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HBO’s First Half Posts Similar Ratings from Greenburg Era

By Matthew Paras


A year ago, former President of HBO Sports Ross Greenburg stepped down from his position after being forced out from the network’s higher-ups. Greenburg’s demise was met after years of overspending and then temporarily losing Manny Pacquiao to rival network Showtime. Top HBO brass replaced Greenburg with former Showtime President Ken Hershman.
 
It has been seven, almost eight months since Hershman took over HBO at the beginning of January. In that timeframe, HBO has broadcast nine non-pay-per-view productions.
 
After being provided the numbers from Nielsen, it appears the ratings so far in 2012 are very similar to the ones that forced Greenburg out of office by July of 2011. Below are the ratings so far from HBO’s 2012:
 
February 4, 2012: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Marco Antonio Rubio) averaged 1.9 million people (P2+ meaning “people age two or over”) watching Live+ Same Day (meaning “people who watched the channel live or recorded it on DVR and watched it before 3 a.m. in the morning”).

February 25, 2012: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Devon Alexander vs. Marcos Maidana) averaged 1.1 million people (P2+) watching Live+ Same Day.
 
March 17, 2012: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Sergio Martinez vs. Matthew Macklin) averaged one million people (P2+) watching Live+ Same Day.
 
March 24, 2012: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Danny Garcia vs. Erik Morales) averaged 1.2 million (P2+) people watching Live+ Same Day.
 
April 28, 2012: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Chad Dawson vs. Bernard Hopkins II) averaged 1.6 million people (P2+) watching Live+ Same Day.
 
June 16, 2012: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Andy Lee) averaged 1.6 million people (P2+) watching Live+ Same Day.
 
July 7, 2012: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Nonito Donaire vs. Jeffrey Mathebula) averaged 988,000 people (P2+) watching Live+ Same Day.
 
July 14, 2012: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Danny Garcia vs. Amir Khan) averaged 1.3 million people (P2+) watching Live+ Same Day.
 
July 21, 2012: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Adrien Broner vs. Vicente Escobedo) averaged 1.4 million people (P2+) watching Live+ Same Day.
 
To contrast, here are the ratings from the first half of 2011:
 
January 29, 2011: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Tim Bradley vs. Devon Alexander) averaged 1.3 million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
February 19, 2011: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Nonito Donaire vs. Fernando Montiel) averaged 1.02 million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
March 5, 2011: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Saul Alvarez vs. Matthew Hatton) averaged 1.4 million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
March 12, 2011: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Sergio Martinez vs. Sergiy Dzinziruk) averaged 1.1 million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
March 26, 2011: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Yuriokis Gamboa vs. Jorge Solis) averaged 995,000 viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
April 16, 2011: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Victor Ortiz vs. Andre Berto) averaged 1.5 million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
May 21, 2011: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Bernard Hopkins vs. Jean Pascal II) averaged 1.8 million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
June 4, 2011: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Sebastian Zbik) averaged 1.5 million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
June 18, 2011: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Saul Alvarez vs. Ryan Rhodes) averaged 1.6 million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
June 25, 2011: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Devon Alexander vs. Lucas Matthysse) averaged 952,000 viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
July 2, 2011: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye) averaged 1.2 million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
July 9, 2011: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Paul Williams vs. Erislandy Lara) averaged 1.1 million viewers (P2+ ) watching Live + Same Day.
 
July 23, 2011: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Amir Khan vs. Zab Judah) averaged 1.4 million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
The numbers have seemingly remained the same. However, there are some differences. In the first half of 2011, HBO had 13 events compared to the nine events which have aired so far. 
 
When the amount of viewers was averaged, the number was roughly the same for both years at 1.3 million. 2012 has the better average, technically, with 1.34 compared to 2011’s 1.29 but it’s important to note that the first half of 2011 also had three more fights.
 
As to why the ratings have remained similar even with a new man in charge, this could be due to the amount of familiar faces on HBO’s airwaves. Alexander, Chavez Jr., Khan, Martinez, Broner, Donaire and Hopkins were all fighters who made appearances in both years on either “Boxing After Dark” or “World Championship Boxing.” Similarly, they posted similar numbers from fight to fight.
 
For example, let’s take a look at Amir Khan. His first appearance in 2011 was against Paul McCloskey in a split-site broadcast with Ortiz-Berto. According to Nielsen’s ratings, Khan-McCloskey averaged 1.2 million viewers before the main event jumped up to 1.5.
 
In his second fight in 2011, Khan-Judah averaged 1.4 million viewers. Jump forward to 2012 and Khan’s fight against Danny Garcia drew in 1.3 million viewers.
 
Interestingly enough, it seems like the biggest ratings jumps from fight to fight are for HBO’s younger fighters such as Chavez Jr. and Broner. For Chavez, his ratings are continuously some of the highest HBO has done in the last two years. His fights against Zbik and Peter Manfredo both drew in 1.5 million viewers. He then drew the biggest rating in the last two years when his fight against Marco Antonio Rubio did 1.9 million.
 
If there is a blemish on Chavez’s growth, it’s that his most recent fight against Andy Lee “only” did 1.6 million viewers instead of continuing to grow. Although this brings up the question: Did the Tim Bradley vs. Manny Pacquiao outcome actually hurt Chavez’s ratings?
 
The growth of Adrien Broner should not be ignored either. Last week, Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer was dazzled by Broner’s numbers. “The main event was a 3.4 rating, which is the fourth-highest rated boxing event for HBO [of the year],” Schaefer told The Ring’s Lem Satterfield. “It was bigger than Khan versus Garcia; it was bigger than the Pacquiao delay and this absolutely shows you that Adrien Broner has arrived and is going to be as big as they can be. This absolutely astounding.”
 
The 3.4 rating translates to 1.4 million viewers, which is great considering Broner was a 10-1 favorite. Even before that rating, Broner’s rating continued to rise by being on high-profile undercards.
 
His first fight on HBO was against Daniel Ponce de Leon that had 1.1 million people watching from home. Broner’s following fight against Jason Litzau was a slight increase to 1.2 million. He was also featured on the undercard of Alexander-Maidana, where the main event drew 1.1 million. With Escobedo being Broner’s first headlined fight on HBO, the 1.4 million rating speaks for itself.
 
Still, besides the growth of the younger fighters, HBO’s ratings have largely remained the same. Hershman was brought over to put on a fresh new coat of paint on HBO Boxing and so far, the ratings haven’t reflected it.
 
Of course, there is no doubt it is early in Hershman’s era. It has only been eight months, after all. Although with all the scrutiny Ross Greenburg got, it doesn’t hurt to keep an open eye on how the new man upstairs is running things as well.
 
Hershman came into a situation in need of repair. HBO may not be all about ratings but the more viewers, the merrier. So far, it’s much of the same when it comes to the ratings department.
 
Other Notes and Observations
 
Haymon Influence at HBO…
 
Another major concern during Greenburg’s run at HBO was how he seemingly bent backward for Al Haymon and the guaranteed output deal for Golden Boy Promotions he approved. When Hershman took over, many critics wondered if he was going to continue those types of choices.
 
“I don’t think it’ll ever be perceived by people who aren’t getting as much business as they want as a level playing field,” Hershman told Maxboxing’s Steve Kim. “But my approach to the business and the people in the business is to be open and honest and I view things as a shop that’s going to be open to everybody’s suggestions and ideals and we’re going to program the best way we see fit and try to be upfront and honest as to why we’re doing what we’re doing and the be transparent.”
 
Through the first nine fights on HBO, it appears this has remained true. In the nine- or 10 if you count the cancelled Gamboa vs. Brandon Rios- there has been an even division among promotional companies.
 
Five of the nine events have been Golden Boy-promoted. Of that five, only one (Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson II) main event wasn’t Al Haymon affiliated. Seth Mitchell, however, was on the undercard and he is advised by Haymon. Three of the nine events have been Top Rank-promoted. It would have been four if Gamboa fought Rios in April.

The last remaining show went to DiBella Entertainment, who promotes Sergio Martinez.
 
Haymon Influence at Showtime…
 
As Ken Hershman left Showtime for HBO, Stephen Espinoza took over the throne at Showtime. Espinoza, a former lawyer for Golden Boy Promotions, was met with skepticism regarding tentative favoritism for Golden Boy from Showtime and the numbers seem to back up the concern from fans and critics.
 
Four of the six “Showtime Championship Boxing” dates have been headlined by Golden Boy Promotions. Add in “ShoBox” dates and you get eight of the 16 events on Showtime being Golden Boy.
 
Bob Arum’s Top Rank have only had two dates on Showtime this year. Recently, Arum went on record by claiming he has been banned over the quarrel of September 15 (http://www.maxboxing.com/news/max-boxing-news/is-it-no-time-for-top-rank). Espinoza has denied this.
 
Whether Bob Arum and Espinoza work things out is a different issue. In the meantime, Al Haymon has been very busy with the network. Besides six Golden Boy shows, he was involved with, he was also was a part of two other fights on the network (Nobuhiro Ishida vs. Paul Williams and Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Rico Ramos).
 
That makes it 10 out of 16 or 62.5% of Showtime’s boxing programming either involving Haymon or Golden Boy. Also to note, that doesn’t include the upcoming programming they have together such as Devon Alexander vs. Randall Bailey or the September 15 card.
 
Live + Same Day…
 
With the ratings comes an attached “Live + Same Day” note to it. If anyone remembers The Boxing Truth’s John Chavez, you’ll remember the conspiracy he raised with it.
 
Chavez, for those who remember, claimed HBO had inflated the ratings by adding the same day so they could seem higher than what they really were. “Like I’ve stated in the past, it’s all spin, propaganda and manipulating the situation as much as possible to cover up the truth of the matter,” Chavez wrote in an older article. “HBO Boxing executives can attempt to use the DVR or event replay as an excuse as to why true live ratings have plummeted and why it is necessary for them to include these figures within their ratings reports but the truth of the matter is must-see live sports television is just that.”
 
Since 2009, Nielsen has added the “+ Same Day” to account for DVR recordings according to an analyst who provided the ratings. While it does boost the ratings some, it is the industry standard to report it in this manner. It is not a conspiracy by HBO to look better. It was a shift in the way numbers were reported across the field.
 
The Rest of 2011…
 
For those interested, the second half of the ratings was never really reported. This article compared Greenburg’s ratings up to the point where it was announced he wasn’t coming back and the first half of this year’s.
 
Below are the ratings from the rest of 2011:
 
September 3, 2011: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Andre Berto vs. Jan Zaveck) averaged 884,000 viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
September 10, 2011: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Daniel Ponce de Leon) averaged 743,000 viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
October 1, 2011: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Sergio Martinez vs. Darren Barker) averaged 1.1 million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
October 22, 2011: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Nonito Donaire vs. Omar Narvaez) averaged 819,000 viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
November 5, 2011: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (James Kirkland vs. Alfredo Angulo) averaged 934,000 viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
November 19, 2011: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Peter Manfredo Jr.) averaged 1.5 million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
November 26, 2011: “HBO Boxing After Dark” (Saul Alvarez vs. Kermit Cintron) averaged 1.5 million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Same Day.
 
December 10, 2011: “HBO World Championship Boxing” (Lamont Peterson vs. Amir Khan) averaged 1.3* million viewers (P2+) watching Live + Live Day
 
(*In the report I received, the main event number wasn’t posted for Peterson-Khan. However, this is the number from its undercard fight, Seth Mitchell vs. Timur Ibragimov.)
 
Questions and comments can be sent to Matt at mparas1432@gmail.com. You can follow him at www.twitter.com/Mparas1432.

 



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