HBO's Ken Hershman Discusses Net's Strong Boxing Ratings, Competition From Showtime
It has been a "solid first half of the year for HBO Boxing," as the net "continued to lead the industry in ratings, drawing in the top six largest audiences for fights this year," according to Chris Mannix of SI.com. But the "increased competition from Showtime has made it a struggle for HBO to produce appealing opponents for some of its top attractions." Ahead of one of the "biggest fights of the year" on Saturday between Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez, Mannix conducted a Q&A with HBO Sports President Ken Hershman to discuss the state of the net. Excerpts are below:
Q: Your thoughts on HBO's first half of the year?
Hershman: I think it's been a really good first half. We have had our share of really compelling fights. There are a few things we would have liked to have happen that didn't. But there is always that in boxing. But Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley was a fantastic fight, a great event. Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado was a fantastic fight, great event. June 7 will be a fantastic fight, great event.
Q: [Top Rank Chair] Bob Arum seems to have mended fences with Oscar De La Hoya. If Bob starts coming to you with fights against Golden Boy fighters, what do you say to that?
Hershman: If the fight is compelling and the business model works, we're all ears. We'll gladly entertain it.
Q: It does sound like you are more open to Golden Boy than you were...
Hershman: Nothing has changed. I maybe wasn't as open about our point of view about it before. We just have to be comfortable that when we make investments in fighters and promotional entities that they share our vision and our philosophy about how to operate. Once we are on the same page, the world is our oyster. ... We're not in the one-fight business. You see a fighter (Adonis Stevenson) that was built on HBO jump ship and lose (nearly) half their audience, I don't know why that would be viewed as a good business decision under any circumstances. For us, to put our resources, to put our platform, to put our network behind you, there has to be a reciprocity. HBO Boxing is a hit series. You don't buy one episode of Game of Thrones and then let them bid up the second episode.
Q: When Manny Pacquiao does his fights in Macau, it probably means the fight will generate fewer pay-per-view buys, which means less money for you. Is that accurate?
Hershman: That's kind of the misnomer of pay-per-view, that we're looking at it as some kind of revenue stream. It's really a tool for the few fighters who are in that echelon. It's not really of any importance to us. We're happy to do it and certainly no one markets them or distributes them better than HBO. But it's not the focus of our business. Our focus is on HBO, our primary platform. For us, pay-per-view is not an economic question (SI.com, 6/5).