Demand for boxing content on television and streaming platforms has never been higher.
Just days after it was confirmed that Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions had extended its agreement with Showtime for three more years, RingTV’s Mike Coppinger reported on Tuesday that PBC will also receive a license fee from FOX as part of a new long-term deal that will see PBC supposedly have an overall annual budget that exceeds $125 million per year.
PBC and Fox have finalized a long-term deal for fights to appear on both Fox and FS1 with an annual boxing budget that eclipses $60 million, multiple sources told The Ring. The deal, which will be announced Tuesday, will kick off in December; the agreement calls for 10 championship-level fights on Fox, with at least another 12 shows on FS1. That’s to be added to Showtime’s existing budget, estimated at over $60 million.
Meanwhile, Eddie Hearn, who runs U.K.-based promotional company Matchroom and recently announced a wide-sweeping deal with online streaming service DAZN, is estimated to have an annual budget of $125 million.
“Between Showtime and Fox, PBC will have a bigger pool of budget money than any other promoter in boxing, including Eddie Hearn with DAZN,” an industry source who was not authorized to speak publicly told The Ring.
A FOX Sports press release made the agreement official on Wednesday, adding that FOX Sports-PBC pay-per-view partnership will also happen, and that they’ll produce all of the telecasts (which wasn’t the case under the time-buy deal), along with ancillary programming and broadcasting prelims, much like they do with UFC content.
To build anticipation for each fight, FOX Sports will surround each fight night on FOX, FS1 and FOX Deportes with top-level ancillary programming including multiple episodes of behind-the-scenes shows on FOX, fight-countdown preview shows, press conferences, fighter face-off shows, weigh-ins and prefight and postfight shows on FOX, FS1 and FOX Deportes. This programming line-up also includes two studio-based PBC-branded shows a month on FOX and FS1, with PBC boxer interviews and profiles. Fight cards will have televised preliminary fights on FOX, FS1 or FS2 and FOX Deportes.
You may recall that Haymon secured hundreds of millions of dollars in investment funds and arranged a plethora of fight cards on NBC, CBS, FOX, ESPN, and others in hopes of turning his time-buy arrangements into at least one of those networks wanting to pay him a license fee. This largely backfired, but three years after his initial efforts began, he’s finally found a suitor. Haymon continued time-buys on FOX and FS1 up to present day, although the bulk of the best fighters and fights were on Showtime. That figures to change now that FOX is ponying up some cash that’s up there with what Showtime is paying.
Even presently, primetime slots on FOX have featured lower-level bouts with lower ratings than UFC on FOX, but this is certainly a hell of a lot cheaper programming than the UFC. Combined with WWE SmackDown, it’s obvious that FOX’s replacement is a combination of WWE and boxing to fill gaps left in their schedule with the UFC shifting to ESPN. That said, I doubt FOX would willingly pay $60 million+ per year to routinely broadcast more Andre Berto vs. Devon Alexander main events on primetime network slots, not when their budget is right up there with Showtime.
Notable fighters who compete under the PBC banner include WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr, unified WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia, and WBC featherweight champ Gary Russell Jr, along with WBA featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz.
One of the main criticisms of PBC has been the lack of an active schedule for many of its top fighters, with several of them unable to secure more than one fight per year. With a larger budget and an increase in available fight dates, this issue should be resolved, with an emphasis on should. It also means we can expect the already sizable paydays for many top PBC fighters to remain intact, and most likely increase, as bigger license fees often means better purses for many boxers. How they plan to split the FOX and Showtime fight cards remains to be seen.
In the grander scheme of things, the television and streaming market for boxing has changed drastically. Once dominated almost entirely by HBO and Showtime, the American landscape now sees live boxing programming on (among others) HBO, Showtime, ESPN/ESPN+, new streaming service DAZN, and FOX/FS1. The estimated combined rights fees total well over $300 million, probably more than triple what was on the table a decade ago. $300 million is also what the UFC commands on its own with ESPN/ESPN+ over the next five years, so combat sports is in demand. Fans of the sport have greater access to live fight cards than ever before, and for the time being, the abundance of pay-per-view cards has subsided.
The key, of course, is for these promoters (Golden Boy Promotions, Top Rank, PBC, Matchroom USA, etc.) to provide quality fights and intriguing matchups (even if they’re not necessarily championship fights and just mid-tier action bouts) to justify such interestfrom television networks and streaming platforms. If not, then this whole thing might be a giant waste of money, and a new set of network wars — meaning a push for in-house fights and no cross-brand promoting — would be the worst case scenario. Hopefully for fans, we’re entering a new golden age for boxing content, it’s certainly become a hell of a lot more accessible than ten years ago.