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.

PBC on CBS draws 2.7M viewers, outdraws NBA on ABC

March 5, 2017

PBC on CBS Saturday night drew 2.7 million viewers per TV By the Numbers.  The event featuring Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman did better than the NBA on ABC Saturday night.

The NBA game featured the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls.  It drew just 1.69 million viewers.

The title to unify the 147 pound which Thurman won by split decision drew a 0.8 rating in the adult 18-49 demo and a 3 share.

Last year, the CBS-televised event featuring Thurman Shawn Porter drew 2.12 million viewers and a 0.5 rating in the adult 18-49 demo.

In July 2015, a fight featuring Carl Frampton drew a 0.8 share on CBS.

PBC on CBS Saturday night was narrowly edged out in its time slot by a rerun of Chicago PD which drew 2.76 million viewers.

Payout Perspective:

Good numbers for PBC on CBS as this was a much-anticipated fight between two undefeated champions.  PBC will hope to produce more high-level fights and may have found a star in Thurman.  Maybe they do a rematch on PPV or go again on CBS.

PBC on CBS draws 2.12M viewers

June 26, 2016

Television By Numbers reports that PBC on CBS Saturday night drew 2.12 million viewers.  It finished behind ABC and NBC in network ratings for its time slot.

The event, which aired from 9-11pm ET on CBS,  eatured Keith Thurman taking on Shawn Porter with Thurman emerging as the victor in a very good fight.

The event drew a 0.5 rating in the adult 18-49 demo and a 2 share overall.

PBC on CBS went up against the U.S. Olympic Trials on NBC (3.18M viewers) as well as the third place soccer game in the Copa-America Cup on FX and the College World Series on ESPN.  It was third in its time slot behind ABC’s “In an Instant” which drew 3.93M viewers.  Also, earlier in the night Fox aired an MLB game between the Dodgers and Pirates.  It garnered 2.05M viewers.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are better than PBC on NBC last week.  With a lot of live events on competing with boxing, the viewership has to be seen as a positive.  Although just the Olympic trials, NBC does well in the ratings especially when it comes to gymnastics.

PBC on NBC draws 1.32M viewers in overnight ratings

June 19, 2016

Premier Boxing Champions on Saturday night on NBC drew 1.32 million viewers per Television By Numbers.  The rating slightly improves upon its lowest rating on the network this past April.

The event, which aired on the network from 8:30-11:00pm ET featured Andrzez Fonfara and Joe Smith, Jr.  Smith scored an upset over Fonfara with a first round knockout.  Previously, Fonfara was best known to the casual fan as stopping Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.  He would have been the next in line for Adonis Stevenson.

According to TV By Numbers, the PBC drew 0.3 rating in the adult 18-49 demo and a 1 share.

Payout Perspective:

April 2016’s PBC event drew 1.24 million so this rating improves upon its last showing.  The event went up against other live sports on cable TV including the UFC, the U.S. Open Golf Championships and soccer.  Major League Baseball on Fox which featured the Cubs-Pirates drew 2.78 million viewers on Fox from 8-10pm ET.  A rerun of 48 Hours on CBS drew the most viewers on network TV Saturday night with 3.40 million tuning in to the 10pm ET show.

2015: The year in Boxing

January 7, 2016

2015 was a big year for boxing.  It featured the start of a new organization, a return to network television, litigation (of course), controversy and the long-awaited fight people waited years to see.

Mayweather-Pacquiao was the dream matchup that came several years too late.  Still, the fight reaped the rewards due the brand names of its participants.  At a $100 pay per view price point, it was guaranteed to compete for the De La Hoya-Mayweather buy mark.  It far exceeded the 2.1 million PPV buys as the unique co-promotion between Showtime and HBO drew 4.4 million PPV buys.  

The gate at the MGM Grand was an enormous $72 million as there were few, if any, comps for this event.  

The fight itself was not exciting at all and widely criticized.  Post-fight, Pacquiao admitted to having a shoulder injury and his camp placed blame on the NAC for not allowing him to take an injection they thought was allowable.

The news of the injured shoulder sparked outrage and litigation as a variety of lawsuits were filed against Pacquiao, HBO, Showtime, Top Rank and almost everyone else in the vicinity.

Mayweather came under scrutiny later in the year as a piece written for SB Nation by Thomas Hauser indicated that the undefeated fighter was allowed a TUE to rehydrate after weigh-ins the Friday before the fight.  The Hauser piece drew the ire of USADA, the third party regulatory body that oversaw the testing for the event.

Mayweather fought one more time in September and announced his retirement.  His fight against Andre Berto drew the lowest PPV buy rate under his Showtime contract.

Bob Arum announced that Manny Pacquiao’s April 2016 fight will be his last.  It was recently announced that he will fight Tim Bradley for the third time.  

Another big event occurring in 2015 was the advent of Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC).  PBC was all over the networks this year.  It forged deals with SpikeTV, Showtime, NBC Sports Network, Fox, FS1, Bounce TV, ESPN, CBS and NBC.  The return to network television was a big event as it drew 3.13M viewers in March.  In April, it drew  2.9M viewers.  But since the nice starts, the boxing cards rarely make a dent in viewership.

Spike TV also made boxing a part of its “Friday Night Lights Out” promotion which started in March.  Similar to other PBC events, they ratings have decreased since its debut.  

PBC on Spike
Rating Date
869,000 3/13/2015
569,000 4/24/2015
772,000 5/22/2015
446,000 6/12/2015
679,000 8/14/2015
583,000 9/11/2015
315,000 10/16/2015
466,000 11/13/2015
538,000 12/18/2015

The other big business story occurring in boxing in 2015 was the two antitrust lawsuits filed by Top Rank and Golden Boy against Al Haymon and his business partners in federal court in Los Angeles.  The Golden Boy lawsuit (a detailed review here) was filed in May and the Top Rank lawsuit was filed in July.  Both lawsuits are similar in nature as they claim that Al Haymon’s strategy violates antitrust laws.  

An April 2015, a Sports Business Journal article on the finances of PBC may have been a driver toward these lawsuit.  Obviously, one article does not decide whether or not an organization is willing to delve hundreds of thousands of dollars into a lawsuit which may impact the industry of professional boxing, but it did shed light on how Haymon (who is still a very private individual) and how he runs his business.  

The lawsuit is still in its initial stages after several attempts by Haymon to dismiss both lawsuits.  In the Golden Boy lawsuit, he sought a stay of the lawsuit pending the results of an arbitration.  

Haymon did win a motion to dismiss the Top Rank lawsuit this past fall.  However, the court allowed Top Rank to amend its complaint and re-file.  And, a subsequent attempt to dismiss the amended complaint was denied by the court this past Wednesday.

We will see where this lawsuit heads in the coming year.

As for the best of the rest, GGG made his debut as PPV headliner in October and Cotto-Canelo headlined a PPV in November.  GGG drew 150K PPV buys  and Cotto-Canelo drew a reported 900K PPV buys.  

Although Wladmir Klitschko lost his heavyweight title in 2015, he drew the largest rating on HBO for boxing since 2012 when he made a rare New York City title defense this past April.  His upset loss to Tyson Fury drew over 1 million HBO viewers this past November.  

PBC on CBS Saturday posts 0.8 rating

July 20, 2015

Sports Business Daily (subscription required) reports that Saturday afternoon’s Premier Boxing Champions on CBS drew an overnight rating of 0.8 in the 4:00-6:00pm ET time slot.

According to Sports Media Watch, 3 of the 4 PBC events on CBS have failed to earn at least a 1.0 overnight average.  Saturday night’s fight on CBS featured Carl Frampton and Alejandro Gonzalez, Jr. with the IBF super bantamweight champ Frampton earning the win.

The ratings points represent the percent of all households with televisions tuned in, according to Nielsen.

Saturday also featured UFC Fight Night 71 and boxing on Showtime later that evening.  PBC on CBS also went up against The British Open on ABC.

Payout Perspective:

In comparing the ratings from PBC on NBC to CBS.  April’s PBC on NBC drew a 0.80 rating and 2.9 million viewers.  The latest PBC on NBC from June drew a 0.95 rating.  It appears that the PBC cards on the network are slipping slightly in the ratings.

PBC adds FS1 to its stable of networks

June 23, 2015

With two network shows this past weekend, Premier Boxing Champions seems to be on every channel.  You may now include Fox Sports as another network that has added PBC to its programming.

Last week PBC replaced Golden Boy Promotions on FS1 as the network allowed its contract with Golden Boy end and signed a deal with PBC.

The list of networks that air PBC include FS1, NBC, NBC Sports Network, CBS, ESPN, Spike TV and Bounce TV.  Also, PBC has some of its fighters on Showtime.

According to ESPN’s Dan Rafael, it’s not clear if the Fox Sports deal is a time buy like with some of its other deals.  Also, there was no immediate word if the Fox network would air PBC cards.  Expect PBC on FS1 sometime this summer.

Payout Perspective:

PBC replacing Golden Boy on FS1 has to sting especially since Golden Boy is suing Al Haymon and others regarding PBC’s business strategy alleging antitrust violations.  We will see if this move has repercussions with respect to Golden Boy’s lawsuit.  As for viewership, we shall see if PBC does better on FS1 than Golden Boy promoted fights.

PBC adds ESPN, ABC to network stable

March 18, 2015

ESPN reports that “Premier Boxing Champions,” the upstart promotion advised by Al Haymon will replace ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights” starting Saturday, July 11th.  The two year deal will run through July 2017 and include two shows on the ABC network on Saturday afternoons.

The deal with ESPN includes 24 events over the course of the deal and an option by Haymon to hold 6 additional cards.  Haymon will have to pay the fighter purses and other expenses related to the events.  ESPN retains worldwide rights to the fights and editorial control over the broadcast.

Weigh-ins and prelim bouts for the events will be available on ESPN3.com.  PBC will also be available on other digital platforms.

Via ESPN:

Haymon’s investors are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the PBC, which this year already announced deals with NBC/NBCSN (40 shows through 2016), CBS (at least eight shows this year in a multiyear deal), Spike TV (at least 33 monthly shows through 2017) and Bounce TV (monthly prospect-oriented cards beginning in July on the network Haymon helped found in 2011).

Notably, UFC 189 will air on the same night that PBC debuts on ESPN.

Payout Perspective:

Haymon’s PBC is now on, or will be on NBC/NBCSN, CBS, Spike TV, Bounce TV, ESPN and ABC.  Now we know why Haymon has such a robust stable of fighters.  He needs them to fill all of these events.  It’s clear that Haymon and his investors have a strategy and we are seeing it being executed.  There is a long term vision and even if there are setbacks, they are willing to see this through.  The return of boxing to ABC Saturday afternoons should evoke memories for some of ABC’s Wide World of Sports which featured boxing among other sports during the 1970s and 1980s.

At this point PBC’s debuts on NBC and Spike TV have been promising.  But with so many events on so many networks, will the audience dwindle?  We shall see.

Premier Boxing Champions signs deal with CBS Sports and Showtime

February 17, 2015

Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports reports that CBS Sports and Showtime have brokered a deal with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions to be aired on Saturday afternoons.  The sides have agreed to an 8 show deal starting April 4th featuring light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson.

In addition, shoulder programming will assist in promoting the fight cards.

Prior to the announcement on Tuesday, Haymon’s PBC initiated time buys with NBC and NBC Sports Network, Spike TV and now CBS Sports and Showtime.

Payout Perspective:

It’s beginning to look a lot like everyone is an Al Haymon guy.  The boxing landscape for 2015 will have a lot of Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions across multiple networks.  Certainly, this evolving strategy will be fascinating to watch as it is executed.  I am thinking that this investment will come with some blue chip sponsors that would like to advertise along some, if not all of these platforms.

“The One” Payout Perspective

September 16, 2013

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we look at “The One,” the fight between Canelo Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Mayweather dominates in Majority Decision

The look on Mayweather’s face when a Majority Decision was announced was not worth the $75 PPV price tag but it was still pretty good.  Notably, CJ Ross judged the Pacquiao-Bradley fight which makes one wonder if there are no other qualified judges out there.

The 36 year old did what he does in muting a game Canelo Alvarez.  While the judges may have thought it close, there was never a time that Mayweather looked to be in trouble.

Mayweather has indicated that he would like to fight Cinco de Mayo weekend 2014 with Danny Garcia and/or the winner of Amir Khan/Devon Alexander fight. A Khan fight may be the most entertaining based on the styles.  A Danny Garcia fight might be the best for promoting the fight with Angel Garcia and Floyd Sr. as sideshow entertainment.

Alvarez had a decent showing yet it would be hard to find a round you can say he won. People liked his utter disregard for Mayweather’s pleasantries which manifested itself with Canelo refusing to hold the belt with Mayweather post-weigh-in, during the fight a shoulder bump after a Mayweather liver shot and a low blow after having his head pushed down.

MayweatherVsCanelo

Garcia defeats Matthysse in slugfest

Angel Garcia is the father and mouthpiece for Danny Garcia and vowed he’d cut his own head off if his son would lose.  Although Matthysse was the challenger, he was the favorite coming into the fight.  But, Garcia was able to dominate Matthysse despite getting his mouthpiece knocked out (and replayed in slow motion) in the 11th round.  Garcia eventually dropped Matthysse in the same round.

Garcia is an understated champion and hopefully with all the viewers for this event, he’ll grab some fans.

Attendance, gate, etc.

The MGM Grand was a sellout of 16,746 for a record gate of $20,003,150.  The gate was an all-time record.

Moreover, the weigh-ins was at capacity with 12,200 people coming to watch the fighters get on the scale.

Closed circuit viewing of the event in Vegas were a sellout with tickets going for $100 and being sold for $150 on the secondary market.  Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports tweeted that Richard Schaefer indicated that it was a sellout with 26,355 tickets sold.

In addition, more bars across the nation showed the fight and the fight was available in more movie theatres (500) this time around.

Promotion of Fight

An unprecedented 11 city press tour which brought out thousands of fans.  So big was the fight that the Garcia-Matthysse fight was to have its own mini-press tour.

The four episode All Access Showtime show was available online so even if you did not have Showtime, you could check it out.  Nothing dramatic in these episodes, but a good primer for the fight. It was interesting that CBS did not show any of these episodes on the network.

One of the more underrated promotional tools for the fight is CBS Sports Network, Showtime and the 101 Network airing previous Canelo and Mayweather fights.  The best thing about it.  You get to see free PPV-quality fights.

ESPN The Magazine had a “Fight Issue” dedicated to the event and the LA Times also had a special section for “The One.”

Despite all of the platforms to watch the fight, PPV remains the central part of the business.  Although it was a $75 price tag (in HD), expectations are that PPV will exceed 2 million buys.

Via Forbes:

If the bout does hit its ambitious PPV goals, credit the all-out marketing blitz that mixes target markets with mass markets, and high tech with old school media and promotions. In addition to the natural Hispanic market, promoters say they’re going heavily after the youth and female markets, the better to take advantage of Alvarez’s youth and good looks.

On Wednesday or Thursday of fight week, various athletes and stars tweeted out the fact that they had ordered “The One.”  After comparing the tweets, it was obvious that it was part of a social marketing campaign for people to buy the PPV early.

 

Sponsors

The sponsors in the ring included AT&T, Nature Nutrition, Valvoline, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Mexico (we assume the tourism board), Fred Loya Insurance and Corona in the center.  Mexico sponsored the scale at the weigh-ins.

This event included record promotional spending of which CBS supported Showtime with $15-$20 million of promotional spots.

Valvoline offered a $35 rebate for the PPV if you purchased 5 quarts of motor oil.  O’Reilly Auto parts was the presenting sponsor at movie theatres showing the fight.  Corona had promotional displays at 15,000 stores in 32 states.

Canelo Alvarez’s sponsors included Under Armour which included a variety of workout shirts and his ring shoes (via FigherxFashion).  Online sales of his shirts were going at a swift pace.

Danny Garcia’s shorts was a sponsor’s nightmare.  It was hard to see the sponsors on his trunks unless you absolutely focused on them.  I could make out Western Union as one of his sponsors.  Also, Garcia had a Jumpman logo on the front of his trunks but wore Adidas ring shoes.

As if he needed more money, Floyd Mayweather pitched his line of “Money Wear” including shirts starting at $35 and his “TBE” hat going for $70.

Odds and Ends

-The weigh-ins included walk-ins for Matthysse, Garcia, Alvarez and Mayweather.  No one took advantage of the walk-in more than Angel Garcia.

-Lil’ Wayne and Justin Bieber walked to ringside with Mayweather which made him the obvious choice as villain for the main event.  Wayne rapped his way down to the ring without a shirt.  He also watched the entire fight without a shirt either.

-Maybe one of the harder shots Danny Garcia took was when his father hit him in the ear between rounds to wake him up.

-“USA, USA” chants were booed down by the pro-Canelo crowd.  A probable first in the states.

Conclusion

“The One” will go in the books as one of the biggest revenue generating fights in history.  This summary did not even cover the fact that Mayweather will receive a guaranteed $41 million without even factoring in the other revenue streams.  Canelo should receive at least $12 million not counting what he may earn from other revenue streams.

While we note how much will be made from this event, Mayweather Promotions, Golden Boy and Showtime did outlay a lot of money with the hope of scoring big…which it looks like it did.

The marketing and promotion for this fight was all over and despite a $75 price tag, we may see a PPV revenue record broken.  Will it exceed the number of buys of De La Hoya-Floyd (2.5 million)?  Its not clear, but it should be close.

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