Into the ring at HBO

Pay cabler lifts Greenburg to sports prexy

HBO, enamored over the high ratings that the network’s regularly scheduled boxing matches have punched up over the last two decades, has promoted Ross Greenburg, the exec most responsible for delivering these fights, to the post of HBO Sports president.

Greenburg succeeds Seth Abraham, who announced Monday that he would become exec VP and chief operating officer for Madison Square Garden and its Radio City Music Hall sibling.

“The No. 1 priority for HBO Sports is boxing.” said Greenburg. “It’s the most significant and powerful sports programming we schedule year in and year out.” Even though HBO hasn’t had the biggest draw in boxing — Mike Tyson — the network has chalked up solid numbers with fighters such as Riddick Bowe, Sugar Ray Leonard, Prince Naseem Hamed, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Roy Jones Jr.

Greenburg, whose most recent title was senior VP and exec producer of HBO Sports, said that in addition to boxing he’ll continue to work on the net’s other sports franchises, led by the 24-year-old “Inside the NFL” series.

Costas show

HBO is giving lots of attention to its still-untitled sports-magazine show to be hosted by Bob Costas. It premieres Feb. 14 and will run for 12 consecutive weeks. “The show will have a journalistic bent,” said Greenburg, “but it will also reflect the personality of Costas.”

It’s also full speed ahead for HBO’s monthly hourlong “Real Sports” magazine series hosted by Bryant Gumbel, which Greenburg said can be franker and more controversial than the sports reporting on the broadcast networks, which have to cater to the desires of the professional leagues whose games they bid on when the rights come up for renewal. HBO doesn’t own the rights to the games of any professional leagues or organizations.

Advertiser pressures are also absent from HBO considerations over content, he said, because the network is commercial free.

Finally, Greenburg said HBO will continue to produce inhouse four sports documentaries a year, encompassing topics such as the struggle of women in sports, a profile of Joe DiMaggio and the mysterious death of boxer Sonny Liston.

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