former head of sports at Showtime, was hired by HBO in October but because of contractual obligations could not start work at the network until today. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said he was disappointed by the cancellation, but believed that HBO was within its rights to exercise an out clause in the contract. The two other promoters who would have been involved, Shaw and Lou DiBella, said they signed fighters with the understanding that there would be TV slots for them, and that they believed HBO was obligated to make good on its promise, whether it was through the HBO2 series or something else. DiBella and Shaw did not want to comment on the matter last week, other than to say it had not been resolved. But during an interview in December in Atlantic City, DiBella said he hoped to settle the matter before Hershman started work -- something that did not happen. He didn't want his first dealing with Hershman to be over a dispute. "Maybe they just want to leave it to Kenny (Hershman) to resolve, but in the meantime I have a business to run," DiBella said. "I understand that plans change. People have to be reasonable. But HBO has to meet its good faith obligation."
HOW SERIES CAME ABOUT: The show came about after HBO lost the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley PPV, promoted by Top Rank, to Showtime early last year. Seeing how the loss stung Greenburg and his bosses, Schaefer, DiBella and Shaw approached HBO with a suggestion: That they combat the loss of a superstar by developing a deeper stable of prospects. They proposed HBO create a monthly series, to air on HBO2, which would give the promoters three dates each at a middle-class pay rate. There, they could showcase young fighters in meaningful bouts, from which they would either graduate to more lucrative slots on HBO or fall away before the network had invested heavily in them. "It's a shame if it doesn't happen, because it would have been good for us and good for HBO and good for the sport," Shaw said last month. "I hope it gets worked out. It should get worked out. But, truthfully, I don't know (if it will)."