By Keith Idec
People kept asking Bob Arum on Thursday if he, like some boxing fans, would cancel his subscription to HBO now that the premium cable network has announced it will no longer broadcast boxing.
“People said to me, ‘Are you gonna cancel your subscription to HBO now?,’ ” Arum told BoxingScene.com. “And I said, ‘Hell, no! HBO has great entertainment. That’s what people want.’
“Succession is one of the best shows that I’ve seen. And even if they didn’t have Succession, and Sharper Objects, which is great, if all they had was John Oliver it would be worth the price.”
The 86-year-old Arum acknowledges that HBO’s heavy investment into the sport helped keep his promotional company, Top Rank Inc., profitable for roughly 30 years. He had numerous publicized spats with various HBO executives over the years, but Top Rank regularly received seven-figure license fees from that premium cable network and helped build such superstars as Floyd Mayweather Jr., Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto since the mid-1990s.
Arum’s decision last year to take his company’s fighters to ESPN, with which Top Rank struck an exclusive content deal 15 months ago, was another damaging blow to HBO’s diminished boxing brand.
The Hall-of-Fame promoter grew frustrated because HBO wasn’t investing as much money in boxing as it once did and couldn’t supply the amount of dates Top Rank needed to showcase its fighters. He often butted heads with HBO executive Peter Nelson regarding potential matches as well.
Since partnering with ESPN, Arum repeatedly predicted HBO would get out of the boxing business before too long. He didn’t know that announcement would be made as early as Thursday, yet he wasn’t surprised.
“They made a major contribution to the sport,” Arum said. “They kept it alive for decades. But it became obvious, with the interest of ESPN, the interest of FOX, that HBO felt that they could get a bigger bang for its buck in entertainment. It’s an entertainment network. It’s not a sports network. I’ve said for a while that the premium networks didn’t have a place in boxing. So this isn’t surprising.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.