Boxing’s reemergence on television
June 15, 2012
The SBJ’s Fight Issue includes an article on boxing’s regular return to television. The article cites the emergence of better packaging of the sport as well as the need for more live content programming as reasons for its return.
The article reports on how networks are utilizing boxing for television purposes. As an example, Showtime is using more of the undercard and televising it on Showtime Extreme in promotion of the main card. The additional cost for production of the prelim card is minimal.
HBO has provided shoulder programming complementing the 24/7 series with “2 days: Portrait of a Fighter” – a 15 minute show going behind the scenes of 48 hours in the life of a fighter. HBO also includes the “Face Off” series with Max Kellerman in which the fighters face off with one another and a new series entitled, “The Fight Game” with Jim Lampley.
NBC’s Fight Night is aided through its rebroadcast of the live events as it sees positive ratings for the reruns which also air on Comcast regional sports networks.
The rebirth of boxing on television is being attributed to the growth of sports networks and the need for live programming. Top Rank Boxing President Todd DuBoef told SBJ the success of boxing on television is due to better packaging of boxing as a product with the addition of shoulder programming and additional promotion from media companies such as Time Warner and CBS. One need only look to HBO’s 24/7 on CNN and Showtime’s 360 show appearing on CBS last year for Pacquiao-Mosley as examples.
Some interesting numbers from the article:
The Mayweather-Cotto fight received $94 million on 1.5 million buys.
The Pacquiao-Bradley fight is expected to receive 1.2 million buys.
NBC Fight Night received 264,000 viewers for its first card in January and 283,000 viewers for its second card in March. Only IndyCar and NHL have produced higher ratings on the NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus). Of course, there has not been much on the network in the first half of this year.
How much does the Pacquiao-Bradley fight hurt boxing? We might answer that by saying that the decision could hurt boxing PPV but maybe not boxing on TV. Despite what happened on Saturday, HBO saw a 10% increase since 2010 in its viewership of World Championship Boxing on its network. Also, NBC Sports and Fox have entered into deals for boxing over its network. These deals were nonexistent several years ago.
One of the underlying themes in the boxing comeback is pushing promoters for better matchups and exciting fights. Showtime has pushed for this to air its undercard on Showtime Extreme prior to the main card on the main Showtime channel. NBC Sports Network will not work with promoters that appear to be protecting their fighters from an upset possibility.
The interesting part of this article is the belief that boxing is a good complement to UFC programming whereas one might construe this differently 10-15 years ago. Undoubtedly, the UFC has taken over television and despite its recent decline in the ratings, the UFC content has been a constant on television for several years now whereas boxing (excluding ESPN’s Friday Night Fights) is finally making inroads back to viewers.