HBO will step out of the live TV boxing ring, ending a 45-year run of live fight coverage, the network said Thursday.
Citing a proliferation of distributors now offering live boxing cards on both traditional television networks and streaming services, HBO said it will be “pivoting” away from live boxing telecasts. The network has aired 1,111 fights on the network and via pay-per-view since its first live boxing telecast, the 1973 Joe Frazier vs. George Foreman heavyweight championship bout.
In a statement, the network said: “Going forward in 2019, we will be pivoting away from programming live boxing on 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.”
Boxing has been a mainstay for the network throughout its history and served as a major draw to bring in subscribers. Instead of live boxing, the network will focus its sports programming on documentaries, such as its recent Being Serena docu-series about tennis superstar Serena Williams, as well as the recently announced The Shop, executive produced by LeBron James.
“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,” the network said. “For HBO Sports, it's programming that viewers can’t find elsewhere.”
The network’s last scheduled fight telecast is an Oct. 27 middleweight bout between Daniel Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko. HBO most recently distributed the Sept. 15 Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin pay-per-view event.