UFC, Soccer Movie in HBO Sports Pipeline

May 14, 2007  •  Post A Comment

While HBO enjoyed the glow of its record-setting boxing pay-per-view boxing match last week, the pay cable network was working on a range of other signature sports projects.

HBO and Ultimate Fighting Championship, which has gained popularity as boxing audiences have fallen off, are in discussions about a mixed martial arts series that would start later this year.

In addition, a feature film about the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, a historical documentary about the late boxer Joe Louis and a piece about the legendary college football rivalry between the University of Michigan and The Ohio State University are among the programming projects percolating at HBO Sports, according to the division’s president, Ross Greenburg.

Mr. Greenburg confirmed the talks with UFC during a May 5 interview for the TVWeek.com feature Mel’s Diner. He said he is “down the road with them” on a deal.

HBO Sports and UFC are “two very powerful brands,” he said, adding, “We have respect for them as producers and broadcasters.”

Mr. Greenburg called UFC “the premier branded mixed martial arts league” and said he is impressed with “the rooting interest in the lives of the fighters” UFC has engendered among its fan base. With the recent four-part HBO boxing series “24/7,” Mr. Greenburg’s team aimed likewise to offer fans a glimpse into the personalities and lives of Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. leading up to their May 5 bout, which HBO Pay Per View carried live.

A script for the soccer movie is in development, and David Aaron Cohen (“Friday Night Lights”) is attached as the writer, Mr. Greenburg said. It’s based on the HBO Sports documentary “Dare to Dream,” which focused on how five soccer stars — Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly and Joy Fawcett — inspired young women.

Should the movie be made, it would be released by Picturehouse, HBO’s feature film collaboration with sibling Time Warner company New Line. The working title is “Dare to Dream,” which could get shortened to “Dream.”

Mr. Greenburg’s intended path for the project would be similar to how the 2004 motion picture “Miracle” came to life. He executive produced the 1980 film about the U.S. Olympic hockey team, which was based on HBO Sports’ documentary “Do You Believe in Miracles?”

The Joe Louis story is one of “triumph, tragedy, really every spectrum of emotion,” Mr. Greenburg said. He said most people do not realize how much of a true American hero Mr. Louis was and that his story is one that needs to be told.

The Michigan-Ohio State show is expected to air Nov. 13 on HBO, four days before the teams play each other. It features an interview with the late Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, taped the day before he died last fall. His death occurred the day before Michigan and Ohio State played each other last year.


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