Report outlines Top Rank’s path to its ESPN deal

November 22, 2017

Last week’s Sports Business Journal reported on ESPN’s return to boxing.  The article focused on Top Rank’s deal with ESPN this past July and how it transitioned from premium cable to basic cable.

There was interest from Top Rank into obtaining a rights fee deal the likes of the UFC and Fox.  A key point was shoulder programming which would help with promoting the fights.  Top Rank Boxing president Todd DuBoef analyzed the promotion’s ratings on HBO and saw that they were comparable to the shows the UFC put on FS1 and thought there might be interest for shopping his rights with the knowledge that the UFC was doing the same.  DuBoef sought help from CAA about the possibility.

According to the SBJ article, there were three reasons for ESPN’s dive back into boxing:

One is the opportunity to capture all of the promoter’s fighters and fights, without the concern that the stars they develop will then move to premium cable. Another is the soon-to-be launched OTT service, which will rely on deeply engaged fans who will pay for content like Top Rank’s fight library, and also brings the distribution of pay-per-view into play. The third is the data narrative that DuBoef and CAA brought to the initial conversation.

The article notes that Al Haymon’s PBC was an archetype for Top Rank to gage the level of interest boxing may have with a broader audience.  The interesting take is that despite the sport skewing to the older demographic, it grabbed a slice of the 18-49 demo.  PBC’s business model to buy time on the air with the hope to “flip” the model has not worked.  The article notes that deposition testimony from the litigation involving PBC professes that the flipping of the script for PBC to turn the model for networks to pay for PBC rights was to have occurred in 2018.

Ratings reflect that young male demo is watching boxing.  The first Top Rank fight featuring Manny Pacquiao taking on Jeff Horn drew well in the 18-34 demo as 836,000 of them tuned in when Pacquiao stepped in against his Aussie challenger in July.  The next month, a fight featuring Vasyl Lomachenko beat out a UFC Fight Night in the demo 137,000 to 109,000 and 317,000 to 271,000 for males 18-49.  Although the UFC show on FS1 fared better overall, the ratings saw the younger male demo scoring better.  In September a Top Rank card headlining Oscar Valdez drew better than a UFC Fight Night on FXX.  Boxing beat the UFC 706,000 to 502,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

It’s an interesting article because of the perceived newfound partnership between each party and its duties with the main goal of attracting a broader audience which includes a younger demographic.  There is an inference that television boxing consumption skews to the older demographic which may be true.  However, there is a sense that the premium channels on which boxing aired, as well as the lack of advertisements on those networks were key factors as to the older demo.  The ESPN deal helps both boxing and the network.  ESPN gets live content while boxing has the chance to be viewed by a broader audience and will be aided by programming that will help its own events on the network.  So far, ratings seem to show that it is successful.  We shall see how it does in the long run.  As of now, it seems that Top Rank has learned from PBC’s falters in what works on the network and what does not.

4 Responses to “Report outlines Top Rank’s path to its ESPN deal”

  1. Fighterx on November 24th, 2017 8:22 AM

    Is it possible that pbc has a deal with fox/fs1

  2. Fighterx on November 24th, 2017 8:22 AM

    Is it possible that pbc has a deal with fox/fs1

  3. Jason Cruz on November 25th, 2017 1:51 PM

    would not rule it out

  4. Jesse on November 27th, 2017 11:53 PM

    top rank is making some smart moves.

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