Spike is ending its deal with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, but it doesn’t necessarily mean Spike is moving on from boxing, or even PBC.
Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions hasn’t run an event on Spike since Erislandy Lara’s predictable win over the extremely overmatched Yuri Foreman in January, and it turns out that PBC on Spike is finished, for the time being.
Here are the details from ESPN’s Dan Rafael:
Spike and PBC had a two-year agreement and had negotiated a network option for a third year, but that never made it into the final paperwork, network spokesman David Schwarz told ESPN on Wednesday. The final card aired in January.
Spike had positioned PBC as one of its Friday night combat sports cornerstones, along with Bellator MMA and Glory kickboxing. Schwarz said the reason Spike did not seek to continue its commitment to PBC was twofold: a general dissatisfaction with the quality of cards being provided by PBC founder Al Haymon, as well as the decision to more heavily support Bellator MMA. Viacom, Spike’s parent company, owns Bellator.
Spike was also the only nonpremium network paying a rights fee to PBC for the shows it was putting on, usually a low-six-figure amount to help supplement the often seven-figure costs of the cards. PBC had time-buy arrangements with its other nonpremium cable partners, including NBC, ESPN and Fox.
“Friday Night Lights Out” was supposed to feature one Bellator MMA, Glory Kickboxing, and PBC event per month, but now in less than two years it’s dwindled down to just Bellator. PBC did have some early success when holding even marginally meaningful events like Amir Khan vs. Chris Algieri, but it didn’t take long for cards to devolve into completely useless matchups like Adonis Stevenson-Tommy Karpency, Danny Garcia-Samuel Vargas, Antonio Tarver-Steve Cunningham, and a host of other low-grade shows that embodied every criticism of lopsided matchmaking involving Haymon fighters.
Haymon’s PBC had a massive $500 million injection of cash through asset management company Waddell and Reed, and when PBC launched two years ago, the promise was to bring big-time boxing back to cable TV. This has backfired spectacularly, with time-buy arrangements with NBC, FOX, ESPN, and other networks yielding unimpressive results after a good start. PBC wasted money on lavish production values, fancy ring walkouts, Hans Zimmer composing the PBC on NBC theme, and also paying some of its boxers way above market value. Those fighter salaries have definitely been slashed considerably.
If anything, PBC has finally gotten around to making quality fights this year, but they’ve been staged almost exclusively on Showtime, with the exception of Keith Thurman vs. Danny Garcia doing strong ratings on CBS. It’s probably a case of “too little, too late” for Haymon, as other networks appear to be following suit with dropping them.
PBC continues to put on regular cards on Fox Sports 1, mainly featuring prospects, and Showtime, which pays seven-figure rights fees. But NBC is essentially finished with the series, having already dropped it from NBC Sports Net and holding off on any remaining network dates until at least this fall, though it is unclear if Haymon has already paid for the time. PBC on ESPN’s new slate of cards was scheduled to debut Friday night but is off with the remainder of the spring slate in question.
As for Spike, which will become the Paramount Network next year, they’re not necessarily getting out of the boxing business. According to Rafael’s article, Schwarz said “the network was willing to listen to pitches for boxing events from any promoter with a quality fight to offer.” PBC’s spokesman said that the promotion is “in discussions with Spike about the future, but nothing is firm yet.”
And no, boxing isn’t dead. Stop that.