Pacquiao-Horn scores huge ratings for ESPN Saturday night

July 3, 2017

According to Nielsen, the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight drew a 1.8 metered market rating which makes it the highest-rated boxing event on ESPN this decade.

Horn scored a controversial win over Pacquiao to win the WBO Welterweight belt.  The main event delivered a 2.4 overnight rating.

It will be interesting to see how it did up against the networks on Saturday as NBC showed a NASCAR event and Fox aired an MLB game.

It was the first event in a newly forged deal between Top Rank and ESPN.

The Ratings Buffet for the week ending June 30th

June 30, 2017

Welcome to another week of The Ratings Buffet.  We have been a little late with posting this week.  Note the TUF Episode rating is down from last week but up from TUF 24’s Episode 11.


Bellator 180 on Spike TV 8:00-10:00pm ET:  758,000 viewers

Bellator 180 on CMT:  143,000 viewers

HBO Boxing Replay Ward/Kovalev2 at 10:00pm ET 752,000 viewers/316 viewers in the A18-49 demo


UFC Fight Night 112 Prelims on FS2 at7:00pm ET: 319,000 viewers/157,000 in the A18-49 demo

UFC Fight Night Main Card on FS1 at 9:00pm ET:  819,000 viewers/427,000 in the A18-49 demo


WWE Monday Night Raw on USA

8:00pmET 2.887 million viewers

9:00pm ET 3.092 million viewers

10:00pm ET 2.951 million viewers


WWE Smackdown on USA at 8:00-10:00pm ET 2.603 million viewers #1 in cable for Tuesday night.

UFC Fight Flashback on FS1 at 8:00-8:30pm ET: 130,000 viewers


TUF 25 Episode 11 at 10:00pm ET 369,000 viewers

TUF Talk on FS1 at 11:00pm ET 121,000 viewers

Lucha Underground on ElRey 8:00pm ET 112,000 and immediate replay at 9:00pm ET drew 77,000 viewers


Impact Wresting on Pop at 8:00pm: 268,000 viewers

Golden Boy-ESPN announce TV deal

January 20, 2017

Golden Boy Promotions and ESPN have entered into an agreement to air the promotion’s fights on the sports network according to ESPN. The first of 42 fights will begin airing in March.

The events will take place on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights which will mark a return to boxing on ESPN.

Tecate will sponsor the series which will air on ESPN2 and be simulcast in Spanish on ESPN Deportes. The agreement has scheduled 18 fights in 2017 and 24 in 2018.  There is an option for a third year.

Notably, the ESPN article indicates that the exclusivity provision with ESPN and PBC was eliminated as part of the settlement with Top Rank Boxing’s antitrust lawsuit last year. Golden Boy’s lawsuit against Al Haymon continues with a pending motion for summary judgment yet to be decided.  The trial is set for March, the week prior to the debut of Golden Boy on ESPN.

Payout Perspective:

This is a good sign for boxing with increased exposure for Golden Boy’s stable of fighters.  It also brings into the question of the whether Premier Boxing Champions will return to ESPN this year.  The deal will rely on sponsors than a license fee and we can see Tecate as a presenting sponsor with others to help fund the series.

Bellator announces Ortiz-Sonnen

October 19, 2016

Bellator’s Scott Coker announced on ESPN’s Sportscenter that Chael Sonnen will take on Tito Ortiz which will headline a show on January 21, 2017 at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

Sonnen announced his return to the sport last month.  He has participated in grappling matches and served as a WSOF color commentator during his time away from active action.

Ortiz has not fought since a submission loss to Liam McGeary in September 2015.

Payout Perspective:

Bellator is getting the same treatment as the UFC as ESPN is giving the Viacom-owned company the same platform to announce major news.  Sonnen-Ortiz will have some good promotion leading up to the fight but we will see how much the actual fight will live up to the lead-up.  Certainly, the shoulder programming, which we anticipate to be on SpikeTV, should provide some interesting color.  We assume that this will be Bellator’s next tent-pole event.

PBC on ESPN draws 542,000 viewers this past Saturday

July 6, 2016

Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN Saturday night drew 542,000 viewers per Sports TV Ratings.

In addition, the event drew 207,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 demo.  The event featured Denis Shafikov as he defeated Jamel Herring via TKO.


July 11, 2015 – (Thurman-Collazo) 800,000

August 1, 2015 – (Garcia-Malignaggi) 1.073M

August 31, 2015 (Mares-Santa Cruz) – 1.217M viewers

October 14, 2015 (Alexander-Martinez) – 428,000 viewers

November 25, 2015 (Lara-Zavek) – 482,000 viewers

July 2, 2016 (Shafikov-Herring) -542,000 viewers

Payout Perspective:

The ratings improved on the last 2 times PBC aired on ESPN.  In addition, this edition of PBC on ESPN did not really have a known fighter to the casual audience.  Thus, the 542,000 viewers is a good rating although it might have taken advantage that there was no MMA or big boxing cards for the July 4th weekend.

Lesnar-Hunt set for UFC 200

June 7, 2016

Brock Lesnar will face fellow heavyweight Mark Hunt at UFC 200.  Lesnar made the announcement in an interview with ESPN on Monday morning.

The 38 year old Lesnar will face the 42 year old New Zealander in one of the featured fights on the stacked UFC 200 PPV.

Lesnar, who is still under contract with the WWE, has received the company’s blessing.  The WWE announced this in a prepared statement as well as announcing that Lesnar would be at the company’s next big event, Summerslam, a month after UFC 200.

Interesting enough, there is news that Paige VanZant has been contacted about a possible appearance at WWE’s Summerslam.

Payout Perspective:

Could this be a sign of a UFC-WWE talent exchange?  Most likely a “one-off” but Mark Hunt is a tough opponent for Lesnar’s return.  If Lesnar is KO’d by Hunt, will it have any bearing on his persona in WWE?  Moreover, will Lesnar be ready to perform a month later at Summerslam.

UFC not for sale per Dana White

May 11, 2016

Despite the ESPN report that the UFC was for sale, Dana White is denying the report that they are looking to sell the company.

Dana White told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the UFC is not for sale after a report from Darren Rovell released a report that Zuffa, LLC was in advanced talks with a prospective buyer.  “The ESPN story is overblown.  Darren Rovell is not a fan of facts.  His facts could not be further off,” he told the paper.

Despite the denial, Rovell stands by his report which was released on Tuesday.  He indicated that ownership enlisted Goldman Sachs to look into selling the UFC.  Rovell notes that his sources claim that there are 4 potential buyers which are seeking to purchase the company.

Payout Perspective:

It’s not the first time that Rovell and White have gone back and forth.  Obviously, since Zuffa, LLC/UFC maintains that since it is a private company it does not release its financials, the company’s information is not open to the public and media to review.  In the past, Rovell has goaded White into producing numbers to back up his claims.

Will the UFC sell?  It would make sense especially with the volatility of the business and the company is doing well financially.  But, does the denial serve as a mere assurance to its contracted fighters and business partners that nothing is going to change.  Or, are we going to see a sale in the coming months?

ESPN to provide coverage at Wrestlemania

March 30, 2016

ESPN will be airing “SportsCenter” live from Wrestlemania this Sunday taking place at AT&T Stadium on Sunday.  It will also feature live cut-ins throughout the day.

The move is a “specific content play” as the network attempts to appeal to ESPN viewers that also are WWE fans.  The network had been featuring WWE in segments which now lead up to Sunday’s WrestleMania.  This past Monday, ESPN anchor, and former WWE announcer, Jonathan Coachman made a guest appearance on Monday Night Raw to promote the event.

This past January, ESPN also featured Lucha Underground stars to promote its return to the El Rey Network.  Last year it aired from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn where Summerslam took place.

(H/t via Sports Business Daily)

Payout Perspective:

The coverage is good for the WWE and promotes its network.  It reflects the fact that ESPN is attempting to broaden its reach.  While pro wrestling is considered “sports entertainment” and not purely sports, ESPN will be giving it the coverage like any other sport.  It’s clear that it is a ratings-grab which the WWE does not mind at all.

Glory signs TV deal with ESPN

February 26, 2016

Glory has announced a multi-year agreement with ESPN.  According to the Glory press release, the live events will stream on ESPN3 with replays occurring on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.

Per Glory press release:

Since the relationship began in November of last year, GLORY and ESPN have collaborated in showcasing two non-stop, stand-up striking events — GLORY 25 Milan and GLORY 26 Amsterdam — live on ESPN3, each replayed in prime time on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.

To kick off the landmark multi-year agreement, GLORY 27 Chicago streams live once again on ESPN3, tonight at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT, with a replay on ESPN2 Sunday, Feb. 28 at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT and ESPN Deportes Monday, March 7 at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT.

“Working with the team at ESPN has been an absolute pleasure,” said GLORY CEO Jon J. Franklin. “We’re two, after tonight three, events into this relationship and excited that GLORY is part of ESPN’s sports portfolio. There’s no better television home in the United States for the GLORY numbered series.”

As the programming schedule unfolds, future GLORY events will be telecast live on ESPN2 in addition to ESPN3.

“This agreement allows us to continue serving this passionate fan base,” said Matthew Volk, Director, ESPN Programming and Acquisitions. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with GLORY to provide their content throughout the U.S.”

GLORY has secured deals with broadcast networks in over 200 countries to distribute its unparalleled library of kickboxing programming worldwide.

Payout Perspective:

After its relationship with SpikeTV ended, Glory looked for a permanent home.  It had a relationship with ESPN on a per event basis and looks like that both sides are willing to make it more long-term.  In addition, UFC Fight Pass has secured the rights to Glory Super Fight Series as well as Friday’s event also streamed via the digital network.

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.  

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