Replaces Ross Greenburg, who ankled in summer

HBO has tapped Showtime veteran Ken Hershman as its new prexy of sports.

The opening at the net became available in July when longtime HBO sports topper Ross Greenburg left after HBO toppers were unhappy that he was unable to retain pay-per-view rights to a Manny Pacquiao fight against Shane Mosley in May.

Hershman, who ran Showtime’s sports division since 2003, had been with the pay cabler since 1992. He’ll begin at HBO in January and report to programming president Michael Lombardo.

The loss of Hershman is a blow to Showtime, which has seen its sports department make major strides in recent years. In 2005, boxing was the only sport Showtime carried. Now it airs longtime football show “Inside the NFL” as well as “Inside NASCAR” and weekly mixed martial arts and boxing programming.

In addition, Hershman played a role, along with Showtime entertainment president David Nevins, in working with Major League Baseball in acquiring the weekly reality skein “The Franchise: A Season With the San Francisco Giants.” Also upcoming is doc “A Game of Honor,” a look at the legacy of the Army-Navy college football game.

“Ken has left to pursue other opportunities.,” said a Showtime spokesman. “Sports have always been an important part of our content lineup. We have great programming in place and our commitment to sports remains strong.”

Net also stated that there is no successor set to replace Hershman. There are three execs at Showtime, however, who worked closely with Hershman in sports who will likely be given consideration: exec producer David Dinkins Jr., programming VP Jock McLean, and production VP Gordon Hall.Greenburg was at HBO for 33 years and was instrumental in setting up pay-per-view boxing matches that proved hugely profitable for the net. Eventually, however, his relationship with several boxing promoters began to wane and Showtime was able to scoop up the highly anticipated Pacquiao-Mosley fight. Previously, all of Pacquiao’s major fights had been on HBO or its pay-per-view division.

While boxing was the sport that brought the most coin to HBO, Greenburg brought the highly popular “Hard Knocks” NFL preseason docu series to the net. And in one of his last major acquisitions, Greenburg worked with the National Hockey League and began the “24/7: The Road to the Winter Classic” franchise, which is now in its second season.

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