Peter Nelson is HBO Sports' new executive vice president. | Photo: Will Hart/HBO
You’d often find him standing off to the side, or in the background of a club show somewhere you didn’t expect. Yet his finely coiffed jet-black hair and tailored clothes would give him up among the others that tried to meld into the milieu.
If there was a fight involving two hot prospects going on, there was the lingering sense Peter Nelson was hovering close by.
So it didn’t come as any great surprise today when HBO named Peter Nelson the new head of HBO Sports, promoting him to executive vice president, the company released in a statement.
The announcement was made by Michael Lombardo, President of HBO Programming. Nelson, who joined HBO Sports in 2011, has been President of Programming of HBO Sports since 2013.
The move comes with great applause from many behind the scenes at HBO. During the Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez weekend, in speaking to 12 past and present HBO employees about Nelson, Sherdog.com found that all of them anticipated the move and were very much in favor of Nelson’s advancement.
A few HBO sources used the same term in describing Nelson as someone “who isn’t afraid to stick his hands in the dirt.”
Said one HBO source, who asked that his name not be used, because Nelson’s appointment had not come up yet: “I think a lot of people were waiting for that move. Every major fight, there’s Peter, working, doing things a lot of times he really doesn’t have to do. He’s a solid individual who you know you can go to and is extremely approachable. He’s young and has a great vision for HBO Sports.”
“I think the thing everyone likes about Peter is that he knows everyone from the producers in the truck, to the cameramen ringside, to the people bringing us coffee during our production meetings,” said another HBO source. “The guy likes to know every facet of what is going on, and I think you can ask everyone associated with HBO, Peter Nelson is not afraid of working hard. When the guy on top is the hardest worker, you tend to follow.”
A few HBO sources revealed that things were sometimes uncomfortable with out-going HBO Sports President Ken Hershman. They said he didn’t possess the “people skills” that Nelson does, and he could sometimes “grind” on employees. When two employees of Showtime, where Hershman previously worked, were asked about that, they both replied in kind, that Hershman could be “grating.”
“Put it this way, with Peter, people won’t feel as if they have to walk on egg shells around HBO,” said one source close to HBO.
Nelson will be responsible for overseeing the strategic direction and operations of the HBO Sports department, including its boxing franchise and HBO Pay-Per-View.
In addition, the HBO Sports portfolio includes the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalism program “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel,” the boxing studio show “The Fight Game With Jim Lampley” and the landmark reality series “Hard Knocks” and “24/7.”
“Peter Nelson is the ideal choice to spearhead our groundbreaking programming initiatives as well as our commitment to world class boxing, which have made HBO Sports an acclaimed franchise for the network,” Lombardo said. “He has a comprehensive understanding of boxing, a key programming staple for our subscribers for more than four decades. We enjoyed a terrific 2015 season and can’t wait to present the best collection of fighters in the world on our platform in the new year.”
HBO has televised boxing for 43 consecutive years and enjoyed a banner year in 2015, sparked by a host of fighters that dominate the consensus top 10 pound-for-pound compilation in the sport.
“The quality of HBO Sports programming is mirrored in the profound talents creating it, both those who work with HBO and those who work within it,” Nelson said. “People for whom I have a deep appreciation and with whom I’m excited to collaborate.”
Nelson is a native of Newton, Mass. and graduated Harvard University magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Ancient Greek. He has lived in Florence, Italy, Santa Monica, Calif., and New York City. He will assume his new role at HBO immediately.
“I know there will be a lot of people happy at HBO when Peter gets the job,” an HBO source said. “A lot of people. The guy never sits down, even at a fight.”
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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