HBO Sports is dissolving it’s long-standing coverage of professional boxing, which has been a staple on the network for decades, at the end of 2018, the company announced on Thursday.
“Our mission at HBO Sports is to elevate the brand. We look for television projects that are high-profile, high-access, and highly ambitious in the stories they seek to tell and the quality of production in telling them,” HBO Sports executive vice president Peter Nelson said in an official company statement.
“Boxing has been part of our heritage for decades. During that time, the sport has undergone a transformation. It is now widely available on a host of networks and streaming services. There is more boxing than ever being televised and distributed. In some cases, this programming is very good. But from an entertainment point of view, it’s not unique.
“Going forward in 2019, we will be pivoting away from programming live boxing on HBO. As always, we will remain open to looking at events that fit our programming mix. This could include boxing, just not for the foreseeable future. We’re deeply indebted to the many courageous fighters whose careers we were privileged to cover.”
“There have been hundreds of dedicated and remarkably creative men and women who have delivered the best in television production for HBO’s coverage of boxing and we are so grateful for their contributions,” HBO’s statement continued. “It has been a wonderful journey chronicling the careers and back stories of so many spectacularly talented prizefighters.
“We are a storytelling platform. The future will see unscripted series, long-form documentary films, reality programming, sports journalism, event specials and more unique standout content from HBO Sports. We are constantly evaluating our programming to determine what resonates with our subscribers. Our audience research clearly shows the type of programming our subscribers embrace. For HBO Sports, it’s programming that viewers can’t find elsewhere.”
HBO has found the competitive landscape for boxing drastically increase over the past several years, with competition from Showtime, and ESPN’s deal with Top Rank really chipping away at HBO’s reign at the top of the boxing coverage world.
Additionally, with more fans looking for streaming options, thanks to an unprecedented boom in sports streaming, broadcasting, and even video game streaming such as Twitch Streams, HBO found itself in a drastically evolving landscape.
At the head of HBO boxing broadcasts has been Hall of Fame announcer Jim Lampley, who has called some of the top feature fights over the past 30 years, will be stepping away from calling boxing matches, but will remain at HBO.
“My 30-year love affair with HBO continues, and I am motivated and prepared to support storytelling initiatives in the sports department,” Lampley said. “So I will remain in place.”
The end of HBO’s run will also mean that fighters such as Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, who both of expiring contracts, will be hitting network free agency in the near future.