Throwing in the Towel


HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg last week announced plans to step down from
his role after 33 years with the premium channel. He spoke last week with Multichannel
programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about his decision to leave, and his

MCN: Why did you decide to leave

Ross Greenburg: I had to really move
on and start doing what I love to do.
I wasn’t enjoying the world of boxing
and I felt like that ticket agent at the airport
when all the flights are cancelled. I
couldn’t put up with it anymore.

MCN: Do you feel you were able to
develop other big sports franchises
beyond boxing at the network?

RG: I think we did. Hard Knocks, 24/7
and the documentary unit are all key
franchises that we did bring in. I’m
forever grateful that I had the opportunity
to do Wimbledon for 21 consecutive
years and to be a part of producing
Inside the NFL for over two decades.
Those were important legacies to HBO.

MCN: Do you feel not bringing in the
UFC and mixed martial arts was a
missed opportunity for HBO?

RG: It’s very hard for HBO to compete in the rights acquisition
world in sports because the numbers are going to
get too high, and we just don’t have that second stream of
revenue flowing in from advertising, so the model doesn’t
work. I think what Dana White and the UFC have built is
fabulous, and they have a loyal audience.

MCN: What was your biggest accomplishment?

RG: One of my favorite projects was [the HBO original
film] 61* and of course [Do You Believe In Miracles? The
Story Of The 1980 U.S. Hockey Team
Also the groundbreaking journalism
of Real Sports and the documentary division’s
churning out more than 80 of
the most respected pieces of television.
Lastly — and I know there will be some
disagreement in the boxing community
— I’m proud of recreating the television
production for boxing in the 1980s where
I put microphones in the corner and
cameras overhead. I think we collectively
changed the way boxing was presented
on television. Also, when I took over
in 2000, I think we did the best we could
under difficult circumstances to keep
the sport alive and well and thriving on
HBO through very significant fights.

MCN: Any regrets or disappointments?

RG: Under my watch we won’t see Pacquiao-
Mayweather — I tried valiantly
twice — but otherwise there are absolutely
no regrets. I accomplished everything
I hoped for in 33 years at HBO
and I’ll look back with a great amount of pride in assembling
one of the great sports divisions in the history
of sports television.

MCN: What’s next for you?

RG: I’m out now talking to a lot of people and opening up
my shingle, and will be producing and consulting for a lot
of networks, teams and organizations. I hope you’ll see
a steady flow of documentary filmmaking, reality shows
and anything that comes my way in the world of sports.