Ken Hershman brought MMA to Showtime before moving to HBO. | Photo: Dave Mandel
It came as a shock that reverberated throughout the boxing world when HBO announced on Friday that Ken Hershman, president of HBO Sports since 2012, is stepping down at the end of the year.
Hershman, who brought Strikeforce to subscription television and built Showtime into a boxing force before transitioning to HBO, will work with Mike Lombardo, President of HBO Programming, on finding a new leader in HBO’s sports division. Hershman’s departure comes months after HBO signed former ESPN media giant Bill Simmons.
With close to 25 years of television experience, Hershman departs HBO after a record-setting year, centered on the May 9 Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight, which generated a record 4.4 million pay-per-view buys and over $410 million in revenue. That surpassed the previous $150 million revenue record set by Mayweather-Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the 2.48 million buy record set by 2007's Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather, and a pre-fight estimate of $270 million from 3 million households.
“Ken’s dedication and commitment to our sports division is deeply appreciated,” said Lombardo. “His approach to rebuilding our boxing franchise was strategic and creative which led HBO Sports to great success. All of us here are grateful and proud of the success Ken and the HBO Sports team have had over the past four years in delivering unparalleled sports programming to our subscribers. We wish him all the best in his next challenge.”
Hershman, a graduate of Fordham Law, where he was a member of the International Law Journal, and received his B.A. degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. in 1985, said he was proud of what he accomplished in the brief time he was at HBO.
He also feels it’s time to move on.
“I believe now is the perfect time to hand over the reins to someone new,” Hershman said. “I’ve had the distinct privilege of having been involved in many of boxing’s biggest and most thrilling moments, including the Mike Tyson era, creating the ‘Super Six Tournament,’ and, staging the biggest pay-per-view event of all-time this past May in Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao. I have also had the privilege to steward over some of the best sports shows on television, including 24/7, Real Sports and Hard Knocks, and to work with some of the best talent in television, both behind and in front of the camera.
“HBO Sports is well positioned for the future, especially in the boxing arena, with nine of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the sport today, including the world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev, Miguel Cotto, Andre Ward, Terence Crawford and many others. I cannot wait to watch these great fighters exhibit their skills, but from the vantage point of a passionate boxing fan.”
Hershman came over to HBO from Showtime, where he had been Executive Vice President, General Manager, and Showtime Sports & Event Programming since October 2003. It was Hershman’s brainchild that developed the innovative “Super Six World Boxing Classic,” and it was Hershman who spearheaded the drive to acquire NFL franchise “Inside the NFL,” which won the Sports Emmy for Outstanding Studio Show in its first year under Hershman.
Hershman joined Showtime in July 1992 as a counsel. In January 2011, he was elevated to a senior programming role. Prior to Showtime, Hershman was an associate at the law firm of Shearman & Sterling in their Corporate Finance group.
Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.
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