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No More Live Boxing on HBO

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Peter Nelson, Executive Vice President of HBO Sports, gathered his boxing staff for a meeting this morning to announce that after 45 years, the network will no longer broadcast live fights. Among those in the meeting were announcer Jim Lampley, analyst Max Kellerman, ringside scorer Harold Lederman and the former champs Andre Ward and Roy Jones Jr., who served as commentators on several occasions. Lampley is expected to remain at HBO. The others are not.

The first fight shown on HBO was in 1973. George Foreman knocked out Joe Frazier to become the world’s heavyweight champion. The final fight will air in October of this year. It will be a middleweight title fight from Madison Square Garden.

Nelson said in a recent interview that HBO’s boxing coverage doesn’t resonate with potential subscribers the way it used to. In a press release, the network said airing live boxing matches is no longer a point of differentiation for 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.

Going forward in 2019, we will be pivoting away from programming live boxing on HBO.  As always, we will remain open to looking at events that fit our programming mix.  This could include boxing, just not for the foreseeable future.

Without live boxing, HBO Sports will now be made up exclusively of documentaries and commentary programs such as Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. To the point made in the press release, boxing can still be found on FS1, ESPN, DAZN, and Showtime.

Sports TV News

ESPN Creates ACC/SEC Challenge

The series will begin for the 2023-2024 season, launching with 28 games played between the two sports.

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ESPN, in conjunction with the ACC and SEC, is slated to announce the creation of the ACC/SEC Challenge for men’s and women’s basketball.

The series will begin for the 2023-2024 season, launching with 28 games played between the two sports. That number will grow to 30 contests when the SEC expands for the 2025-2026 season.

Every game in the challenge will be aired on an ESPN platform, with each side hosting the same amount of home games.

The creation of the event comes on the heels of the Big Ten’s new media rights deal with FOX, NBC, and CBS, ending a nearly four-decade relationship with ESPN. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge began in 1999, with the SEC/Big 12 Challenging beginning in 2013. Both events will cease to exist following this season.

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Sports TV News

FOX Sports Sees Record-Setting Ratings Weekend

The World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

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FOX Sports has been home to a number of record-setting games in terms of viewership over the last several days.

In addition to FOX Sports setting a new mark for a Thanksgiving and regular season NFL audience, the World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

The network reported the U.S./England match in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup averaged 15.377 million. It was the most-watched English-language soccer game in the U.S. ever, topping the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil.

Viewership of the match was up 11% compared to the second group stage contest for the U.S. team in 2014 against Portugal. The audience peaked at 19.646 million from 3:30-3:45 p.m.

FOX Sports also reported the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday drew in 17 million, which made it the most-watched regular season college game on the network ever. That figure was also the highest of any regular season contest since 2011. That game also saw the audience peak at 19.6 million.

Viewership for the game was up 3% compared to last year.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Bowl Plans Could Be Altered By NFL Flex Scheduling

“While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules.”

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ESPN could be forced to adjust its upcoming bowl season schedule if the NFL decides to flex a Las Vegas Raiders game a week before Christmas.

ESPN announced its contingency plans for two bowl contests, the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl is currently planned to kick off from Allegiant Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on December 17. The Raiders right now are still planning to play in the Sunday night game the next night against the Patriots.

Should the NFL decide to flex the Raiders out of the SNF window, ESPN will swap kickoff times between the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. That would mean the game in sin city will kick off at 11:30 a.m. local time, with the contest in Albuquerque starting at 5:20 p.m. local time that evening.

“The SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl are both owned and operated by ESPN Events, so this change is a solution that will work for all parties,” ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby said. “While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules. We are more than prepared to move forward with this revised schedule if necessary.”

Kickoff times will be determined well enough ahead that the schools taking part in both games shouldn’t be adversely affected.

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