At Harvard Law School's Sports Law Symposium today, HBO Sports president Ken Hershman said that live sports would be on HBO Go by the end of this year, bringing real-time sports to HBO subscribers' phones, tablets, PCs, and set-top boxes for the first time.
The most likely event for HBO to livestream would be boxing. However, when reached by email, HBO SVP of corporate affairs Jeff Cusson told The Verge that "We're always exploring ways to enhance HBO Go, but we have no immediate plans to offer live boxing on the platform."
Justin Ellis of Nieman Journalism Lab was at the event and reported Hershman's comments on his Twitter feed, including a specific reference to boxing. Multiple other attendees confirmed that Hershman said that while HBO Go had only carried ancillary and replayed sporting events to date, it would begin offering live events on the service by the end of the year.
HBO Sports President Ken Hershman says live boxing is coming to HBO Go by the end of the year.— Justin Ellis (@JustinNXT) March 28, 2013
HBO executives have been known to dangle possibilities for the network's programming that have little concrete commitment behind them, although hardly ever in terms this specific. Just last week, HBO CEO Richard Plepler publicly mused on how the network could sell HBO Go as a stand-alone service separate from a regular HBO subscription. But Plepler's discussion was later described as an extended hypothetical, something unlikely to happen any time soon.
While most people identify HBO's original programming with its popular dramatic and comedic series like Girls or Game of Thrones, HBO's original sports events, documentaries, and sports news series have been a staple of the network since its inception. HBO once broadcast Wimbledon tennis and other sporting events, but currently only features boxing, under its HBO World Championship Boxing and Boxing After Dark series.
Simultaneous livestreaming requires serious tech
Live sports streaming has generally been confined to one-time events like the Super Bowl, sport-specific programming like the NBA's League Pass, or as part of a dedicated sports network like WatchESPN. HBO has no precedent of, and no known infrastructure in place for, livestreaming an event of any kind. A digital livestream of a major event in high resolution to multiple form factors at scale represents a substantial technological investment. If HBO could deliver live boxing over HBO Go, it could conceivably deliver any broadcast live, from first airings of original series to any other event.