Peter Nelson: ‘Fans want to see the highest level of competition possible’
If one heard a collective sigh of relief recently from boxing scribes and hardcore fans, it was because of an announcement made on Dec. 1.
Peter Nelson was named executive vice president of HBO Sports on that date, something most in the industry hoped and wished for.
The announcement did not come as a surprise though. Nelson climbed that company ladder, most recently serving as the company’s vice president. In 2011, Nelson was hired as the company’s director of programming.
Nelson replaces Ken Hershman, who resigned from HBO Sports in October.
While some believed he was the right man, Nelson was still humbled by the promotion.
“It’s an immense privilege to work at a company with such an illustrious history of storytelling and boxing that extends back over 40 years,” Nelson told RingTV in a recent interview. “We have a tremendous team and I’m lucky to be a part of it.”
Nelson is the right man for the job. He is a very hands-on individual who speaks often with boxing scribes and fans of the sport.
While meeting with other executives in the industry, Nelson is eager to meet and exceed the challenges of providing quality content on the network. He will do so by meeting with the numerous people who work in the sport.
“You’re always trying to set expectations you can surpass,” said Nelson, who was a journalist at ESPN before working at HBO. “(It is) one of the challenges of many jobs that you try to do well. We have such a great team in place, not just internally but the folks to work with outside the building, who are our partners, which include fighters, trainers, their teams, managers, their promoters, who are our partners who are putting on these events.
“It’s something that I think everyone is energized to work together to try and outperform everything we’ve done in the past and in the years to come.”
He assumes control of the network that currently broadcasts some of the best and more noticeable fighters in boxing.
Nelson, who will give final approval of which fighters will appear on the multiple networks, believes these same fighters will continue to emerge as elite fighters, while also telling their stories through series like “24/7.”
“We’ve seen so many great talents emerge within the past year, whether that’s been Canelo Alvarez back on the network, Gennady Golovkin unifying the (IBF and WBA middleweight) titles, Terence Crawford’s ascent or Roman Gonzalez. Seeing those lights and their stories continue to play out while also seeing what lies ahead for some names that are still burgeoning. That’s going to be the great excitement, I think, in boxing for 2016.
“It’s a team effort, everything that we do. Everything is about ensuring the highest level of quality for the fans, for our subscribers, so that they could experience a sporting experience where they’re not feeling the layers of politics that go sometimes in boxing unfortunately.”
With the fighters who are currently on the network and with Peter Nelson assuming control, the future looks bright for HBO.
But Nelson is quick to point out that the success of the company rides on consumer demands. Fans want quality over quantity and they don’t mind shelling out their hard-earned money to see the fights for which they clamor.
“Fans want to see great fights. They want to see top-level guys fight top-level guys. They want to see the highest level of competition possible and, quite frankly, the fighters themselves have gravitated to us, who want to prove their place in the pantheon, that prestige to them, as well as the capital. Not the capital, just financially, but the capital both culturally and of being in the Hall of Fame one day, or in terms of people nominating them for ‘Fighter of the Year’ from the Boxing Writers Association of America.
“HBO is a tremendous story-telling platform and we’re in a wonderful position to be able to work with the people and the fighters and their teams in order to try to bring that to life for them so that the fans can get a window into those interior struggles and sacrifices that reveal the kind of moments of greatness that we all sit down to watch sports for.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since Oct. of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing.