At this point the combat sports world knew that Showtime was getting out of the MMA business. Rumors of Paramount-owned Bellator’s impending sale (likely to business rival PFL) have dogged the promotion for weeks now, with even fighters suggesting that the move has started to affect business decisions.
What’s more of a surprise, however, is a new statement from the Paramount Global announcing that they will in fact be shuttering all sports content moving forward into 2024. Not only is MMA falling by the wayside, but boxing and other sports broadcasts and docu-series as well.
Paramount announces closure of Showtime Sports
The Sports Business Journal first reported the news, that the company would be experiencing significant layoffs from the 38-year-old Showtime Sports brand, including longtime department president Stephen Espinoza. In a statement to employees, Paramount president & CEO Chris McCarthy revealed that the network is looking to dedicate “a larger percentage of our resources toward premium scripted series that drive subscribers for us in both Pay TV and SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand).”
“As we evolve our strategy to more efficiently allocate resources and align our content offering across the business, we’ve made the difficult decision not to move forward with boxing and other content produced by the Showtime sports team,” Paramount explained in a statement to the SBJ. “Showtime will continue to air and support the remaining 2023 boxing slate and honor obligations through the end of the year.”
Espinoza gave a statement as well, noting that the decision was not reflective of the quality of work put out by Showtime Sports over the last several years. It’s not even entirely clear that Showtime will entirely abandon all sports content going forward. But SBJ reports that any future content would be produced by Paramount owned CBS Sports instead.
“The company’s decision is not a reflection of the work we have done in recent years, nor of our long and proud history. … Unfortunately, in a rapidly evolving media marketplace, the company has had to make difficult choices allocating resources, resetting priorities and reshaping its content offering. While today’s news is certainly difficult and disappointing, it is entirely out of our control.”
Dan Rafael also reported that every employee from Showtime Sports has been let go.
In its 38 years of operations, Showtime hosted generations of major boxing events from Marvin Hagler to Mike Tyson to Floyd Mayweather and to the young stars today like Tank Davis and Ryan Garcia. In the MMA side of things, Showtime hosted promotions like Elite XC, Strikeforce, and Bellator in the last two decades.
HBO also left the boxing business
With Showtime leaving the boxing business, this truly feels like the end of an era for US sports fans. Between Showtime and HBO American audiences were treated to a steady diet of high-level boxing events for decades. Albeit on premium TV, but readily accessible and in a solid time zone for stateside viewers. But the rise in streaming service competition has changed the game.
“Boxing has been part of our heritage for decades. During that time, the sport has undergone a transformation. It is now widely available on a host of networks and streaming services,” HBO announced in a 2018 press release. “There is more boxing than ever being televised and distributed. In some cases, this programming is very good. But from an entertainment point of view, it’s not unique.”
In the meantime, DAZN and ESPN+ have gobbled up much of the boxing market allowing for more access to global cards for fans who once would have been held just to ‘whatever’s on TV this week.’ But for fans who want their fights as part of their cable package, those days may be truly done and gone.
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