By Keith Idec
Stephen Espinoza recognizes the value in the increasing competition for broadcasting boxing.
The more exposure the sport gets from other networks and streaming services, the better it ultimately will be for Showtime’s viewership. Espinoza, Showtime’s president for sports and event programming, believes this to be particularly true of Premier Boxing Champions’ new deal with FOX, which is available in nearly 120 million households in the United States.
Al Haymon’s PBC and FOX announced a partnership September 5 through which the broadcast network will air 10 cards per year, as well as 12 PBC shows per year on FS1, its basic cable channel, and multiple FOX pay-per-view cards. Six days earlier, Showtime announced its own new three-year deal with PBC, which will include 12 “Showtime Championship Boxing” cards per year.
The first PBC/FOX show as part of that new agreement will take place on an undetermined December date. Showtime, which has aired PBC events since PBC’s launch early in 2015, will begin its new monthly PBC series sometime in January.
“As much as we love the sport of boxing,” Espinoza said, “there is no realistic way that we could service everything that we would wanna do. For the health of the sport, the sport needs multiple networks. And the addition of a network outlet supporting boxing is a great thing for everyone who’s invested in the sport. Does it mean that occasionally we’ll be jealous if FOX gets a great fight? Sure, a little bit.
“At the same time, that’s an important part of building new fans for the sport. And given the stars that we have on Showtime, we are confident that wherever the new fans come from, ultimately they’ll be showing up to watch Showtime because that’s where the current generation of stars and the future generations are gonna be.”
By the time it airs a “ShoBox: The New Generation” card Friday night from Temecula, California, Showtime will have televised 22 cards through its “Showtime Championship Boxing” and “ShoBox” series within the first nine months of this year. Promoter Bob Arum, whose company has an exclusive content partnership with ESPN, recently suggested Showtime, like HBO, will stop broadcasting boxing in the not-too-distant future (https://www.boxingscene.com/bob-arum-hbo-showtime-belong-boxing-anymore–132001).
Espinoza explained that Arum’s assessment couldn’t be further from the truth.
Showtime will invest even more resources into its boxing brand in 2019, not less money. Showtime is owned by CBS, which also owns BoxingScene.com.
“As a general comment, I don’t think [Arum] understands our business as well as he thinks he does,” Espinoza said. “Boxing is an important and valuable part of Showtime’s business. Our subscribers respond positively to it and it definitely drives business for us. We’ve been in this sport for over 30 years and, arguably, the last few years have been the strongest period in that entire history. We’ve spent more on boxing this year than we have in the past several years. And next year, we’ll be doing even more. So the reality is regardless of whatever his perceptions are or his assumptions about the business are, we are committed to the sport of boxing. We’re not going anywhere. We’re as excited and positive about the future of the sport as we’ve ever been. It is an important part of our business.
“I think it’s great that more networks are waking up and realizing what a great sport boxing is, and that other networks and platforms are getting into a sport that we’ve been in for 30 years. It’s a positive thing for the sport. But from the Showtime perspective, we have been the industry leader in terms of the quality of the fights, in terms of the amount of fights and in terms of building the next generation of stars. And that’s not gonna change going forward. We intend to be the industry leader for a long time to come.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing