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No More Live Boxing on HBO

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Peter Nelson, Executive Vice President of HBO Sports, gathered his boxing staff for a meeting this morning to announce that after 45 years, the network will no longer broadcast live fights. Among those in the meeting were announcer Jim Lampley, analyst Max Kellerman, ringside scorer Harold Lederman and the former champs Andre Ward and Roy Jones Jr., who served as commentators on several occasions. Lampley is expected to remain at HBO. The others are not.

The first fight shown on HBO was in 1973. George Foreman knocked out Joe Frazier to become the world’s heavyweight champion. The final fight will air in October of this year. It will be a middleweight title fight from Madison Square Garden.

Nelson said in a recent interview that HBO’s boxing coverage doesn’t resonate with potential subscribers the way it used to. In a press release, the network said airing live boxing matches is no longer a point of differentiation for HBO.

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.

Without live boxing, HBO Sports will now be made up exclusively of documentaries and commentary programs such as Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. To the point made in the press release, boxing can still be found on FS1, ESPN, DAZN, and Showtime.

Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

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YES Network

The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Paying Nearly $45 Billion For Rights Fees Through 2027

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually

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The last year or two has been evident that the price of rights to airing major college and professional sporting events on television are only going up. But the various networks either with longstanding relationships with leagues and conferences or looking to break into the media rights landscape are willing to pay up. That’s no more evident with Disney, which will be shelling out tens of billions of dollars to have regular season and postseason events air on ESPN.

According to Sportico, which reviewed Disney’s annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, ESPN is set to spend $44.9 billion on sports media rights through 2027.

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually. Additionally, ESPN will pay $1.4 billion through the 2024-25 season for NBA rights.

The Sportico report noted ESPN will generate more than $8.1 billion in affiliate revenue to help offset those costs. The network will soon be entering talks to renew its media rights deal to be the exclusive home for nearly all NCAA Division I championships, as well as engaging in new NBA rights negotiations.

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