Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions could be a game-changer for boxing on television

One of the prevailing talking points when discussing the supposed decline of boxing has been the shifting of major fights, whether championship or high-profile…

By: Mookie Alexander | 8 years ago
Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions could be a game-changer for boxing on television
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

One of the prevailing talking points when discussing the supposed decline of boxing has been the shifting of major fights, whether championship or high-profile contender bouts, away from cable television and towards subscription channels HBO and Showtime, as well as the almighty pay-per-view. At the end of 2014, the only live boxing with any sort of presence on cable television was broadcast on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights, or Golden Boy Promotions shows on Fox Sports 1. Both offerings are typically geared towards veterans, journeymen, and up-and-coming prospects with minimal name value. If you wanted to watch world champions — and by that I mean major sanctioning bodies WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO — or universally recognized top 10 talent, you’d have to tack onto your cable bill by subscribing to HBO/Showtime or on the undercard of a PPV.

The criticisms of boxing’s decreased visibility haven’t been without merit. In 2010, UFC president Dana White suggested that boxing would soon go away, and he pointed to the PPV model as one of the culprits.

“Once everything went to a pay model, boxing stopped giving you good fights for free. As soon as that model ended your market starts to shrink when you’re only on pay-per-view.”

Fast forward to 2015, and the landscape has rapidly changed thanks to a man who has roughly the same amount of public sightings as UFOs.

Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions series is shaping up to drastically rework how boxing is televised in the United States. The controversial manager-adviser has made a series of time-buy arrangements — meaning he (and presumably backing investors) is buying airtime on television networks to air his content — that will see the sport aired on basic cable more frequently than ever before. Here’s a quick breakdown of his major deals:

  • 20 events on the NBC family of networks starting March 7th, divided into 5 primetime shows and 6 Saturday afternoon cards on NBC, with the remaining 9 airing on NBC Sports Network.
  • 9 events on Spike TV starting March 13th. Cards will air once a month on Fridays, and this particular deal extends into 2017, making for a maximum of 33 shows on the network over the next couple of years.
  • Up to 8 Saturday afternoon shows on CBS beginning April 4th. Additional events could be held on CBS Sports Network.
There are also reports that PBC may be headed to ESPN2, which would replace the network’s long-running Friday Night Fights franchise.
It should be made clear that none of the announced main and co-main events on any of these networks is capable of headlining its own PPV, but fights such as Adrien Broner vs. John Molina, Robert Guerrero vs. Keith Thurman, Andre Berto vs. Josesito Lopez, Danny Garcia vs. Lamont Peterson, Peter Quillin vs. Andy Lee, and Adonis Stevenson vs. Sakio Bika are all (mostly) no worse than your standard major HBO or Showtime co-main event.
You might be asking yourself, “How is Haymon able to manage fighters and start his own boxing series? Isn’t that forbidden by the Ali Act?”. It’s a terrific question I’ve pretended you’ve asked, and according to the PBC official website, here’s why they’re not in violation:
“The PBC Series is created for television by Haymon Boxing. Bouts featured within the PBC Series will be promoted by various licensed promoters, with each bout in accordance with applicable regulatory rules and regulations.”

So while this may look like Haymon is playing both the role of manager and promoter, which is verboten, PBC is technically not a promotion. For example, this weekend’s NBC show featuring Robert Guerrero and Keith Thurman in the main event is being promoted by Goossen Promotions, working in conjunction with the PBC brand.

It’s still way too early to predict the successes or failures of PBC, but its potential impact follows the continued adjustment of boxing’s push to move away from the pay channels. It was pointed out in this excellent article written by John S. Nash last May that HBO and Showtime have reduced the number of PPV events run annually, yet are managing equal if not higher revenue totals and buyrates compared to when PPV totals were in the double figures in 2006. The May 3rd superfight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao will be the first HBO and/or Showtime produced PPV all year.

Of course, this is surely going to cease being the case once Mayweather and Pacquiao retire, but all signs point to boxing adjusting to their dying pay-per-view market. This model is unlike the current structure of the UFC, whose substantial increase in Fight Night cards on Fox and Fox Sports 1 has not coincided with any plans to ease up their annual number of pay-per-views. In fact, they’re staying put on 13 PPVs annually and the cost for each has been upped by $5.

When reports of Haymon working with NBC first became public last fall, one of the key quotes (courtesy of Kathy Duva) was that Haymon aimed to “do away with pay-per-view” and take his fighters off of the premium network giants.

“He’s promised NBC that he’s going to take his fighters off premium cable … he’s going to put Showtime and HBO out of the puzzle and he’s going to do away with pay-per-view and create an over-the-top network.”

Based on the fights announced so far, Haymon has lived up to his word. From a consumer viewpoint, this is a fantastic time to be a fan of combat sports. Not only is boxing back on network TV, the UFC is live on cable television more than pay-per-view, Bellator has found its monthly presence, with Glory kickboxing soon to follow with their own once-a-month schedule on Spike TV.

What remains to be seen is how viable Premier Boxing Champions is as a legitimate competitor against premium cable and pay-per-view. If it proves to be a success, then boxing’s new generation of stars (of which Thurman and Broner feature tomorrow) could come through the same free television avenue as their predecessors — think Hagler, Hearns, Ali, Foreman, Leonard, and Tyson. Boxing fans should remain a bit cautious given Haymon’s past controversies, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism that the sport’s accessibility is about to change for the better.

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About the author
Mookie Alexander
Mookie Alexander

Mookie is a former Associate Editor for Bloody Elbow, leaving in August 2022 after ten years as a member of the staff. He's still lurking behind the scenes.

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