Loma-Rigo draw 1.73M viewers on ESPN Saturday night

December 12, 2017

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Saturday night drew 1,730,000 million viewers.  It is the second-highest rating for Top Rank since partnering the network in July.

The event featured Vasiliy Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeux in the main event.  Loma easily earned the victory when the Cuban challenger quit on the stool due to a hand injury.

The highest-rated event was the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight which averaged 2.8 million viewers and peaked at 4.4 million.  Although there was no peak viewership disclosed for Saturday’s event (yet), the Loma-Rigo fight likely had the highest peak viewership since Pacquiao-Horn.

According to Nielsen, via ShowBuzz Daily, it drew 0.59 viewers in the A18-49 demo and 0.84 with males in the 18-49 demo.  It drew 0.52 in the A18-34 demo.

The telecast was preceded by The Heisman Trophy Presentation which drew 2,175,000 and 0.58 in the A18-49 demo.

Payout Perspective:

Good ratings for an event featuring two fighters in the 130-pound division.  It’s rare that you find a lot of interest in a fight involving fighters in the smaller weight divisions but Lomachenko and Rigondeux were Olympic gold medalists and Loma is considered one of the best in the world.  The true test will be to see if Top Rank can continue to put on fights that will increase visibility for its boxers.

Loma-Rigo 2nd highest rated boxing telecast on cable this year

December 10, 2017

Last night’s Vasiliy Lomachenko-Guillermo Rigondeaux fight was the second highest-rated boxing telecast on cable in 2017 according to Nielsen overnight ratings via ESPN.  The fight which was won by Lomachenko, was second only to the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight this past July.

Although no viewership ratings are yet available, Nielsen indicates that it drew a 1.3 metered market rating.  Pacquiao-Horn drew 2.4 rating.  Third and fourth on the list of highest-rated shows were the two undercards on Saturday night.  Shakur Stevenson vs. Oscar Mendoza and Michael Conlan-Luis Molina drew 1.1 metered market ratings on ESPN.

Payout Perspective:

The Heisman Trophy Presentation which preceded the big night of boxing likely helped the event.  The lead-in is one of the reasons why Top Rank decided to move to ESPN.  Lomachenko-Rigondeaux was a marquee matchup from the time it was announced and it received major hype from boxing community and many casuals were interested.  Without knowing the UFC or Bellator numbers, its clear this event was the main viewership for combat sporting events on Saturday night.

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.

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN draws 1.487M viewers Saturday night

November 14, 2017

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Saturday night drew 1.487 million viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The main event saw Jose Ramirez defeat Mike Reed in a junior welterweight matchup.  The victory keeps Ramirez in line for a shot at the title vacated by Terrence Crawford.  In addition, Artur Beterbiev beat down Enrico Koelling to win the vacant IBF World Light Heavyweight title and remains undefeated.

Surprisingly, the ratings rank 2nd behind the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight for Top Rank Boxing on ESPN.  The event’s lead-in was the Alabama-Mississippi State game which drew over 7 million viewers.

Headliners for Top Rank on ESPN since July 2016 and the telecast overall rating:

7/1/17:  Pacquiao-Horn – 2.812 million

8/19/17:  Crawford-Indongo – 965,000

8/05/17:  Lomachenko-Marriaga – 728,000

9/23/17:  Valdez-Servania – 706,000

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are a success for Top Rank as the fighters on the card are not really known to the casual boxing fan.  Still, the placement on ESPN after a big college football game likely aided the ratings in this case.  It is hard to think that this telecast did far much better than one with Terrence Crawford or Vasyl Lomachenko on it.

Top Rank and Plaintiffs in Antitrust Lawsuit Resolve Discovery Dispute

October 2, 2017

Top Rank and the Plaintiffs in the UFC Antitrust Lawsuit have resolved their discovery dispute regarding a motion to compel production of documents and for the attendance of the deposition of Bob Arum.

A notice of resolution was filed late last week.  The agreement between the parties avoids a motion to compel brought by Plaintiffs in the Zuffa Antitrust lawsuit seeking financial information and the deposition of company head Bob Arum.

Resolution Re Top Rank Motion to Compel by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Originally, the motion was to be heard in early September but was continued until later in the month, but the parties came to an agreement.

Top Rank argued that a subpoena for the production of documents from the company was not relevant to the Zuffa lawsuit.  It also argued that the Plaintiffs failed to show a “substantial need” for Top Rank’s information. It also stated that the Plaintiffs’ document request were overly burdensome.

Top Rank Oppo to Motion to Compel by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Plaintiffs argued that they were entitled to the discovery as it is relevant to their lawsuit against Zuffa, there is a substantial need for the documents and believe the discovery is not overly burdensome.

Reply to Opposition to Top Rank MTC by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

Top Rank noted in its opposition that it “cannot have it both ways.”  It argued that in its lawsuit it claimed that the “relevant market” was limited to the sport of MMA and noted that it was different from boxing.  Yet, it was requesting “ten years’ worth of revenue, profit, loss and payment information.”  Yet, Top Rank claimed that However the Plaintiffs lawsuit against them, claimed that it had differentiated itself from pro boxing and thus its financial information was not relevant to the instant lawsuit.

Top Rank argues that the document requests are intrusive and it is a way for Plaintiffs’ experts to “compare financial data from Top Rank’s promotion of boxing events to Zuffa’s promotion of MMA events and create “benchmark percentages of revenues.”  Moreover, it claims that Plaintiffs do not explain why they are unable to obtain this information from other sources.  Top Rank’s opposition brief claims it has told Plaintiffs where it might obtain public data about the company.

Top Rank lists some of the requests in its brief:

REQUEST NO. 1: Your Company’s Income Statements, including event-level profit and loss statements for the Relevant Time Period [defined to be from January 1, 2005 to present], including without limitation All Documents, including depositions, declarations, affidavits, or other statements under oath, You produced in any lawsuits or arbitrations, or to any governing athletic commission or sanctioning body, relating to TOP RANK’s accounting of its revenues, expenses, and profits.

• REQUEST NO. 2: Data in as granular form as it is maintained (itemized ledger entries, if they exist) sufficient to show all bout-related revenues and expenses (including for championship bouts, bouts where victory leads to championship, and all other Professional Boxing Events), payments made to individual Professional Boxers (including purses, bonuses, pay-per view, and any other event and non-event related payments), and non-bout related revenues and expenses.

• REQUEST NO. 3: To the extent not included in Your response to Request Nos. 1 and 2 above, documents sufficient to substantiate Bob Arum’s statement that TOP RANK pays 80% of event revenue to the Professional Boxers who participate in bouts promoted by TOP RANK….

• REQUEST NO. 4: A Representative Sample of All Agreements between TOP RANK and any Boxers, relating to participation in a Professional Boxing Fight or Professional Boxing Event, and any Documents and Communications relating to the negotiation, termination, cancellation or transfer thereof. Responsive Documents include, without limitation, executed Agreements, draft Agreements, side letters, all negotiations between TOP RANK and any Boxer, including any Professional Boxer,
or their agents, managers, promoters, or other representatives (regardless of whether such negotiations resulted in an executed Agreement), copies of any form agreements; and all Documents relating to the effects any such actual or potential Agreements between TOP RANK and any Athlete, including any professional Boxer, had on TOP RANK’s revenues, valuation, or ability to operate profitably as a Boxing Promoter.

Zuffa Plaintiffs claim that the information is vital for their case and that the UFC denied the differences between boxing and MMA in its answer to the lawsuit with the inference that they were interchangeable.  Notably, in its Reply brief it claimed that the business of promoting fights is the same for all combat sports.

Payout Perspective:

Plaintiffs Reply Brief includes quotes from Lou DiBella and Dana White’s deposition but most of the citations are redacted.  The order which spells out what Top Rank and the Plaintiffs had agreed upon is heavily redacted so we specifically do not know what the parties agreed to provide and whether or if the deposition of Bob Arum will take place.  It could be that Top Rank agreed to provide a portion of documents so long as Arum is not deposed and/or someone else within the company is deposed.

GGG-Canelo replay on HBO draws 726,000 viewers

September 26, 2017

HBO’s Boxing telecast which included a replay of the GGG-Canelo fight drew 726,000 viewers via Nielsen.  The live fight of the telecast drew 687,000 viewers.

Saturday night’s event which replayed GGG-Canelo peaked at 840,000 viewers and drew 0.24 in the A18-49 demo.

The fight between Jorge Linares and Luke Campbell peaked at 726,000 viewers and drew 0.23 in the A18-49 demo.  Linares won via split decision.

Canelo PPV replays on HBO:

Canelo-JCC, Jr:  769,000

Canelo-Khan:  767,000

Canelo-Smith: 459,000

Canelo-Cotto:  901,000

Payout Perspective:

Despite the hype for this fight it is only third on the above list in terms of replay viewership.  This is surprising considering the draw and how most thought this

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Friday night draws 706,000 viewers

September 25, 2017

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Friday night drew 706,000 viewers on ESPN according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The event featured title defenses by Oscar Valdez and Gilbert Ramirez.

The ratings for the event are the best thus far for Friday night boxing on ESPN since the agreements with Golden Boy and Top Rank went into place earlier this year.

The Valdez-Genesis Servania ended the night of fights which started at 11:42pm ET.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are promising as these Friday night fights are used to promote up and coming fighters.  Those that tuned in to see Valdez-Servania saw a great action-packed fight.  Notably, Top Rank Boxing did much better than the UFC on FXX Friday night which drew just 502,000 viewers for its main card and 416,000 for the prelims.

Appeal to 9th Circuit for plaintiffs that felt duped from Pac-May fight

September 20, 2017

Late last month, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed the class action lawsuit by plaintiffs claiming that they were duped by the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight in May 2015 due to the fact Pacquiao did not disclose a previous shoulder injury.

Despite the order dismissing the case, the plaintiffs have filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  But first, let’s look at the facts and the district court opinion.

Order Dismissing Pacquiao-Mayweather Boxing Match PPV Litigation by JASONCRUZ206 on Scribd

As we know, Manny Pacquiao faced Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Mayweather won via unanimous decision.  After the fight, Pacquiao indicated that he had an injury.  However, the facts would suggest that this was never disclosed prior to the fight.  In fact, on his pre-fight questionnaire, he did not indicate an issue with his shoulder.

Many believed that the injured shoulder was a factor in the outcome of the fight.  Those that paid for the fight on PPV ($100), bought a seat at the venue or watched on closed circuit or in a movie theatre were angered that they did not see the best Pacquiao and/or the injury was not disclosed.  Obviously, something like this has a trickle-down impact to the consumer but also to those that placed money on the fight.

Lawsuits were filed as a result and were subsequently consolidated to this court.  Plaintiffs allege that “Defendants were motivated by huge profits” to continue with the fight despite the alleged injury.  They claim that they affirmatively concealed the injury in promotion of the fight.

Attorneys for Pacquiao, Mayweather, Top Rank, Mayweather Promotions, and its related entitites filed a Motion to Dismiss the lawsuits.  On August 25th, the district court agreed with the defendants that this lawsuit should be dismissed.

The opinion emphasized that the legal system is not the proper place for unhappy fans to vent their anger over a result of a sporting event.  The court made a determination as to whether to determine the complaints per a “license approach “to assess the rights of fans that purchase a ticket to a sporting event.  Under this approach, purchasers are entitled to “nothing more than a revocable license” regardless of what transpires at the event.  However, the court noted that this specific issue was a novel occurrence and it had to determine whether it should apply this standard.

The court did cite to a ticketholder/PPV purchaser case from 2000 where Mike Tyson was sued after a fight between Tyson and Evander Holyfield.  You may recall that this was the bout where Tyson infamously bit Holyfield’s ear.  Plaintiffs in that case claimed that Tyson’s plan was to get disqualified if he could not win and this was a “premediated plan” to end the fight.  In that case, the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was dismissed and the appeal upheld the dismissal rationalizing that fans got what they paid for.

In addition to the “license approach,” the opinion discusses a set of cases which do not use the theory.  Instead, this line of cases have had plaintiffs assert their legal rights when sports teams allegedly lie to promote ticket sales.  Two lawsuits involve professional teams that were moving but did not tell their fan base and one case in which a team stated it was financially able to finish a hockey season but folded 13 games into the season.

So, the court determined which of these approaches it should take.  Either the “License approach” cases which resulted in no legally cognizable injury or the lawsuits against sports teams which reflects a legally cognizable injury.

The court found the “License approach” was the correct application since the alleged omissions and misrepresentations were based on athletic competition (i.e, concealing Pacquiao’s injury).

From the opinion:

The Court holds that a misrepresentation or omission implicates the core of athletic competition, and therefore does not constitute a cognizable injury to a legally protected interest under the license approach, if it is related to: (A) competitive strategy, or (B) the quality or outcome of competitive performance.

It’s also noteworthy that the court argues public policy as to why it ruled against the Plaintiffs here:

Thus, allowing sports fans to sue over the vicissitudes of competitive sports could destroy the
very thing that makes sports fandom so special. A holding in favor of Plaintiffs in this case could be construed to require near total transparency in sports, whereby any inflated, unreliable, or cryptic prevent statements would beget lawsuits. Gone would be the days of headstrong athletes declaring their complete readiness to destroy their opponents. Athletes would never again publicly predict that they will prevail, or even conclude that an event will be exciting. Sports teams and athletes might even be required to disclose the weak spots in their game plans or preparations before every event for all to see (including their opponents).

The judicial opinion is highlighted by a cite to a Joe Rogan podcast related to the uncertainty of sports.  The court commented that the “unpredictability and uncertainty” of competitive sports is important to it.  The point is that the unexpected nature of sport is inherent in sport and expected by fans.

Payout Perspective:

At first read, you wonder why Plaintiffs have decided to appeal this case to the 9th Circuit.  There’s a lot of money that goes into an appeal and the success rate seems in doubt.  However, if you read the opinion closely, you can tell that the district court is making up their own law as they go.  Perhaps that’s a little strong, but they are definitely applying a legal standard they feel is right for this circumstance.  While the “license approach” has been used to decide cases in disgruntled fan lawsuits in the past, there is no real precedent setting case (as the court notes in the opinion).  Thus there’s a line of cases which could be helpful to Plaintiffs but is not applied.  Moreover, the public policy as argued by the Court gives us the old “slippery slope” argument which I personally take offense.  Even if you think that this is ridiculous to follower, there is a telling piece of law here that may be more important than whether someone gets their $100 back.

 

Mayweather-McGregor replay on Showtime draws 549,000

September 6, 2017

The replay of The Money Fight on Showtime this past Saturday drew 549,000 viewers per Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  In addition, an epilogue of All Access which followed immediately after drew 291,000 viewers.

The Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight drew 549,000 Showtime subscribers and 0.15 in the A18-49 demo for the 42 minutes it aired on the network starting at 9:23pm ET.  It was a stand-alone presentation as it was not coupled with any live fights.

Previous PPV replays of note:

Mayweather-Pacquiao:  1.18M on HBO (coupled with Canelo-Kirkland)

Canelo-Chavez, Jr.:  769,000 on HBO

Canelo-Smith:  459,000 on HBO

Canelo-Khan:  767,000 on HBO

Canelo-Cotto:  901,000 on HBO

Mayweather-Berto:  587,000 on Showtime

Payout Perspective:

Maybe everyone saw the fight the previous Saturday or the opening weekend of college football detracted from the viewership.  The Labor Day Weekend likely took away some of the network subscribers from the ratings.  In comparison, the Mayweather-Pacquiao replay drew almost double the viewership although it was coupled with the live event of Canelo-Kirkland.  You might recall that event drew the best boxing ratings on HBO since 2006.

Top Rank announces ESPN deal including OTT service

August 28, 2017

On Saturday, Top Rank Boxing announced a deal with ESPN that will bring the promotion to the network as well as obtaining the fight library which shall be a part of a streaming service that will launch in 2018.

Taking advantage of the assembled media in Las Vegas for the Mayweather-McGregor fight, the company announced a multi-year deal that will bring boxing to the cable network.

The Hollywood Report reports the deal will create a “direct-to-consumer boxing vertical with international reach.”  It will also get a minimum of 16 fights a year to run on ESPN or ABC primetime “with a minimum of two additional direct-to-consumer live boxing cards exclusive to ESPN’s upcoming multisport digital service that’s set to launch in early 2017.”  There will also be other boxing content including studio shows, documentaries and other boxing programming.  Perhaps one of the jewels of the deal is that ESPN is getting the rights, and archival fights will be available on the ESPN OTT service.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Payout Perspective:

Thus far, Top Rank on ESPN has done well in the ratings and with more talented fighters appearing on the network, ratings should continue to blossom.  It was a matter of time for boxing to take advantage of an OTT service and this deal looks like subscribers will be able to access Top Rank’s vast fight library on ESPN’s upcoming OTT service.  The new deal may mean a shift in the business model of Top Rank as one might imagine that it will pivot from PPV and focus on its deal with ESPN.  The deal will allow for a number of fights it could take to premium cable although ESPN has certain rights to those as well.

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