Will PBC turn strategy into media rights deal?

April 24, 2017

Sports Business Journal (subscription recommended) reports on the current status of Premier Boxing Champions and its strategy of time buys across a broad landscape of networks.  The article looks at the ratings over the court of the innovative and risky experiment.

The hope was to turn the time buys into a lucrative “rights fees” deal.  This has not happened thus far.  Instead, the strategy has seemed to spread the brand thin and ratings have been sporadic.  Recently, Spike TV decided not to pick up its option for PBC stating that it would focus more on Bellator.

Per the article, there is still an opportunity for a rights fees deal but with the UFC shopping its rights package, there is some competition.  CBS might be a potential landing spot for PBC since it already has a tie-in with Showtime and has a $40 million budget for 2017.  In addition, there is the underutilized CBS Sports Network which could use additional live content.  In leadup to the last couple of PBC fights on CBS or Showtime, CBS Sports Network has shown previous fights of boxers that have upcoming fights on the networks which has served as good shoulder programming marketing the fighters.

One of the concerns for PBC is the lack of sponsors to spend consistently in the sport.  Showtime executive vice president and general manager of sports Stephen Espinoza notes that sponsors is where boxing is “living or dying.”  He believes there needs to be more education of sponsors to show that it has a valuable demo to deliver.

PBC has produced 54 cards in the last 12 months that aired across nine channels.  The highest average it has produced was 2.75 million viewers on CBS for two shows.  Its most-viewed show was a Sunday afternoon fight on NBC in August between Errol Spence-Leonard Bundu which aired immediately after the men’s basketball gold medal game.  The fight drew over 4.8 million viewers with a peak of 6.34 million.  More recently, last month’s Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia fight drew an average of 3.1 million viewers with the fight drawing 3.74 million and peaking at 5.1 million.  In February, the return of Adrien Broner on Showtime drew 779,000 of its network subscribers.

Payout Perspective:

The article notes that PBC is at a crossroads in its business model.  Based on the TV ratings, the time buy strategy has not been effective.  Despite the fact, the strategy has not produced desired results the article notes the last couple of events for PBC have produced good ratings highlighted by Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia on CBS.  We should see some decent ratings for Thurman-Andre Berto on Showtime this past Saturday.  Will PBC survive past 2017?  Better events, promoting its top fighters and maintaining a focused network strategy should help a turn around.  Of course, the networks and sponsors which would infuse PBC with an injection of money would help a business that has seeped money since the beginning.

5 Responses to “Will PBC turn strategy into media rights deal?”

  1. d on April 24th, 2017 8:58 PM

    The writing has been on the wall for a long time with PBC. It was a poor decision to begin with due to the high cost to produce the events vs the highly uncertain ratings return.

    With Spike out, NBC out, FOX probably not interested due to their UFC contract, the amount of potentially interested parties is limited. Even if someone like CBS is interested, one has to wonder if they would be willing to pay what is required to keep this afloat, and from what I’ve seen, it seems unlikely. PBC would have to slash their budget-notably in purses, which in turn, would bring in lesser fighters to headline fights, lowering ratings, which for obvious reasons will not work in the long run even if a deal is signed. Just comparing a potential deal for PBC with CBS to the UFC’s deal with FOX, Zuffa’s tv deal for 100m per year was manageable because of the low cost to produce the events and lower fight payroll. Some of these purse payouts that PBC has had for tv fights have hit around 5m. That’s unsustainable and unfortunately for them, is the only way they hit those top ratings. You take away those purses, you take away those big matchups, then goes the ratings. Bottom line, if PBC continues, anyone involved in it is just going to continue with the money pit this league has turned into.

    I honestly believe Haymon and Caldwell’s motivation was to skim money from the hedge fund and if it worked out, then that would be a bonus. They knew going into this venture, it was extremely unlikely to work. I wonder how that lawsuit is coming along from Caldwell’s investors who are suing him and the SEC’s investigation. Should be very interesting when the books finally close on PBC.

  2. Jess on April 24th, 2017 10:27 PM

    One of PBCs big mistakes was making time buys with multiple networks. They never had a big enough pool of stars to sustain so many shows. They would have one good card which would bring good to great ratings only to be followed by multiple weak cards which would generate appropriately weak ratings. They should have been on one or two networks only. Fewer better cards that maximized their limited star pool would have produced more consistent ratings.

  3. Joey Vagas on April 25th, 2017 11:10 AM

    The Heavyweight Division can be made into something bigger than Boxing and Anything else they put on TV. There has been some big fights “around” the Heavyweight Division for a long time now. Remember Floyd and Manny started out as Featherweight and Lightweight. The public thirsts for heavyweights nothing else. The last few years has been a lull in the action. PBC getting into the Heavyweight Division with a mix of personalitys would be genius now is the time to make the move.

  4. Wil on April 25th, 2017 12:37 PM

    Jess, agreed on the multiple networks. I forsee the brand being purchased by CBS/Showtime….Showtime already pays for PBC promotions and the fights on CBS primetime have been huge ratings wins.
    The current smaller contender level fights will go from FS1 to CBS Sports.

  5. Cutch on April 25th, 2017 6:04 PM

    They basically fill up air time on FS1, usually under 200,000 on a Tuesday and Fox pays a small amount, Golden Boy has a similar deal a few years back

    They were never going to get paid to be on 2 free networks,the NFL is on 3, NBA,MLB & NHL are on 1 and cable channels.

    CBS would just be the same as before except their cards on Showtime, maybe a few in CBS with the hope of getting a PPV star, CBS sports network is tiny, I think they ate in 30-40 million homes and shows no big sports.

Got something to say?

You must be logged in to post a comment.