In case you missed the news over the weekend, Ross Greenburg, President of Sports Programming at HBO, was rumored to be leaving the network. I confirmed that story with my sources Friday as well as word that V.P. of Sports Programming, Kery Davis, would follow him out the door shortly. It was originally planned for Ross' departure to be announced today (Monday) but the news making the rounds on several websites led to the move becoming official on Sunday.
He denied reports that he was fired for losing Manny Pacquiao, one of HBO's strongest pay-per-view stars, to Showtime for his fight on May 7 against Shane Mosley.
"That's a silly rationale," he said. "That added to my angst, but one fight doesn't determine whether I stayed or didn't stay.
"I lived through the loss of Chavez and Tyson," he said, referring to Julio Cesar Chavez and Mike Tyson, and he added: "I've been through a lot of wearing negotiations. I spent a lot of time appeasing promoters and managers."
But one promoter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid losing business with HBO, said: "He was absolutely fired. The guy's been twisting in the wind for months. They've been looking for a replacement."
The promoter is absolutely correct, this has been something that has been talked about for months with talk in May that Ross Levinsohn, Yahoo! Executive Vice President, would be the man replacing Greenburg.
While confirming the story on Friday night, no bones were made by anyone I spoke to that the short term thinking (such as tying up over 25% of HBO's 2011 fight budget on deals with Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley as part of negotiations to sign their horrible business failure of a fight) combined with the loss of Pacquiao vs. Mosley were the biggest contributors to his departure.
Saturday afternoon I discussed how Greenburg was a staunch opponent of the UFC on HBO and was one of the men who attempted to sink a deal that was all but done prior to when HBO CEO, Chris Albrecht, was arrested in 2007. I've also been told that Dana White made the decision to pull out of that deal though, if that had to do with Greenburg or not, I am not certain.
What, if any, impact this has in regards to seeing mixed martial arts on HBO is uncertain. But the door is opened for a network that does desire capturing a new audience, and the time may be right for them to cede control of production to the UFC to get a major deal done.