HBO is ending ‘Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel’ after 29 years

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“Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel,” the monthly HBO sports newsmagazine that has won accolades for hard-hitting stories over its 29-year run, is coming to an end.

The program hosted by Gumbel will finish its run with its current season, a representative for HBO said Wednesday. No reason was cited.

“Since day one at ‘Real Sports’ we’ve consistently tried to look beyond the scoreboard, and focus instead on the many societal issues inherent in the world of sports,” Gumbel said in a statement. “In the process we’ve had the opportunity to tell complex stories about race, gender, class, opportunity and so much more. Being able to do so at HBO for almost three decades has been very gratifying. I’m proud of the imprint we’ve made, so I’m ready to turn the page. Although goodbyes are never easy, I’ve decided that now’s the time to move on.”

Gumbel, 74, has considered ending the show for the last several years, according to people close to him who were not authorized to comment.

Along with hosting, Gumbel was deeply involved in the editorial direction of the program. Earlier this year, Gumbel was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the 44th Sports Emmy Awards.

HBO’s”Real Sports” was one of the last places TV viewers could see reporting and commentary that could make sports league offices uncomfortable.

Critical TV coverage of major sports has become more challenging over the last decade as media companies are heavily reliant on live games to provide programming, especially for traditional television networks.

“Real Sports” was particularly aggressive in covering the deaths of thousands of migrant workers who built facilities in Qatar for the last World Cup soccer tournament. The program also frequently examined the long-term impact of concussions on football and hockey players.

In a 2017 interview with The Times, Gumbel said HBO executives always insulated him from any complaints from leagues who were subjects of “Real Sports” stories.

HBO’s executive team has largely stayed in place, but the network has undergone two ownership changes since and is now part of Warner Bros. Discovery. New ownership has been reducing costs across the board as it tries to reduce its debt and adjust to consumers shifting to streaming video.

But Gumbel also noted in 2017 that identifying journalists able to deliver the kind of painstaking, in-depth work he wanted on the program had become more difficult.

“Finding people who can do long-form journalism is almost extinct because young people coming into the business don’t have a chance to do long-form journalism,” he said. “They do 30 seconds here, 45 seconds there, and that’s it. It’s hard to find good people.”

“Real Sports” has won three George Foster Peabody Awards, the last being in 2015 for a report on how trophy hunting devastated the elephant population in Africa.

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