HBO Puts Sports on VOD Front Page

6/09/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

Home Box Office is making it easier to access vintage Oscar De La Hoya fights and episodes of its Real Sports magazine show by creating a separate category for sports on the front page of its subscription video-on-demand service.

Beginning this week, the HBO Sports area will offer approximately 20 hours per month of content, ranging from the premium channel’s original sports films and documentaries to boxing content, according to HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg.

The new category will double the amount of sports-related content on the subscription service, from about 6% to 7% of the total, currently.

Greenburg said network research has shown that sports content generates significant interest among HBO subscription VOD users, although he would not specify details or usage numbers.

“All of our studies have come in and sports programming remains a very potent entertainment vehicle,” he said. “People love the [SVOD service], so we’ve developed a sports category under the HBO On Demand umbrella that will hopefully entice people to hit their on-demand button.”

While the site will feature HBO-produced documentaries such as Dare to Compete: The Struggle of Women in Sports and sports-themed Hollywood titles such as Cinderella Man, content revolving around the sweet science will represent a sizable amount of the category’s lineup, according to Greenburg.

Along with replays of recent boxing cards, the site will feature content HBO hopes will help promote its upcoming pay TV and pay-per-view boxing telecasts. Featured on the site this month is HBO’s countdown show for its June 17 Jermain Taylor-Winky Wright middleweight championship telecast, as well as “My Life” vignettes profiling the fighters.

Greenburg said the site will also feature past episodes of its quarterly Costas Now anthology skein, as well as its monthly Real Sports show. Consumers can either see the programs in their entirety or click on individual stories.

The network is developing several documentaries for 2007, including a profile of former heavyweight champion Joe Louis; a look at the UCLA Bruins’ dominance of college basketball in the 1960s and early ’70s, and an examination of baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers, from the franchise’s historic signing of Jackie Robinson in 1947 to its move to Los Angeles a decade later.

HBO may also dip its toe into the reality series pond. Greenburg said the network could soon create a series that would follow a prominent boxer through his four-week training regimen leading up to a championship fight. “It would be a new generation of countdown shows for HBO,” he said.

The network, which in 2000 ended a 25-year run covering the Wimbledon tennis tournament, will likely not compete again for sports rights.

“Would I love to see MLB or an NBA game with no commercial interruption? Of course, I would,” Greenburg said. “But without that commercial inventory coming back to us, it would be very difficult for us to spend for rights, so I don’t know if we’ll ever get caught up in the rights game.”