UPDATE, MONDAY AM: A lot of great news for Liev Schreiber this morning. His deal with Showtime to star in the drama pilot Ray Donovan formally closed, and the network just made the official announcement. And, in what appears to be a change of heart, HBO Sports has renewed its overall deal with the actor to continue to be the voice of virtually all HBO documentaries as well as the 24/7 reality series, and the NFL reality series Hard Knocks. During the lengthy negotiations, HBO had considered not to re-up the overall with Schreiber and open up the field to other narrators, but in the end it extended Schreiber. I hear that the actor’s Showtime series contract allows for that.
PREVIOUS, SUNDAY PM: With a deal to star in Showtime’s pilot Ray Donovan, Liev Schreiber may one day become the face of the pay cable network. But at the same time, it looks like he will no longer be the exclusive voice of the sports division of rival HBO. I’ve learned that HBO is planning not to renew its overall deal with the actor to be the the voice of HBO Sports, which has included narrating virtually all HBO sports documentaries, the 24/7 reality series, and the NFL reality series Hard Knocks. HBO is not severing ties with Schreiber, who has been voicing HBO Sports’ programs for the past 16 years. “Liev is set to start work next week on his next HBO Sports project, 24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the NHL Winter Classic, HBO Sports said in a statement, declining further comment. I hear that Schreiber also is scheduled to do another HBO Sports project in January.
According to an HBO source, the network does not plan to sign an overall deal with another actor, opting for a variety of voices. Since starting in 1995, Schreiber has narrated almost all HBO Sports documentaries. (One of very few exceptions was the 2003 Red Sox docu The Curse Of The Bambino, voiced by die-hard Red Sox fan Ben Affleck). He has narrated all but one edition of Hard Knocks since the series’ launch in 2001 (the Kansas City Chiefs edition in 2007 was done by Paul Rudd), and of 24/7 since its 2007 start.
The move coincides with the leadership change at HBO Sports. Ken Hershman was recently tapped as new HBO Sports president, and he will join the pay cable channel in January. But it also coincided with Schreiber’s high-profile casting as the lead in Showtime’s pilot Ray Donovan in the feature actor’s first regular series gig, with some saying that the decision by HBO was made shortly after the announcement of Schreiber’s Showtime casting. Others inside HBO insist the two are not related.