HBO and boxing have been two words synonymous with each other since the premium cable outlet broadcast the historic heavyweight showdown between George Foreman and Joe Frazier back in 1973.
Now after 40 years broadcasting some of the biggest fights in the sport, HBO is getting out of the boxing business.
The news was first reported by the NY Times on Thursday.
According to a release sent out by HBO, the network remains focused on original programming and will remain a player in the sports world but primarily by producing content such as “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” and high profile documentaries like the one they did on tennis superstar Serena Williams.
HBO also found another avenue into sports just recently by producing “The Shop” — a half-hour talk show taking place in a barbershop that was created and stars NBA superstar LeBron James.
“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,” HBO said in a statement.
“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.”
Over the years, HBO has been a partner to some of the biggest fights in boxing including several high profile Mike Tyson bouts as he was rising up the ranks and becoming one of the most talked about fighters on the planet.
The final fight on HBO Boxing will be a middleweight bout between Daniel Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko on Oct. 27.
While HBO has been a huge player in the boxing business for decades, the move away from the sport isn’t exactly a surprise given the events in recent years.
Streaming services such as DAZN (pronounced Da-Zone) have offered up billion dollar deals to get into the boxing business with promoters like Eddie Hearn and they just broadcast a marquee fight featuring heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua last weekend.
Meanwhile, ESPN has a multi-year deal with Top Rank Boxing while Showtime maintains a robust boxing schedule including the upcoming heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder. FOX is also in the boxing business with a multi-year deal with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Championships.
Beyond the boxing business flourishing on other outlets, HBO has been less and less concerned with live sports programming in recent years as their slate of original programming has become the reason the majority of people subscribe to the service.
With series such as “Game of Thrones” pulling in tens of millions of viewers for every episode and a slate of programming that wins numerous Emmy awards every year, HBO just doesn’t need boxing any longer.
Still it’s the end of an era as HBO will say goodbye to boxing for the first time in over four decades when the final fight airs in October.