HBO Has High Hopes For New KO Nation

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Home Box Office is satisfied with early ratings results from its hip-hop-tinged KO Nation afternoon boxing show, and hopes to gain greater awareness and higher ratings for the generation-X-targeted series by the end of the year.

After three Saturday-afternoon airings, the series-which launched in May, blending hip-hop music and themes with live fights involving up-and-coming boxers-is averaging around a 2.1 rating, Time Warner Sports president Seth Abraham said.

The network, however, was encouraged with the performance of its Aug. 5 event, which drew an impressive 3.7.

KO Nation was created in an effort to attract 18- to 34-year-old males to boxing, which is a major programming draw for the network. HBO has said males aged 18 to 34 constitute only 3 percent of boxing viewers, while men 50 and older represent 60 percent of the boxing audience.

HBO vice president of programming Kery Davis said the show is beginning to catch on with young viewers. A repeat of the Aug. 5 event the next night drew an even higher rating of 3.7. Further, the midnight repeat telecast drew a 19 share from the 18-to-34 male target audience HBO is trying to reach.

"If we can do those numbers on the second showing, it shows that it's beginning to reach the viewers we want," Davis said.

With the network committed to 12 shows through 2001, including two more this year, Abraham said it is hoping KO Nation can eventually hit a 4.0 rating as viewers become more familiar with the format and the unusual time slot for boxing. The next event is scheduled for Sept. 9 at 5 p.m.

"This is a new franchise, so we're optimistic that we will be able to reach our audience over time," Abraham said. "This is a way for us to bring boxing to a younger audience."

In an effort to further promote the series, Abraham said the network would increase marketing efforts, targeting urban radio and other media.

Davis added that HBO hopes to showcase successful boxers from this year's Summer Olympic Games in future shows. "We also want to lure some of the bigger names in the sport, like a Floyd Mayweather or Fernando Vargas, to the show," he said.

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